D.C. will track ambulances wirelessly

D.C. emergency workers will pinpoint locations of calls for help with Michaels software from Optimus Corp.

The District of Columbia's Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department expects its wireless reporting and tracking system for emergency medical workers to be running by spring, said Dr. Fernando Daniels III, the city's medical director.

Three years ago, the EMS department was using pen, paper and outdated computers to track ambulances and submit reports to hospitals, Daniels said.

The department awarded a $1 million contract to Optimus Corp. last year to develop the system. The Silver Spring, Md., company will outfit the department with its Michaels Fire and EMS software, which uses Extensible Markup Language scripts. The software has a built-in automated vehicle location system that can be integrated into a computerized dispatch system.

The department will install bracket-mounted Panasonic Toughbook notebook computers with docking stations in about 80 ambulances, said Eric Adolphe, president of Optimus. Panasonic is a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. of Secaucus, N.J.

GPS help

Each ambulance will be equipped with a Magellan Global Positioning System from Thales Navigation Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

'Remember when you used to hear stories about ambulance drivers getting lost going to the scene? Well, now they'll get driving instructions from the GPS automatically,' Daniels said. The system also will indicate the closest available ambulance to an emergency call address, he said.

With the new system, city officials will be able to look for patterns of calls, which could also provide an early warning of possible bioterror attacks, Daniels said.

'Now we'll be able to say, 'How many calls did we get for chest pains or respiratory distress today, and where?' ' Daniels said. Using the GPS and a geographic information system, the city could discern call clusters, which might help pinpoint a chemical spill or bad medication.

The data travels wirelessly over a virtual private network. Adolphe said the data receives 'some serious encryption,' which meets National Security Agency and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards.

The company named its emergency software after Michael the archangel, patron saint of paramedics, ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians, Optimus officials said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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