New York City: Automatic Vehicle Location System in Ambulances and Fire Apparatus

More accurate dispatching of EMS and fire resources using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology

by / April 21, 2006
On Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announced that all New York City ambulances and Fire Department apparatus including engines, ladder trucks, rescue companies and battalion vehicles will be equipped with an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system by the end of the summer.

AVL utilizes Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology to track the real-time movements of any equipped vehicle, helping dispatchers more accurately deploy emergency resources.

According to the City release, AVL began in September 2005 as a pilot program with five engine companies on Staten Island and FDNY EMS units on Staten Island and in Southern Brooklyn. Under the system, EMS response times to the most serious medical emergencies (Segments 1-3) were reduced by 33 seconds. By June 30, all City ambulances participating in the 911 system will be fully equipped with AVL. Implementation of the system in all fire apparatus will be completed by the end of the summer. In total, 1,565 Fire and EMS vehicles throughout the City will be equipped with AVL at a cost of nearly $50 million.

Currently, EMS Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) recommends the best EMS unit to deploy based on where ambulances are assigned throughout the City. However, because ambulances are not dispatched from a central location and are able to move within their response areas -- AVL is invaluable in providing a real-time update of where resources are actually located. Combined with CAD, AVL is a powerful tool that creates a visual map of where emergency resources are located and their movements. Using a constellation of 24 satellites orbiting the earth, the AVL system combines GPS technology and street-level mapping to pinpoint the longitude, latitude and course direction of any equipped vehicle.

Improvements in EMS response times under AVL have been significant. Prior to AVL, during an average four-month period the response time to the most serious life-threatening emergencies (Segment 1-3) was 6 minutes and 55 seconds. After the implementation of AVL, during the same four-month period in the same response areas, the average response time was reduced to 6 minutes and 22 seconds -- a 33 second decrease.

Implementation of AVL on fire apparatus began on Monday will be completed by the end of the summer. All engine, ladder and rescue companies and battalion vehicles throughout the five boroughs will be equipped with the system by the end of the summer. By June 30, 798 ambulances citywide -- including voluntary hospital ambulances -- will be dispatched under the new system. AVL is currently installed on 277 ambulances in Staten Island, Brooklyn and parts of Queens.
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