In the early 1990s, ambulances dispatched by the Richmond (Va.) Ambulance Authority, or RAA, were arriving at incidents 10 to 11 minutes after a 911 call was placed — which wasn't nearly good enough, according to city officials, who wanted response times down to nine minutes or less, 90% of the time.

Two minutes might not seem like much of a difference, but don't tell that to someone who has just suffered a heart attack, said Jerry Overton, who today is RAA's executive director. “This affects a lot of outcomes,” he said. “For instance, there's more evidence that suggests myocardial infarction must be treated within 90 minutes or there's irreparable damage to the tissue.”

Clearly then, every minute, every second counts. So Richmond officials recruited Overton from a public safety agency in Kansas City, Mo., to improve ambulance response times. He had found some success in K.C. in terms of aggregating dispatch data and then crunching the numbers to create predictive models that not only aided in the deployment of equipment and personnel, but also in routing them more efficiently so they'd arrive faster to a scene.

But Overton believed he could do better. One of his problems was that the tools at his disposal were comparatively primitive. “The data we were using for our research was being generated by several different software programs, and we were using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of everything,” he said. “Any time there's a lot of data entry, you encounter delays and errors.”

There also was a need to know exactly where ambulances were located at any given time and where they were heading. As much as 45 seconds were eaten up because the dispatcher would first have to place a radio call to determine where ambulances were situated before a decision could be made as to which was best suited to take the call. Often, another minute or so was lost as ambulance drivers consulted maps to determine their routes.

That had to change, and Overton was determined to find a solution. That determination eventually led him to launch an initiative dubbed “High Performance EMS,” which really got its legs when the RAA, in the second half of 2005, decided to employ a platform developed by In Motion Technology of New Westminster, British Columbia, a partnership that Overton and Kirk Moir, In Motion's CEO, will discuss at length during a session at next month's IWCE 2008 in Las Vegas. (The session, “Mobile Communications Technology for High Performance EMS,” will be held Feb. 27 from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.)

The initiative is getting a lot of attention in the U.S. and internationally. Recently, for instance, public safety officials from the Republic of Singapore visited Richmond to get a closer look at what Overton and Moir are doing.

According to Moir, In Motion fully understands what is at stake in the field of emergency medicine. “Real-time data is critical to getting things done,” Moir said. “And whatever we did had to be reliable and secure. The team [in the field] can't worry about the communications. It just has to work.”

One of the keys to In Motion's solution is a mobile gateway — currently installed in 30 RAA ambulances — that establishes a vehicle area network that lets any IP-enabled device — such as a ruggedized in-vehicle laptop or personal digital assistant — connect to a public safety agency's operations center over any wireless network.

The connection occurs via a proprietary VPN client or a wireless networking application. The mobile gateway leverages the IEEE's 802.11i encryption standard developed to secure wireless local area networks. (Transmissions between the ambulance and operations center travel over an IPsec tunnel.)

Security is a big issue because the solution lets emergency medical personnel transmit vital information about the patient's condition to emergency room doctors in real-time, either from the scene or en route. “HIPPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] says we have to protect patient-history data, so we had to work closely with In Motion to make sure the data goes where it needs to go,” Overton said.

The platform's ability to enable two-way data communications between the dispatch center and ambulance is another big plus. A management application monitors network coverage, upgrades the mobile gateway over the air, and analyzes data collected from the ambulance and exports it to the appropriate spreadsheet application. This data — which includes GPS-generated location information and the speed at which the ambulance was traveling en route to an incident — is analyzed to help determine the best route for the ambulance to travel based on time of day, the location of the ambulance and the destination.

“The best route isn't always the shortest route,” Overton said, adding that the GPS data — which is graphically depicted on the dispatchers' screens via a mapping application — also helps to ensure that ambulances are where they're supposed to be and lets officials strategically position them.

In addition, the platform lets the RAA's emergency medical personnel file electronic incident reports from the field in real-time, a big improvement according to Overton. For starters, legibility problems — people tend to scribble when in a rush — have been erased, which not only is a plus for emergency doctors and nurses, but also for the RAA's billing department.

There's also a fail-safe aspect of the electronic report interface. “It won't close until all of the fields are completed properly,” Overton said.

Exhibitor List
3eTI / Transcrypt International 1538
9-1-1 MAGAZINE 330
AC/DC Industries Inc. 1327
ACData Solutions 658
ACE Technology Inc. 1237
Advanced Charger Technology 529
Advanced Labeling Solutions 744
AdvanceTec Industries Inc. 1338
AEA Technology Inc. 544
Aeroflex 1022
AFL 536
AGL Magazine 1647
Airwaves Licensing Assistance Inc. 1549
Alcatel-Lucent 1739
Allied Moulded Products Inc. 1931
Alltec Corp 1838
America Digital Accessories 651
Amphenol Connex 338
Andrew Corp. 1273
Anritsu Co. 618
Antcom Corp 1839
APCO International 532
AR RF/Microwave Instrumentation & Modular RF 1449
Arcadian Networks 860
ARINC 1828
Arraid Inc. 1268
Astra Radio Communications 1845
Astron Corp 628
AT&T 1328
Avtec Inc. 1048
Axtech Batteries 648
Bard Manufacturing Co. Inc. 1644
Barrett Communications 551
Bartley Manufacturing 981
BEE Electronics Inc. 731
Berkeley Varitronics Systems 211
Bird Technologies Group 812
BlueSky Mast Inc. 327
Bluewave Antenna Systems, Ltd. 1254
BluFiUSA 1562
Bomar Interconnect Products Inc. 1074
Boston Amplifier Inc. 852
Bridgecom Systems Inc. 647
Cadex Electronics Inc. 1335
Call24 Wireless Call Box Systems 206
Cara Enterprises Inc. 1841
Carlson Wireless Technologies 1656
Carmanah Technologies Corp. 1351
Catalyst Communications Technologies Inc. 1831
Cellular Specialties 749
CES Wireless Technologies 1807
China Council for the Promotion of Int'l Trade 242
Cimarron Technologies Corp 318
Cisco Systems Inc. 1076
Citel Inc. 751
Cobalt Audio Video 219
Codan US Inc. 1451
ComGroup Australia Pty Ltd. 337
Commtech 752
Communications Applied Technology 745
Communications Marketing Association 1646
ComProd Communications 1800
Comtelco Industries Inc. 1235
Connect Systems Inc. 1531
Con-Space Communications Inc. 1551
Cook's Communications Corp/FleetStat AVL 1337
CPI Communications Inc. 312
Crescend Technologies 200
CTA Communications 1730
Ctek Inc. 452
CTI Products Inc. 454
CVDS Inc./ComLog 1367
Cygnus Law Enforcement Group 785
Dalman Technical Services Ltd. 336
Daniels Electronics Ltd 1425
Data911 1366
Dataradio Corp 973
Datron World Communications Inc. 1438
David Clark Co. Inc. 1218
David Levy Co. Inc. 1431
dbSpectra 1825
Dewalt Mobilelock 848
Digital Antenna Inc. 434
Digital Paging Co 215
Dupont Building Inc. 1547
DuraComm Corp 1226
DX Radio Systems Inc. 825
Dynamic Instruments Inc. 1645
E/M Wave Inc. 232
EADS Secure Networks Inc. 854
Ear Phone Connection 1654
EB Inc. 1655
EFJohnson 1057
Electronic Systems Tech Inc./Esteem Wireless 847
Emerging Power Inc. 1907
EMR Corp. 1037
Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) 448
Enviro-Buildings Inc. 851
EPCOM 1040
ERF Wireless Inc. 447
Etherstack Limited 1754
Eventide Inc. 631
Exacom Inc. 1325
Exalt Communications 220
Exocomm Technology Group/ExoCel Batteries 334
Fatpot Technologies Inc. 1835
FCCA 650
Federal Communications Commission 548
Federal Signal Corp. 1071
FEI-Zyfer 1272
Fiber-Span 1249
Fibrebond 1244
Flash Technology 1262
Forest Industries Telecommunications 555
Fred A. Nudd Corp 432
FreeLinc 225
Futurecom Systems Group Inc. 1804
Gai-Tronics 1344
Gamber-Johnson 1318
GC Protronics 446
GE MDS 1054
General Dynamics 1634
Genesis Group,The 1532
GPS Source Inc. 234
G-Wave 331
HAL Communications Corp. 554
Harger Lightning & Grounding 531
Harris Corp. 208
Harris Stratex Networks 747
Havis Shields Equipment Corp 325
Higgs Law Group, LLC 431
HigherGround 1261
Hint Peripherals Corp 1844
Honeywell Batteries 1444
Huada International Electronics & Technology Co. 657
Hutton-Electro-Comm 803
Hutton Communications Inc. 800
HYT America 1066
Icom America Inc. 1407
IMPACT Radio Accessories 1534
IMSA 332
Infinity Gear & Technology 1642
Innovative Circuit Technology (ICT) 1800
IP MobileNet Inc. 1441
IPC Command Systems 830
JDI Jing Deng Industrial Co. Ltd. 346
JFW Industries Inc. 759
Jotto Desk 1625
Joyce Teletronics Corp. 1842
Kaltman Creations, LLC. 1448
Kenwood USA Corp. 400
Kirisun Electronics (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd. 1456
Klein Electronics 203
KR Nida Communications 1951
Kyocera Solar Inc. 646
Laird Technologies 815
Lands Precision Inc. 1651
Larsen Antennas 615
Lifeline Management Systems 1266
Lind Electronics Inc. 1349
Link Communications Inc. 948
Lockheed Martin 1744
Locus Location Systems 556
Mann Wireless Ltd. 1250
MARS Antennas & RF Systems Ltd. 1277
Maxon CIC 425
MCM Technology LLC 1731
Mentor Engineering 538
Merry Electronics USA Co. Ltd. 1434
METEORCOMM Wireless Communications 960
Microvoice Corp. 344
Midian Electronics Inc. 1134
Midland Radio Corp 1007
Miller Building Systems 746
Mindbank Technical Solutions 1352
Mobilcomm 339
Mobile Business Communications 1854
Mobile Mark 1454
Mobile Radio Technology 655
Mobile Satellite Ventures 1954
Moducom 861
Motorola Inc. 1400
MotoSAT 1640
Multiplier Industries Corp. 415
Mutualink Inc. 1469
NABC, North American Battery Corp. 437
NARDA, Div. of L-3 Communications 310
National Emergency Number Assn. (NENA) 1745
National Public Safety Telecommunications Council 358
Network Innovations 1362
Networkcar Inc. 545
New Communications Solutions, LLC 961
New Wave Licensing Services Inc. 649
Newmar 950
New-Tronics Antenna Corp/Hustler Inc. 1225
NIC Technologies LLC 435
Office for Interoperability & Compatibility (DHS) 983
Oldcastle Communications 659
Opt-In Wireless 1908
Optoelectronics Inc. 352
Ormandy Software 1242
OSI Batteries 354
OTTO 637
PCTEL Broadband Technology Group. 625
Peiker Acustic Inc. 977
Peltor 534
Penta Corp. 444
PEPRO (Pioneer Energy Products LLC) 1459
Persistent Systems Inc. 766
Phoenix Contact 1174
PolyPhaser Corp. 1220
Power Products 319
Power Up 212
Powerwave Technologies Inc. 1815
Primus Electronics Corp 1239
Project 25 Technology Interest Group 661
Prostar Batteries Inc. 1356
Pryme Radio Products 644
Pyramid Communications 419
QSI Corp. 1742
Radio Club of America Inc. 1648
Radio IP Software Inc. 1154
Radio Mobile 613
RadioResource Media Group 306
RadioSoft 1052
RAM Mounting Systems 1247
Raveon Technologies Corp. 1271
Raytheon JPS Communications Inc. 1811
RCC Consultants Inc. 1652
RELM Wireless Corp. 1015
RF Industries/Connectors Division 713
RF Industries/Neulink Division 613
Ritron Inc. 1025
Rohn Products, Div. of Radian Communications 1738
Rosenberger Leoni Site Solutions 758
Roxtec Inc. 341
Sabre Towers and Poles 1245
SafeMobile 1360 445
SAMLEX America Inc. 1044
SCA 1251
Schwaninger & Associates 308
Sentor Monitoring Services & Systems 1260
Shelter One 1436
Shenzhen Kingsignal Cable Tech. Co. Ltd. 456
Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A. 550
Signal Intelligence 418
Simulcast Solutions LLC 1909
Sinclair Technologies 842
SmarTrunk Systems Inc. 1082
SoftWright 309
Sonik Messaging Systems 1548
Southwest PV Systems Inc. 1536
Space Data Corp. (SDC) 1755
Spectracom Corp 1256
Spectrum Firm Inc. 1837
Sprint 971
Stancil Corp. 1447
STI-CO Industries Inc. 1429
Stone Mountain, Ltd. 244
Strix Systems 666
Summitek Instruments 980
Survey Technologies Inc. 1435
Swissphone Telecom AG 1649
Systems Implementation Inc. 1350
SyTech Corp. 1630
Tait Radio Communications 1230
Talley Communications Corp 835
TCC Industries Inc. 1809
Tech Mer (Mer-Group) 1368
TEKK Incorporated 413
Tektronix 979
Televate 329
Telewave Inc. 1034
Telex 1027
TESSCO Technologies 807
Thales Communications Inc. 640
Thermo Bond Buildings Inc. 1834
Times Microwave Systems 518
TowerWorx 1466
TPL Communications 1215
TracStar Systems Inc. 1934
Trak Microwave 210
Tram-Browning 866
Tribute 911 Pager LLC. 218
Trident Micro Systems 818
Trilogy Communications 634
Trio Datacom Inc. 1529
Troy Products (Div. of Troy Sheet Metal) 429
Trylon TSF 1628
Twisted Pair Solutions Inc. 1819
TWR Lighting Inc. 947
Tyco Electronics M/A-COM 1415
UNIMO Technology Co Ltd 1638
USAlert LLC 1550
Utilities Telecom Council 546
Valmont Structures 850
Vertex Standard 1000
VFP Inc. 1152
Volt Telecom Group Inc. 1278
W&W Manufacturing Co 844
Washington Radio Reports Inc. 1462
Wave-Tech Inc. 1840
Whelen Engineering Co 1347
Wilson Electronics Inc. 654
Winncom Technologies 340
WiPath Communications 652
Wireless Accessories Unlimited (WAU) 750
Zetron Inc. 1012