Ambulance board discusses technical issues, questions vehicle location system

The main topics of discussion during Tuesday night’s Callaway County Ambulance Board meeting revolved around technological difficulties — particularly ongoing difficulties with the district’s automated vehicle location system and establishing a server backup system.

In February 2011, the board approved a contract with Geo-Comm — the company that installed the GIS (Geographic Information Services) mapping system at the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center — for an AVL system that would show dispatchers the location and speed of ambulance units while out on a call. The system also was designed to enable the EOC to send the address of the patient directly to the laptops used on the ambulances, where the GIS software would generate a travel route based on the vehicle’s location.

The system was purchased in a joint venture with the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office.

Unfortunately, Geo-Comm’s AVL system has not been particularly reliable.

“Since the program’s inception, we and the sheriff’s office have had problems,” CCAD Director Charlie Anderson told the board Tuesday.

He said the AVL system often loses the cellular signal, and when the signal returns the GPS signal is no longer transmitted to EOC, resulting in the GPS/AVL data being stuck somewhere on the map. He said the system works for the ambulance district only about 75 percent of the time, and even less often for the sheriff’s office.

Anderson said Geo-Comm has tried multiple fixes for the problem, but still is “not really sure why it doesn’t work.”

“We all agree this is valuable data, but it’s not working. It’s not giving us what we want and what they advertised,” Anderson said. “We think when Geo-Comm came to us they had never deployed (the system) in a rural area like this.

“I think the sheriff’s office is ready to pull the plug. At this point the next step is to meet and figure out as a group how we want to proceed.”

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