The Callaway County Ambulance District Board of Directors Tuesday night approved funds to purchase an automated vehicle location system to integrate with the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center's new mapping system.
Stacey Gross with GeoComm - the company installing the GIS (Geographic Information Services) mapping system at EOC, gave the board a brief presentation on various options for the system and what it can do. Gross - who noted Boone, Saline and Crawford counties already use GeoComm's GIS systems - told the board there are two different options for the system: Workstation-based or web-based, which is the version he was recommending for the district.
He said GeoComm uses GIS data entered by the county to help map out county roads and addresses, making it easier for emergency responders to find where they are going. The advantage in going with the web-based system versus the workstation-based system is that "you can access it anywhere" rather than being tied to a few specific, licensed access points.
"It's fairly simple how it works," Gross said. "It's based on GPS - your computers have GPS built in - so every five seconds it sends your location to a (secure, password-protected) IP address. You can see the direction, speed and unit ID. It is built to be navigational and will also generate routes."
He said when a call comes into the dispatch center, the EOC dispatcher can send the address directly to the laptops used on the ambulances, where the GIS software will generate a travel route based on the vehicles' current location.
"It's the same kind of technology as Mapquest or Google Maps," Gross said as he showed the board a series of slides illustrating what dispatchers and ambulance district employees would see on their respective screens. "It really does have the look and feel of Google Maps. It's real easy to use and doesn't take a lot of training to figure out."
Gross and CCAD Director Charlie Anderson said the Callaway County Sheriff's Department is also very interested - pending the sheriff's ability to find funding - in utilizing the GeoComm service. Whether the sheriff's department is able to finance its share of the service or not has a direct impact on the ambulance district's cost.
If the sheriff's department also is involved, it would cost the district $29,609 to install the system and then an annual fee (starting the second year) of $3,181.50. If the sheriff's department is unable to come up with the funds to buy into the service, cost to the district would be $53,823 for installation and then $5,413 annually.
Anderson - who said the district already had earmarked potential funds for this system after a similar presentation in the fall for the more-expensive workstation-based system - asked and answered the question of "what does this do for us?"
"One of our biggest issues is responding to calls and locations of calls," Anderson said. "Our biggest complaint is "How come it took your ambulance so long to get here? Why did they come that way? Why did they get lost?'
"This would certainly allow us to address this issue."
He said the ambulance district already has tried to address those navigational/response-time issues using other GPS options such as in-vehicle GPS devices, but "unfortunately, that map data is incomplete once you get off the main roads."
Board member John Brandt said he was "very much in favor of us moving forward with this."
"There is such an issue with misdirection and lost responders in this county," Brandt said. "
In addition to making a motion to approve up to $54,000 (in case the sheriff's department is unable to get involved) to install the system, Brandt also made a motion directing Anderson to "negotiate with other public service entities regarding shared ownership and shared cost of the system" in the event other Callaway agencies later decide they would like to get involved.
"We're saying we're willing to make the $54,000 investment for our citizens, but we want them to play ball with us," Brandt said.
Anderson described the automated GIS system as "a great example of how multiple agencies can come together and create a solution that benefits everybody."
In other business during Tuesday night's meeting, the board authorized a $116,639 bid from Travelers Insurance for worker's compensation coverage after the district's current provider, Missouri Employers Mutual, opted not to renew coverage starting in April.
The district had only budgeted $80,000 for worker's compensation for this fiscal year, but Anderson said the added expense should not place undue stress on district finances.