Why GPS is so important when disaster hits

In light of several natural disasters that have happened around the world recently, it was timely that LA firefighters staged a high-rise emergency response drill, one of the largest ever conducted in California.

The Los Angeles Fire Department and disaster-planning firm Massey Enterprises spent a year preparing for the drill, which involved nearly 100 people. It took place at the Century Plaza Tower North and a fake earthquake had started fake fires on the 33rd floor of the building. The mission was on safely rescuing the occupants on that floor, since studies have shown that often fatalities result from people being trapped in tall buildings, unable to escape the flames.

The rescue operation involved a fire department helicopter, rapid ascent teams and use of the elevators, a technique that has only been used in recent years after it was shown not only could they reach people who were trapped a lot quicker, but newer elevators use built-in seismic sensors that can take the lift offline for safety reasons.

How GPS helps save lives

While the emergency response drill focused on rescue teams at the actual site, we know that don’t magically appear out of thin air or fly in like superman. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get crews there in the first place. Crews need to be organized, and given clear instructions on getting to the disaster site, with information on what equipment or trucks they’ll need. And it has to be all done in record quick time, with lives hanging in the balance.

The added problem that often comes into play during an emergency is that cellular coverage may be limited due to overloading or even non-existent, making communication and location data difficult or unreliable.

A rugged GPS satellite system is ideal in situations like this, using only satellites and onboard battery to receive and transmit location data. Emergency services can confidently rely on the command center being able to use a dispatch GPS system such as Telogis Fleet to send through destination information and detailed turn-by-turn navigation to get there.

It also makes dispatch’s job easier and faster – right away they can clearly see what units they have available, what their capabilities are and how close they are. So in the case of the victims of a fire high up in a skyscraper, dispatch will want to send trained rapid ascent teams and a fire department helicopter. Using the Telogis Fleet dashboard they can quickly filter the entire fleet to find just those crews with the necessary skills for the emergency and dispatch the closest one.

The time saved in getting the crew where they need to be is literally life-saving.

How is GPS fleet tracking part of effective disaster planning?

When there’s no time to waste, rescue efforts need visibility on all resources available. With Telogis GPS fleet tracking, command center staff have the following features to make their life a lot easier:

  • Real-time location and engine status of every vehicle in their fleet
  • A single platform that can integrate with other software programs using API technology
  • Automatically optimize routes from start to destination, giving drivers easy flexibility when some routes may be inaccessible due to road damage
  • Complete visibility of all fleets at any given time
  • GIS data overlays that provide additional information such as weather, traffic or power lines
  • Real-time feedback so progress can be reported on, and shared with interested parties (one of the guidelines of National Incident Management System (NIMS) is working with third parties during emergency response)
  • Reporting so actual response times can be compared with the benchmarks expected

The purpose of emergency drills is to highlight the importance of being prepared. If you’re in the business of responding to emergencies, such as a rescue crew, fire department, ambulance service or a utility company, then it pays to check your GPS fleet tracking systems are ready to respond.