Mountain Home firefighters get real-time mapping system
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — The days of Mountain Home firefighters potentially getting lost when responding to an emergency are now numbered. Thanks to a new system being put into place, the firefighters will be given directions and a host of other information in real time.
The system is called Active911 and involves software loaded on smartphones and tablets. The fire department is in the process of mounting iPads in firetrucks to accommodate the new software, the Baxter Bulletin reported.
As an example, let’s say there is an accident on the Sheid-Hopper Bypass. A witness with a cellphone calls 911 and says the accident is on the bypass “near” College Street.
The 911 system pings the person’s cellphone and gets the address of the nearest cell tower. When they dispatch the Mountain Home Fire Department, the address of that cell tower will populate on the iPads in the trucks and on any firefighter’s smartphone.
Additionally, the map firefighters see will show the location of fire hydrants nearby.
Let’s say Engine 1 responds to the accident scene with four firefighters aboard, all of whom have the Active911 application on their smartphones. Any firefighter who opens the application on a phone or tablet will be able to see Engine 1 and the four firefighters traveling across the map in real time.
Now, let’s say Engine 2 responds from a different location. Meanwhile, Engine 1 discovers the accident is not really “near” College Street, but rather half a mile east of the street. And the accident is not in the westbound lanes as reported by the caller but in the eastbound lanes.
Engine 1 stops at the accident and reports they are on scene. Now, Engine 2 knows exactly where the accident is because they can see on their map where Engine 1 has stopped, thus saving them time in locating the accident.
“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived here, you’re always going to come across streets you’ve never heard of,” said Cpt. Kris Quick who’s heading up the effort to bring the system on line.
“It’s also easy to forget where a street is. It’s great to have the route just pop up on the screen,” Quick said.
The system provides the quickest route available, but cannot take into account given conditions on any random day.
“Let’s say we’ve got multiple trucks responding to an incident and the first truck in encounters construction,” Quick said. “They can alter the route and other responding units will go around the obstruction.”
Maps with real-time locations of people and trucks aren’t the only pieces of information the system conveys.
Thanks to the Mountain Home Street Department, every fire hydrant in the city is now mapped out. When the fire department got the new software, the water department gave them precise GPS locations to all the fire hydrants.
Other information is being added to the system as time allows. Plans of buildings can be entered, along with locations of hazardous materials, drawings, pictures and other information about specific addresses.
In the case of fire hydrants, the department will eventually enter the flow ratings for each hydrant. If two fire hydrants are near a home on fire and one hydrant can provide 2,000 gallons per minute while the other can only provide 500, firefighters can choose the hydrant based on the size of the blaze.
In the future, the system will improve as firefighters enter more data about specific locations. One of the improvements they hope to make is to replace the Google mapping with the local 911 mapping, a more accurate and up-to-date rendering of local roads.
“This system will get better and better as the years go by and we add more information,” Quick said. “There are cities that have been using it for several years and they say it gets better over time as you add more data to it, so it will always be a work in progress.”
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com