If someone has an emergency in a public open space in the state of Victoria, Australia, the most important piece of information the dispatcher needs in order to send help is the caller’s exact location. But what happens if the caller doesn’t know where they are?
This dilemma prompted the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) to develop an innovative emergency marker system. But the system’s success was dependent on the right technology. Thanks to Nautiz X7 rugged handheld computers, customized Rapid Map software and a solid project plan, ESTA has the ability to gather a complex data set in harsh conditions, manage the data efficiently and access it instantaneously to send help to the right spot.
A Challenging Environment
ESTA handles emergency calls and manages emergency dispatch services in the state of Victoria. Traditionally, emergency response systems are based on street addresses—but in Victoria’s vast rural sections, emergencies occur where a street address has no relevance. In locations such as state and national parks, there are often no named roads or other features that can be used to verify the location of the emergency call.
In response, an ESTA partnership of land owners, managers and emergency service providers created the emergency marker system. Their goals: determine accurate locations of callers, reduce call processing time and increase the accuracy of dispatch instructions.
An Innovative Solution
The partnership created a system of signs, each with three letters and three numbers, and placed them all over the state. When a caller identifies the nearest sign’s unique alphanumeric identification, a dispatcher knows exactly where the caller is.
But dispatchers need to provide emergency responders more than a set of GPS coordinates. It became apparent ESTA needed to establish efficient data collection and spatial data management systems, so they established the Emergency Marker Data Collection project, using technology to streamline the data collection process in the field.
Finding the Right Vendor, Software and Hardware
ESTA contracted with Rapid Map, a field data collection, mapping and GIS consultancy based in Melbourne, to find the right combination of technology and tools to automate the data-collection process. Rapid Map chose Crest software, a solution that supports multiple concurrent users, carries all history and provides users in the field with visibility of the emergency marker’s current status and associated text information. Crest offers customized form creation and the ability to organize and illustrate the history of all data sets in a single interface, and it records GPS positions and digital photos.
One challenge of the project was to find a computing tool that could match the efficiency of the markers and the software. ESTA chose the Nautiz X7, a rugged handheld that features the optimum combination of speed, data storage and rugged performance in the field for this project.
The Nautiz X7 delivers speedy performance with an 806 MHz Xscale processor, and its 128 MB of onboard RAM and 4 GB of Flash storage make it ideal for working with and storing project data. It has SiRF Star III GPS and a 3-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus for gathering location data. And its IP67 rating, unsurpassed among handhelds, means it’s rugged enough to withstand extreme temperatures, water, dust, and repeated drops and vibration.
Streamlined Efficiency in the Field
Using Crest on the Nautiz X7, field workers on site can review previous visits and observations associated with each marker, stored in the software history. Then they add data on a new marker or new features, using the Nautiz X7’s built-in GPS to navigate. They can even perform fieldwork on a bicycle, using a special handlebar-mounted cradle that positions the Nautiz X7 within easy reach and view while riding. Revisions, refinements and updates can be added without overwriting the history of previous entries.
When they return from the field, workers upload the information to the central database, where it is broadcast system-wide for other users.
“The most crucial ingredient of the system is to find out exactly where the person in danger is,” says Jeff Adair, manager of the emergency marker program for ESTA. “The Nautiz X7 has met all my expectations in terms of upload speed and versatility, greater functionality and performance. It is extremely fast, lightweight and streamlined, and it also has a very bright screen.”
For more information about the Nautiz X7, visit www.nautiz.com.
Handheld is a worldwide supplier of rugged PDAs and handheld computers. All our products are ruggedized and can withstand water, dust, drops and vast temperature changes. Handheld and its partners deliver complete mobility solutions to businesses in industries such as logistics, forestry, public transportation, construction, military and security. Visit www.handheldgroup.com.