Why response time must be reduced
For rescue operations ‘response time’ is one of the measures for effectiveness. In emergency situations response time should be as short as possible as this could be crucial for saving lives or properties at danger. Accordingly, much effort is put into reducing response times. But actually, what is response time?
Response time is a sum of parts
The total response time could be split into three clearly different phases:
- Dispatch time – This is the time elapsed from when an emergency call is received at the central until the rescue unit is notified.
- Turnout time – The time from when the rescue unit is notified until it is responding.
- Travel time – The time from responding until arriving at the incident scene.
It’s quite obvious that the potential for reducing response time will differ considerably depending on what phase we’re looking at.
How can we reduce response time?
Dispatch time can’t be affected at all by the rescue driver since he’s not yet aware of there being an incident. In this phase time saving potential is much about how the dispatcher identifies location and the exact nature of the incident – and notifies an appropriate unit accordingly. Computerized hi-tech systems could contribute to reduce dispatch time.
Reducing turnout time is much about awareness and behavior. It’s mostly the unit’s routines and attitudes that can be tweaked to reduce the time from notification to leaving the station in the rescue vehicle.
Travel times are very different for natural reasons. Heavy traffic or long distance to the incident scene will increase travel time accordingly. The most intuitive way to reduce travel time is to drive fast. However, this is not necessarily a good idea since high speed could increase the risk of actually causing an accident.
In this phase there are computerized in-cab systems to assist, for example GPS navigation systems and automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices that allow dispatchers to notify units that are closest to an emergency, thus reducing travel times.
Is technology the key?
It’s easy to believe that everything will be better with technology. Technology develops at fast pace and advanced tools and systems combine into reducing response time. And it’s a no-brainer to presume that tomorrow’s technology and connected society will enable even more ways to reduce response times.
However, we must not put too much faith in advanced technology. At the end of the day, responding to an emergency is about physically getting the unit to the incident. If the rescue vehicles can’t make their way, no computer system in the world will help – and there are many things that can delay the vehicle, such as heavy traffic, icy or slippery roads and more…
It’s my conviction that we should embrace and make the best out of advanced technology, but not at the expense of common sense. Despite GPS’s, AVL’s or other hi-tech devices, in slippery road conditions simple tire chains could be the most effective tool for making the way. Further, using automatic tire chains to avoid manual mounting time could be the key to save critical response time – and possibly lives – at the fraction of the cost for most hi-tech systems.