One of the measures of effectiveness in rescue operations is ‘response time’. Naturally, in emergency situations, achieving the shortest response time possible is crucial for saving lives or property in danger. Therefore, a lot of time and effort are put into reducing response times. But what is actual response time?
Response time is a sum of parts
The total response time could be split into three clearly different phases:
1. Dispatch time – This is the time elapsed from when an emergency call is received at the central station until the rescue unit is notified.
2. Turnout time – The time from when the rescue unit is notified until it is responding.
3. Travel time – The time from responding until arriving at the incident scene.
Obviously, the potential for reducing response time will differ considerably depending on what phase of the operation we are looking at.
How can response time be reduced?
Dispatch time is not affected at all by the rescue unit since they are not yet aware that there is an incident. In this phase, time saving potential is more about how the dispatcher identifies the location and exact nature of the incident, then notifies the appropriate rescue unit. Advanced computerized dispatch systems can contribute to reduce dispatch time.
Turnout time is focus more on awareness and behavior. In this case, it is the rescue unit’s routines and attitudes that can be tweaked to reduce the time from notification to leaving the station in the rescue vehicle.
Travel time is the one aspect of this equation that varies greatly for a whole host of reasons. Heavy traffic, long distance, road conditions, and weather can all contribute to an increase in response time to the incident scene. Naturally, the most intuitive way to reduce travel time is to drive fast. This, however, is not always necessarily a good idea since high speeds increase the risk of causing an accident.
In this phase, computerized in-cab systems like GPS navigation and automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices aid dispatchers in notifying 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. Today’s fast paced systems and advanced tools combine to reducing response time. It’s a no-brainer to presume that tomorrow’s technology and connected society will enable even more ways to reduce response times.
We must, however, not put all our faith in advanced technology. At the end of the day, responding to an emergency is about physically getting the rescue unit to the incident. No computer system in the world will help if the rescue vehicles are unable to make their way to a scene due to such things as heavy traffic, icy or slippery roads and more…
Advanced technology should be embraced, 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.