New system would help track down emergency vehicles

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

What do emergency first responders, sheriff&8217;s deputies, policemen, schools and the county highway department have in common?

They all need to know exactly where their vehicles are.

A system for automatic vehicle locating has already been included in the Albert Lea Police Department vehicles, but first responders, Freeborn County sheriff&8217;s deputies, Albert Lea schools and the highway department do not have a system like that yet.

Now, local government representatives are working together looking at ways to get one.

A new automatic vehicle locating system would allow dispatch to keep track of every vehicle with the system installed in it, so that if a school bus went off the road or a tornado spotter suddenly went off the air, dispatch would know exactly where to send help.

&8220;It really provides you a way to analyze your operations for efficiencies,&8221; County Engineer Sue Miller said. &8220;We could pay for this in probably less than a year in efficiencies gained alone. The bigger issue is public safety.&8221;

The system works best when all the local agencies have the same one, as they do in Polk County, Iowa where Des Moines has its police, school buses and fire trucks all outfitted with the same automatic vehicle locating system.

After a community safety meeting with representatives from the local agencies Wednesday, Miller and others decided to start looking into automatic vehicle locating systems.

&8220;A lot of things have been done over the last several years by each of the four Es, education, emergency medical services, engineering, enforcement,&8221; Miller said. &8220;We&8217;re seeing improvements in our county on serious and fatal crash rates.&8221;

Many things have contributed to the decreasing crash rates, such as car seat clinics, the zero alcohol provider law, and Safe and Sober campaigns. The number of outlying communities with first responder teams has increased from two to 11.

Engineers have been careful to remove signs and obstructions in the right of way, reducing obstacles by the side of the road where possible and using new technology to make roads safer.

&8220;Great things are being done to date, but we can&8217;t stop. Our job&8217;s not done,&8221; Miller said. &8220;We can never, never build infrastructure, or have enough enforcement out there, or have an emergency management service within seconds, to completely eliminate the problem. But we keep that goal always in mind: toward zero deaths.

&8220;One fatality on our roads is too many fatalities,&8221; Miller added.