How emergency response technology can help first responders and enhance EMS operations

Author: Whitney J. Palmer

Modernized networks and advanced emergency response technologies are helping first responders provide critical services during an emergency or disaster.  

Emergency medical services (EMS), police and firefighters are often the first to arrive on the scene of any accident, emergency or disaster. Successful responses to these highly intense and life-threatening situations are increasingly dependent on easy-to-use, reliable emergency response technology. In fact, modernized networks, enhanced communications systems and other advanced technologies are helping first responders to better provide critical services in times of crisis than ever before. 

Here are a few of the ways technology in emergency management is helping to better provide emergency care and services.

Modernized networks help first responders deliver emergency services faster

Emergency situations frequently require a high level of collaboration and coordination. First responders who are dedicated to delivering emergency services quickly must have access to a network that supports rapid, efficient communication. They are best served by a system that supports the bidirectional flow of information.

A network powered by 5G technology fulfills this goal and offers both speed and low latency. These features are vital for current situational awareness and information sharing. From smart city infrastructure to artificial intelligence tools, 5G can support EMS operations each step of the way, giving responders better data that could potentially lead to better decision-making on scene.

Ensure communications connectivity in the field with mobile mesh technology

While many emergency scenes occur in highly populated, connected areas, that isn't always the case. In rural areas—or in places where communication connectivity fails—mobile mesh technology can help first responders get back to work.

Mesh technology allows emergency crews to establish a wireless, ad-hoc tactical communications network—protected by end-to-end encryption—that can operate in remote locations. With this type of network in place, first responders can pair radios with smartphones via Bluetooth®, and they can also wirelessly connect body cameras and other communications tools. As a result, they can share rally points, location information for medical evacuations and other vital details.

Manage traffic during emergencies with roadway and vehicle sensors

First responders need to avoid delays as much as possible. Traffic back-ups and following a slower route can delay patients getting critical medical treatment in hospitals. To sidestep this problem, first responders can leverage data from smart cities and emergency response technology, like IOT sensors in roadways and emergency vehicles.

These connected tools can provide the most up-to-date information about traffic volume, routing emergency vehicles along the clearest path. They can also offer details about equipment that is already available onsite and what is in transit to the scene. In addition, smart cities can implement traffic signal priority control systems that change traffic signals to help emergency vehicles navigate streets as quickly as possible.

Improve situational awareness by using drones in emergencies

As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has relaxed its restriction on autonomous flight, EMS operations are adopting drones in emergency responses, including healthcare. A growing number of first responders consider drones to be a real-time healthcare priority,1 and many are already using this technology in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Collecting data for improved situational awareness
  • Offering near real-time information to inform decision-making on scene
  • Analyzing large areas, such as remote or hard-to-reach locations, to support efficient use of resources and first responder personnel
  • Operating in dangerous spots, keeping EMS staff safer

In situations where power lines are down or traditional communication networks fail, drones outfitted with antennas can restore communication for first responders. This connectivity supports efforts to coordinate food, water, or emergency supply deliveries. Through the use of 5G, edge computing and AI, medical drones could one day be used to deliver emergency medications or life-saving equipment, such as automated external defibrillators.

Aid first responders with intelligent lighting

Initially intended to help cities control their energy expenditures, these cloud-based platforms support controlling and operating city lights remotely. This type of LED lighting can be outfitted with sensors for wireless connectivity, as well as hardware and software that collect data and link the lights to the Internet of Things (IoT).  

Through those capabilities, intelligent lighting can capture and transmit the most current data that can be used to brighten the path for emergency vehicles in transit. In the future, intelligent lighting could also be used to streamline faster, smarter real-time responses to incidents such as car crashes. IoT sensors attached to lights could detect the event, transmit necessary data to EMS operations personnel and update GPS software so that nearby passenger vehicles know to avoid the area.

Coordinate emergency response with computer-aided dispatch

Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems are software utilized by dispatchers, call-takers, and 911 operators to prioritize and record incident calls, identify the status and location of responders in the field, and effectively dispatch responder personnel. This information includes call details and often basic patient information. These tools can help reduce human error and boost data accuracy.

Provide immersive training with augmented and virtual reality

Emergency situations can be chaotic. Immersive training, powered by 5G, can give EMS responders the preparation they need to better deliver care during these crises, but at a fraction of the cost. Augmented and virtual reality can present realistic scenarios for responders to test and refine their skills. The low latency and extensive capacity of 5G enables seamless virtual training sessions with high-quality content and fast refresh rates. As a result, responders get the full, immersive experience of managing an emergency situation in a safe, cost-effective way.

Enhance communication with enterprise messaging

For larger emergency scenes, first responders need a reliable, secure method to send and receive individual or bulk messages, so they can coordinate EMS operations. Enterprise messaging is a cloud-based application that supports this type of simultaneous communication across multiple devices. Protected by two-factor authentication, this application supports the delivery of smarter, faster real-time healthcare information via text and multimedia messages to any mobile device.

Emergency response technology

Verizon Frontline is the advanced network for first responders on the front lines. Learn more about how Verizon can help power faster, smarter pre-hospital healthcare.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.