Ambulance Fleet Uses Cloud-Managed 4G LTE for Location-Based Dispatching of First Responders
Care Ambulance Service relies on its fleet of 300 ambulances and support vehicles, staffed by highly trained first responders, to save lives in Southern California. However, they can’t do their jobs effectively unless their dispatchers at headquarters have access to vehicle location data that is always up-to-date.
Care Ambulance’s IT team deployed Cradlepoint’s cloud-delivered in-vehicle routers throughout their vehicle fleet. They monitor, manage, and troubleshoot the entire network remotely through NetCloud Manager’s single-pane-of-glass platform — efficiently keeping emergency personnel securely connected to the patient care records and specialized tools they need to protect communities.
Care Ambulance Service provides emergency and nonemergency — 440,000 responses per year — services to 73 cities in California’s Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties. The company is owned by Falck, a global leader in ambulance services. Care has more than 1,400 employees, including EMTs, paramedics, RNs, dispatchers, and billing specialists.
Care Ambulance was one of the first ambulance services in the U.S. to receive national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.
Like many first responder organizations, Care Ambulance has used Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) to better match its vehicles and field personnel with the right emergencies, which greatly improves response time. CAD is only as reliable, though, as the GPS-based location data that is constantly being sent from the vehicles to headquarters.
Unfortunately, the company’s previous connectivity solution, a 3G platform, routinely dropped its connection. The IT team temporarily remedied the problem by installing a wall switch that essentially served as a restart button; when the solution would stop working, a first responder in the vehicle would manually reboot the system.
Care Ambulance needed much better connection reliability for its CAD system, along with more robust capabilities to accommodate what’s possible with emerging technologies. For instance, the organization sought to modernize, expedite, and boost the quality of its in-vehicle reporting process.
Until that time, paramedics at the scene of an emergency would fill out patient forms, scan them using onboard devices, then send the files to Care Ambulance’s headquarters. The 3G connection only accommodated small black-and-white files, which often were nearly impossible for billing department employees to read. To address this issue, Care Ambulance had to hire full-time “rounds drivers” whose sole role was to drive between headquarters and vehicles in the field, picking up and delivering hand-written reports.
Care Ambulance knew it needed multi-functional 4G LTE routers that would provide unwavering cellular-based Internet connectivity and high-performance WiFi. Also, a cloud management solution was identified as a key need for remotely monitoring, managing, and troubleshooting the network among vehicles that are constantly moving all over Southern California.
Care Ambulance Service replaced its 3G routers with 4G LTE COR Series in-vehicle routers by Cradlepoint, delivered through the NetCloud platform.
In-vehicle Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) receive emergency call information from the CAD system and, using always-connected GPS data, automatically send that crew to the situation nearest their current location.
This all-in-one cloud-managed solution includes a built-in stateful firewall and WiFi.
ESSENTIAL NETWORK STABILITY FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEM
With always-on 4G LTE connectivity and reliable real-time vehicle location data, Care Ambulance trusts that its CAD system is dispatching ambulances and first responders to the locations where they are needed most.
“Obviously, seconds count. We need to send the closest, most appropriate vehicle to each emergency. Reliable Internet connectivity makes sure our vehicles’ GPS data is always up-to-date, which truly helps saves lives," said Ben Baker, director of communications and information technology at Care Ambulance Service.
IMPROVED EFFICIENCY THROUGH REMOTE MONITORING & MANAGEMENT
NetCloud Manager gives Care Ambulance’s IT professionals remote access to WAN analytics, which allows them to troubleshoot coverage issues from headquarters rather than driving out into the field or pulling vehicles out of the line of duty.
The team pushes out security and firmware updates to the entire fleet with one click, all remotely.
“In the past, the network solutions in our ambulances received updates twice a year during a lengthy, inperson process. With reliable 4G LTE solutions, we can push out security and firmware updates over the air at any time,” said Baker.
HIGH-PERFORMANCE WIFI AT STATIONS & EMERGENCY SCENES
High-performance WiFi extends dozens of yards beyond the exterior of each vehicle, which enables first responders to use connected devices, and access apps and information, throughout each emergency area.
When ambulances are parked outside the organization’s small one-vehicle stations, Cradlepoint’s solutions broadcast WiFi that can be utilized by two-person teams inside those buildings.
CLOUD MANAGEMENT OF CUSTOM APPS
When Care Ambulance writes custom scripts to improve operations, it can deploy and update those applications instantly to the entire fleet through NetCloud Manager.
“We built an app that allows us to remotely unlock ambulance doors, in case our staff gets locked out during a critical situation. Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed network solution plays a key role in our ability to keep that potentially life-saving app running and up-to-date,” said Baker.
ENTERPRISE-GRADE SECURITY OF ELECTRONIC PATIENT RECORDS
Electronic patient care records (EPCR) are state-mandated and highly sensitive, as the HIPAA privacy and security rules must be strictly followed. Cradlepoint’s enterprise-grade mobile solutions with built-in stateful, multi-zone firewalls, along with easy-to-manage VPN tunnels, provide one component of Care Ambulance’s multi-layer data security system.