Are emergency and police vehicles going into info overload

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Data dangers on the road. Every day police, fire and rescue crews receive tons of information over their vehicle computers and radios!

But could that data deluge be more than they can handle... And lead to an emergency on the road?

In the good old days emergency and law enforcement vehicles had radios....period.

Now the technology is moving into computers, moving maps and radios with numerous channels. But can the operators be overwhelmed with gadgets and data?

Just driving a Fire Truck or ambulance on a code run with lights and sirens going is a tough undertaking.

Driver Shawn Nance from the JFD says you don't really have the time to talk on a radio. "Watching what the traffic conditions are. Watching what the other guy is going to do or not going to do is a big issue."

Over at Medic One Tim Brickell the Operations Manager said they are getting lots of info during a call.

"Any kinds of directions we may be needing if our crews are not familiar with where they are going."

Just a couple of things that emergency personnel have to deal with during a run. A lot of it comes in over a radio.

Nance, "We can talk to the Sheriffs Department, the State Police, the Jonesboro Police."

Many fire trucks now have mapping displays and ambulances may  get directions from their own dispatch.

Brickell, "Our dispatch center gleans their information from 911. 911 gives us information about how many vehicles are involved,how many patients are on the scene."

And much more. The Fire Department gets information directly from the 911 center.

Nance, "The two things I am tuned into is the guy sitting over here in the shotgun seat. I'm listening to what he's telling me and I'm listening to the radio."

Fortunately in ambulances and fire trucks there's generally 2 people up front to work the radios and pass on instructions to the driver. But what if you have all that data coming in and you're by yourself?

Research data shows that nearly 75 percent of all police cars in America have computers onboard. Jonesboro is no exception.

Sgt. Steve McDaniel, "We've been using some type of computer for about 18 years."

Computers, multi channel radios, watching the radar and other aspects of being a cop can make it pretty busy for one person. How do they deal with it. First off, a long training period gets new officers intimately familiar with every knob and button.

McDaniel, "What we teach officers is to use common sense when they are using the equipment in their car to make sure they are not a danger to other people on the road."

Nance, "It's a whole lot easier to learn that stuff sitting in here not responding to an emergency than trying to figure it out, putting everybodY's life in danger trying to figure out where a button is at. "

There is more hands free technology being developed for emergency vehicles but at the same time more equipment is being added all the time.

And we the regular drivers have a part to play in this as well.

Brickell, "The everyday driver has a lot of things on their mind too, what they've got to get done at the end of the day get the kids to home so it's a two way street with us and them."

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