Ideas to improve ambulance response times following a call to the 911 dispatching center have public safety at heart, but we can't help but wonder who will pay for this.
Columbiana County 911 Director Robert Emmons has suggested the committee consider purchasing automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices, which would enable 911 dispatchers to keep track of the vehicles containing the AVLs.
The idea is to reduce the time between when a 911 call is received and when an ambulance arrives on the scene. The AVLs "would give dispatchers the ability to know in real time where the closest ambulances are in the county," Emmons said.
It would also eliminate the headache posed for dispatchers when they must refer to a list and be sure ambulances are called on a rotating basis. This new system would help eliminate local politics from ambulance dispatching.
One of the main obstacles to implementing the system appears to be cost and who should pay for it. It would cost $22,800 to outfit 20 ambulances and make the necessary upgrades at the five 911 dispatching centers, and then $12,600 a year to maintain the system.
It wouldn't be proper to spend public dollars to provide equipment for private ambulance companies and 911 funding is tight, so the most fair way of financing this technology would be to require the private companies to install the AVLs in their own vehicles and assess a fee to recoup the cost of the 911 center upgrades and annual operation fee. If ambulance companies want to be called, they'll have to pay to participate.
We can't use public dollars to chase every technology upgrade that comes along.