Washington, D.C., will start the nation’s first broadband data network for emergency crews. USA Today says it is an important step toward arming rescuers with the latest communication technology.
The proposed high-speed wireless network would allow emergency room doctors to see live video of a patient still in an ambulance, or police helicopters to stream live video to patrol cars. The Internet-like technology would enable rescuers to cross departmental lines and talk directly to one another.
USA Today reported last July that about 1,800 lives are lost each year because of flaws in the emergency medical systems in the nation’s 50 largest cities. The capital has struggled to gauge the performance of its EMS crews.
The $2.7 million communications network will be built by Motorola and Flarion Technologies and tested in a part of the nation’s airwaves now used by television stations. It will take at least 18 months to install the system.
The wireless network will come on top of $40 million worth of improvements to Washington’s emergency preparedness, says Suzanne Peck, the city’s chief technology officer. The city is working to pinpoint cell phones that call 911 and to make rescue radios work in subway tunnels. Washington wants to join other big cities such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Fort Worth that are using wireless communication (without live video capabilities) to monitor emergency medical services.