Park Rapids MN ambulance GPS failure inspires local look - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Park Rapids MN ambulance GPS failure inspires local look

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A GPS failure in Park Rapids, Minnesota caused an ambulance headed to an 8-year-old boy to go to the wrong address.

Today we looked locally to see how F-M Ambulance handles navigation.

"We'll send the quickest crew to the call. Not necessarily closest, but always the fastest crew we send to the call," says F-M Ambulance Dispatch Supervisor Mike Lehmann.

F-M ambulance computer systems are are able to track their trucks at all times. Not only that, it shows those in the dispatch center ambulance speed and direction of travel.

"Throughout the course of the day we have anywhere from four to seven, some days eight different trucks on. On special event days we'll have as many as 12-14 trucks," says Lehmann.

When a call comes in, the address is double checked and an ambulance is selected. Directions to the emergency are sent directly to the truck's computer. The crew can also get step-by-step directions over phone or radio from dispatch.

"It will come to this device, they will also receive a page on their alphanumeric pager with the address and all of the details on there as well as the address will come over the radio," says F-M Ambulance Operations Director Chad Mickelson, gesturing to the computer system installed in every ambulance.

The crew could also plug coordinates from radio or their pager into a GPS installed in the vehicles, but they admit, it isn't always accurate.

"It comes down to troubleshooting and using all of the tools you have available to you," says Mickelson.

So F-M Ambulance has back-ups and they have back-ups to their back-ups. The GPS information is regularly updated to keep up with the growing area and the road construction.

"We get regular updates through GIS companies, the city of Fargo and other communities," says Mickelson.

And if all of these don't work, all vehicles have the tried and true map. 

Emergency crews aren't the only ones to feel the frustration of GPS failure. Valley News Live spoke to an expert who says you can expect your GPS accuracy to be within 20 to 100 feet of your destination. They say GPS systems are only as accurate as their updates. Phone apps usually update automatically, but other GPS systems should be updated at least every two years. All GPS systems can have a hard time reaching you if you're in heavily wooded areas or large cities. They say a good rule of thumb is if you can see the sky, you should have coverage.

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