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Tenn. Service to Test Satellite-Linked Ambulance Laptops

DUNLAP, Tenn. -- Ambulances in Sequatchie County, Tenn., will test technology that likely will start showing up in emergency vehicles across the region, the county's 911 director said.

"All the information that is flowing into our center can be transmitted to them in real time and give them a visual display of the actual incidents that are going on," said Mike Twitty, Sequatchie's 911 director.

Satellite-linked laptop computers in the hands of ambulance personnel "will give them a heads-up display of the actual map, the actual location of the incident they're going to, the best route for them to travel," Mr. Twitty said.

The system should be operational by summer, he said. The system will take digital information from utilities, 911 maps and property information from the county property assessor's office and combine it with information from emergency scenes in a live feed that updates every two seconds, he said.

The county ambulance service got a $25,000 grant to buy four new laptop systems and pioneer the technology, he said. The department's small size allows a trial run in a busy atmosphere with a smaller investment of money, he said.

Interim Ambulance Service Director Danny Smith said the new laptops and the link to 911's data stream means ambulances "can get to (patients) quicker and more efficiently."

"We're in that first step of the process," Mr. Smith said. "We're talking back and forth to make sure we're getting the equipment that will feasible for future expansion."

Dustin Cagle, Sequatchie 911's geographic information system coordinator, said the future could hold any number of surprises.

He said "real-time" technology has progressed "tenfold" since he graduated college in 2001.

"Out West, they're using it for real-time election results," Mr. Cagle said. "You can actually just go to your computer and populate certain maps" with information showing returns at city, county, state or national levels.

The technology is becoming so advanced, "It's really hard to tell where it's going to know next," he said. "Somebody out there's always developing something new."

In California, officials use the same technology to provide live information such as traffic updates that are sent to mobile, wireless mapping computers like those produced by Garmin, TomTom and OnStar, Mr. Twitty said.

He said the new technology is a far cry from his days as a Chattanooga police officer three decades ago when he had only a car radio for communications.

E-mail Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com

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