Communications & Dispatch, News, Operations

Ambulance Drivers Can’t Find Homes in Rural Utah

BLUFF, Utah –A new effort is underway in rural areas of the state to get ambulances to homes with no actual street address, according to a report.

This is an issue in San Juan County, Utah and in Navajo Nation, the 27,000 square mile Tribal land that spans the Four Corner states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, the Deseret News reports.

One EMT for the Utah Navajo Health System tells the newspaper she normally tells people to flash the lights to their home or to run out to a place near the local highway where the ambulance driver can see them.

San Juan County EMS Facebook Photo
Ambulance drivers in rural Utah have long had to rely on other means of finding a home without a street address.

Officials in the area are trying to get people to use plus codes, a simpler version of longitude and latitude that’s easier to relay on the phone.

This is how the newspaper puts it:

“When you receive a plus code for somewhere in San Juan County, it looks like this: “7CPX+PM Bluff, Utah.” That’s a shortened version of a full 10-digit code for a local hotel in Bluff, where many of the homes do have addresses, but the addresses don’t always work on popular GPS services.”

“If you enter the plus code in Google Maps, you see the full longitude and latitude displayed on the bottom of the screen. Just as every point in the world already has a latitude and longitude, every place also has a plus code. It’s just a matter of figuring out which points on a map have buildings on them, which of those buildings are homes, and what the plus codes are for those homes.”

“Each plus code is unique, and because it refers to a specific place on a map, there’s less room for confusion. There’s no question of which ‘Main Street’ someone lives on. Once someone knows their plus code, they can text it to friends or family or read it out to a 911 dispatcher who can plug it into a GPS system.”

The report also notes the problem isn’t unique to Utah, as one study found average wait times are almost double in rural areas than more developed states.

Further reading

Response Times: Myths, Measurement and Management

Rural Texas EMS-Based Fire Agency Offers Unique Blend of Prehospital Training and MIH-CP

Implementing Tactical EMS in a Rural EMS Agency