Author Topic: Grid refs and Emergency Services  (Read 7422 times)

GrahamC

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Grid refs and Emergency Services
« on: January 28, 2012, 10:56:34 PM »
I hope this is the correct place to post this.

My main sport is canoeing/kayaking and this discussion came up with some fellow paddlers.  However, I am sure that it is of interest to others and I am hoping that someone will have an answer - especially those involved in lowland SAR.

Following an incident the emergency services were called.  When asked for a location they were pressed hard for a postcode.  The position was accurately known by both OS NGR and Lat/long from a GPS unit.  Also the number of miles  from the nearest town and named featured on a map.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the only position indicator of any immediate use was the postcode.   Eventually the casualty was taken to a nearby road and got off to hospital - all ended OK.

I had a quick email discussion with the local emergency control room and it was confirmed that a postcode was the most useful locator.  The OS grid ref was of no use as they don't have access to OS mapping - it costs!!!  The lat/long may be of use but he didn't know which method of reporting was most useful to them (d:m:s, d:m.mmm or d.ddddd).

I imagine that in real hill country SAR/emergency services would be able to deal with any of these, as would an air ambulance - but if you need an ambulance on a road or river away from a town what is the preferred method of location?  What do lowland SAR do?

Graham

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2012, 07:47:46 AM »
Welcome to this forum, Graham!

Last June, the Ramblers launched a campaign to persuade the ambulance service to accept grid references for the location of incidents and supported their came with a mass of evidence (see attached file).

I'm under the impression that the arguments have been accepted by the ambulance service but I'm not sure whether the necessary arrangements have yet been implemented.

Hugh

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2012, 08:12:12 AM »
Graham

I've done some more research and discovered an article in the current 'Walk', the Ramblers' magazine. It contains the following statement:
 
'...at a meeting with the Ramblers' Karen Inkster, Steve West [Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives]...has agreed to raise the issue nationally with the NHS Ambulance Director of Operations and to liaise with the national software suppliers' forum to ensure that all the [four] different systems can use the National Grid references... we expect to have a follow-up meeting in about a year's time...'

Hugh

Speedbird

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2012, 10:57:40 AM »
This is a real eye opener, had no idea the ambulance service was unable to use the OS grid reference system. Not just that but now it looks like the usual dithering whilst someone decides whether this is feasible etc. Meanwhile the risk being obvious is bound to cost someone dearly at some point. Something else now to consider whilst out in the fields.
Regards
John

Skills4Survival

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 01:40:04 PM »
And, for someone outside of the UK, forced to give a postal code, that would be the end of me. How is a postal code somewhere in the mountains or moors useful, do not understand.
Ivo

GrahamC

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2012, 01:51:57 PM »
Thanks for the rapid response - looks like my worst fears are true.  It seems odd that what is effectively one government agency can't get its act together with others.  I would have thought that this was probably one of the most important uses of our national mapping service. 

Reading the Rambler's document, it is interesting to see support from the MCA.  There is mention about calling the coast-guard for incidents near to the coast.  I was told (off the record but I'll repeat it here)  that the best way to get help in a "coastal" location was to call the coastguard on marine vhf (or mobile phone) and pass them the details, they seem to be able to work with just about any locator system and also co-ordinate the rescue in a very professional manner.   The advantage of the marine vhf is that, if necessary, a helicopter can contact you directly or direction find your signal. 

Graham

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2012, 02:39:13 PM »
Wo guys hold on.

Just contacted two team members from Scottish Ambulance Service & Lothian & Borders Fire & Rescue Service: All their ambulances carry Ordnance Survey Maps and Fire & Rescue use the 12 figure National Grid Reference system (easily converted to OS, see P187/188 UNM).

I will check with the Emergency Control Centre tomorrow.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2012, 02:52:44 PM by Lyle Brotherton »
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adi

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2012, 05:14:46 PM »
I was aware that there was some issues with some emergency service call centres not being able to handle grid references and long, lats. One of the areas highlighted was Yorkshire including the Yorkshire moors, the Yorkshire Dales and other remote areas in the county.

As far as I am aware the government said there was no reason that any emergency call centre should not have access to all mapping solutions in these centres and it was often down to lack of training. And they promised to resolve it and it now has been resolved.
"We do not belong to those who only get their thought from books, or at the prompting of books - it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing or dancing, of lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful." Friedrich Nietzsche

Paul Hitchen

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2012, 02:24:40 PM »
Hi,  It still seems a little mixed with NWAS and EMAS.  They are able to pass on GR and or Lat Long to MR but the primary locator seems to be postcode naturally as 99% of their calls are urban.  I have experienced cases recently with people stuck on hills ringing 999, explaining they are damaged on a hill and being asked for a post code.  Of course there is good training and protocols used, but most call handlers are not hill goers and it is not top of mind to think about MR and remote terrain. Sometimes the crew arrives at the nearest road head and is faced with 350 sq miles of hillside to stare at. 

I think the education and training is needed from both directions.  Walkers etc need to be aware of MR too. Some phone an Ambulance and presume they will work out what resource is needed for this rescue.  Whereas the call handler may not think to ask how far are you from the nearest road, what's the terrain/weather (for Air Ambulance) like.  Whatever can be done from both sides would be helpful.  Sarloc can now help get a fix from the casualty's phone if they have signal (with permission of the cas),  MR is using that and it's great. 

Most smartphones seem to have a number of APPs and ways to give lat/long even with no sat nav apps loaded e.g. navclock, compasses etc.  It would be useful if there was a website somewhere or list with how to do that by phone type added to over time. Then MR could get a lat long off the cas if they have phone signal by talking them through it, as could a 999 call handler.  Just a thought.  cheers.

Walking Beaver

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2012, 05:17:45 PM »
Hello all,

First of all sorry for my english, it's easier to speak dutch or french.

This problem is not only a problem in your country but in Belgium we have the same problem.  I worked for 5 years at the Emergency Call Center Brussels of the Police in Belgium.  We always needed a postcode/city or at least an address where we can sent a patrol car too.  Last year the system of the cellular map was updated and now we have always the antenna where your mobile phone is logged in. 
In the city it means every 300 meters an antenna, in the woods or Ardennen there are antennas every 9 kilometers.  It is something but not enough for search and rescue. 
The last two years I worked at the Air Support Unit Belgium Police (as dispatcher) and our system also works with an address.  So if we don't have an address it's hard to search for something.

Again, sorry for my english.
WB

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2012, 07:10:37 PM »
Paul

I suppose that GR stands for grid reference and and MR probably means mountain rescue but what are NWAS and EMAS? 

Hugh

Paul Hitchen

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2012, 10:55:33 AM »
Apologies.  I should have expanded them (I will play the dumb newbie card for a while yet!).  Yes Gr = Grid Ref. MR = Mountain Rescue.  NWAS=North West Ambulance Service UK and EMAS = East Midlands Ambulance Service UK.

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2012, 03:24:09 PM »
Paul, you are probably already aware of Sarloc which has been designed for MRT’s (Mountain Rescue Teams) locating people in trouble who have with them a smartphone, and for the benefit of other Forum members I will detail this really excellent system.

Firstly, it is not an app, instead it is a webpage developed by Russ Hore, from the Ogwen Valley MRT.

When a person calls for help using a smartphone, they are sent a text message with a link to a webpage. By simply clicking this link, a page opens in the phone's browser, which queries the phone display its location in Lat/Long, both to the caller and simultaneously over the internet to the Mountain Rescue Team's database. The MRT call handler can then see the phone's location displayed on a digital OS map display using an app called MRMap, developed by Dave Binks and Rob Brookes in the Lakes.

The list of smartphones this system works on is impressive, from most iPhones, BlackBerrys, Samsungs and HTCs, plus is growing by the day.
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Paul Hitchen

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2012, 11:13:00 AM »
Lyle, agree totally.

Considering the guys created Sarloc under their own steam it's developed into a fantastic system and now it's adopted by Mountain Rescue it is going great guns.  Hopefully if it is widely adopted by emergency services it will be a superb help locating casualties or lost people.  As you say it is improving all the time.   And it does not need anything installing on the phone in advance.

As an aside, it just surprised me how many phones have APPs that use and are able to display the current lat and long of the phone (even if not the primary function of the APP). It may be useful for say Ambulance services, Air Ambulances etc to be aware they may be able to talk the cas through getting a lat long off the phone. 

But as you point out, Sarloc is the real answer and a wide role out in UK emergency services would be great.  all the best Paul

Callum

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Re: Grid refs and Emergency Services
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2012, 12:50:55 PM »
Guys, this software is so innovative and has a fantastic application.

Do you know if this software is available to the public yet, specifically outdoor establishments, and if so, who we should contact?