Monthly Archives: March 2012

Quick Thoughts from the Esri EPC/DevSummit 2012

The importance of the intersection of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and Public Safety may not seem very obvious to some at first glance, but GIS has a lot to offer beyond just mapping in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of systems to create a High Performance EMS. (See my previous post on GIS for EMS for more details.) Over the last few days, Esri has hosted their business partners and developers in overlapping conferences to highlight upcoming feature functionality in new releases of their market dominating ArcGIS software family.

Of the highlights important to public safety professionals is an upcoming release of a comparatively small footprint, easily deployed, core GIS product that will be called the ArcGIS Runtime. Unlike their ArcView product, the runtime software is actually a developer tool distributed through partners or developers within industry focused applications. When it is released this summer, developers will use their unique knowledge of public safety functions to build applications much smaller than previously possible. This new deployment will also allow these applications to
be stored on a USB memory stick and installed as easily as plugging in the device and opening the application. Data to support the map layers in the application can also reside on the USB device or come from web services like ArcGIS Online if network connectivity is available. Probably most importantly, this runtime can dramatically improve the deployment of mobile applications to vehicles over wireless networks or directly to laptops through portable memory devices as new computers are added in the event of a disaster response. In the past, GIS has proven to be a very useful tool in managing disasters but its installation requirements has been a costly and time-consuming impediment. This limiting factor will be mitigated once the new generation of applications are available on this platform later in the year.

ArcGIS Online, a cloud based service providing map data and applications to work with geographic data, is also going to see some significant improvements. What has been just a free, personal use subscription for storing and sharing data will soon be offered as an organizational subscription. The new fee-based version will offer additional administration capabilities and new cloud service features such as hosted image tiles of your own map layers. This could be important for organizations that have large amounts of quality GIS data to share quickly or to a large audience.

A third announcement of some interest is a mapping extension to Microsoft Office currently named Esri Maps for Office to be released later this year. This extension will allow Excel users to easily map data series and quickly move the map into Powerpoint. This map can also include ArcGIS Online data services and during presentation the map can be activated for interaction. While not serving a direct operational function, it will fulfill strategic needs to describe operations in briefings.

Finally, the Public Safety team at Esri challenged the recent trend of providing a single map-based Common Operating Picture filled with many general layers of data by suggesting a GIS centric Common Operating Platform instead. This “next generation? platform should provide task focused applications based on ICS roles including Logistics, Operations, Command, and the PIO. You can learn more about Esri stratgeies in Public Safety and Connect with Othersthrough their website.

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Quick Thoughts from the EMS Today 2012 Conference

This was my first time at the EMS Today conference produced by JEMS and I have certainly not been disappointed by the promise of quality education, networking, and new products. The ride-along with BCFD EMS, described in my post yesterday, help set the tone for a genuine learning experience. Whatever your level of experience or interest in EMS there was something for you here in Baltimore.

The pre-conference courses began on Tuesday and the ones I observed were excellent varying from the “Back to Basics Skills Lab” by Bill Justice that was attended by many young, new EMS professionals to the “EMS Field Training and Evaluation Program” led by Troy Hagen and Skip Kirkwood that opened up many new questions for me about how EMS functions today and what we need to do to improve it. Others I would have liked to attend included Advanced Airway Management, EMS Street Survival, and a workshop on best practices for delivering and tracking training by Greg Friese with CentreLearn.

The “Global Climate of EMS” session led by Jerry Overton was a great way to start my day yesterday by forcing me to take a hard look at how our EMS systems are designed in the US and how they compare to the rest of the world. Some of the sobering statistics can be found in my past tweets by @hp_ems or by searching the #EMStoday hashtag. But more importantly, Overton challenged the core model of EMS based on a 7:59 response time and automatic transport to the hospital ED created as a result of the 1965 Medicare legislation. Some of his suggestions included “Alternate End Points” for appropriate care and nurse triage in the PSAP to determine response alternatives. While the legal concerns surfaced quickly, the reply from places doing it cited cost savings and more appropriate care as a positive return. This was a discussion that continued with a lively dialog over lunch at the EMS Leadership Lunch & Learn. Interestingly, the session I attended between these talks was on “Culture Change from the Ground Up” by Fire Chief Gary Ludwig who had a very different premise. The first 30 minutes of the session covered how to parallel the title structure of Fire over to EMS and how to design the appropriate collar brass to recognize the unique skills of EMS. But at the same time Ludwig proudly stated the fact that each Paramedic is always a Firefighter in his system which seemed in strange contrast as he presented the ratio of fire calls to medical as only 1:5. The rhetorical question he asked was “Are we a Fire service that responds to EMS calls or an EMS system that occasionally responds to fire call?” If Fire departments are going to do EMS successfully for patient outcome, he maintained, they must “embrace” the mission of EMS.

Another interesting session was the “EMS Policy Summit” with Lisa Tofil. She presented a comprehensive background to recent and pending legislation offering her own unique perspective on the changes coming as a result of the current politics in Washington. While PPACA will not go away in its entirety, it will most likely be severely gutted regardless of the Supreme Court decision expected in June on its constitutional challenges. There is some significant legislation affecting EMS that we need to be watching and our voice needs to be strong and unified to affect positive change. Tofil’s recommendation to stay on top of these issues is to visit and if possible attend the “EMS on the Hill Day” later this month.

After what seemed like an already full day of sessions, I attended the Opening ceremonies including a keynote talk from Randy Mantooth (aka Johnny Gage of of the 1970’s TV show Emergency!) Mantooth shared many personal stories related to our profession and challenged each of the heroes in the room to always remember the reason they answered their calling to this field. It wasn’t the excitement of Johnny and Roy, but the empathy they made us feel. “It spoke to your DNA” he reminded everyone and need to always remember that. Shortly afterwards, everyone was dismissed for the opening of the exhibit hall which was a feast of new technology for any geek.

The evening ended with a premier viewing of the first installment of a wonderful new video series called “CodeSTEMI” distributed on the First Responder Network (FRN) and other gatherings for bloggers and social media advocates. It was a great opportunity to meet friends in person and renew relationships.

My only real disappointment at the conference was learning how many EMS professionals spent their own money completely out of their personal pocket in order to be here. But I now understand why they did it.

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A Country EMS in The Big City

Last night I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity by Baltimore City FD to ride-along with one of their EMS crews as part of the EMS Today 2012 conference. My desire was to learn some of the many differences between their service and the more rural EMS service back home. While there clearly were definite differences, the thing that struck me more than anything else was actually how similar we all are, not how different.

I anticipated the promise that each tone held to expose me to some uniquely urban situation. And while the individuals I met were clearly unique, the choreography between us all was mostly a repeat. This is exactly how we are trained in EMS. We take whatever situation is given to us and we bring a defined order to the chaos. We seek sameness in purpose and outcome. The empathy I felt for the apparently homeless patient with the self-induced alteration in LOC and the young woman facing a possible miscarriage was no different here than anywhere. I simply wanted to help. The public attitude toward EMS leading to abuse of the system and the painful inefficiencies it causes was also no surprise. We face the same issues everywhere even if the proportions change.

It was witnessing the banter between calls that told me I wasn’t back home. The teams and even the sports were different, the union issues too. But then then there was the discussion of changes in protocols, the latest findings in medicine, the issues faced in home life. Maybe I am not so far from home after all.

At this conference I have already met medics from truly rural areas as far apart as Georgia and Alaska. I’ve met some who work for private agencies and others who come from city or county services. It is a commonality that brings us together and that allows us to discuss and learn from each other about our unique situations and approaches. The pre-conference session I attended yesterday has also helped me think about operational questions I had never considered before. Personally, I am definitely ready to start this conference today with a proper perspective.


Filed under Conferences, EMS Topics, Training