NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Imagine, you have a medical emergency and call 911 — but what if the ambulance can’t find you?
Seconds can become precious and consequences might be deadly.
Speaking with CBS2’s Dick Brennan, Dominique Galluzi recalled waiting for help after a frightening accident.
“I kept hearing the sirens, but they never got closer,” she said.
The problem might be that until just recently, almost none of the ambulances operating in the city had mapping capabilities.
“It’s just common sense. We need GPS, and we need it in our ambulance,” Council Member Elizabeth Crowely said.
During a committee hearing last year, the fire department made a surprising admission to Crowley.
“In the event that they are sent outside their area or to another borough, we provide them with maps, paper maps,” Chief Of EMS, James Booth said.
Booth described the maps as a ‘fall back.’
“Paper maps are used as a fall back. They’re always available to use, they’re inside the ambulance,” he said.
Now, Booth tells CBS, they are finally in the process of rolling out new mapping technology.
“It’s an integrated system with our computer assisted dispatch system,” he said, “There is no way for the information to be transposed improperly by putting it in a whole separate GPS system.”
EMT Christian Hansen explained how it works.
“We’ll get an EMS call, it will pop up on the screen, it’s going to give a description of the job type. We hit our map button, it automatically routes us to the jobs,” he said.
Last July there was a navigation issue for the ambulance dispatched to help Galluzzi.
“I was pinned up against this cross bar,” she said.
She gave her location and waited, then they called her.
“So I told them again, giving them cross streets, the exact street,” she said.
More time went by.
“My phone rang again and it was the dispatcher again asking me where I was, telling me the couldn’t find me,” she said.
She said it took nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance to reach her.
Wade Watson and his son Damon saw a man having a heart attack in 2014. They called 911 multiple times.
“For these guys not to be able to find you on a major New York City attraction, Brookfield Plaza, esplanade, as a resident it’s shocking,” Wade said.
FDNY ambulances are now undergoing software installation with 150 scheduled to have the new technology.
“We vet it, we test it, we pilot it, and we always make sure we get it right. The fire department can’t afford to get an address wrong, and to not get help to someone who needs it,” Booth said.
Another 100 FDNY ambulances will have mobile mapping software installed by January, leaving just about 50 to rely on paper maps when needed.
Any new ambulances added to the fleet will already have the new technology.