Barre Town EMS: Reliable Broadband Will Aid in Service
Chris LaMonda began his EMS career when he volunteered in 2003 at Essex Rescue and continued that work for 10 years. During that time, he also worked as a full-time public school teacher. Combining his interests in education and EMS, he eventually moved to the University of Vermont. At UVM he worked as a full-time faculty member and EMS instructor. He joined the Barre Town EMS Department in 2014 as a full-time field medic. He stepped into the full-time director position in 2015. The department has 14 full-time EMS providers and 10 per-diem EMS staff. They responded to 3,800 calls last year and operate out of three stations. They serve the towns of Barre, Berlin, Washington, Orange and Topsham.
What are the communication challenges facing Barre Town EMS?
Our most pressing need is for better radio and cell phone connections. We need reliable service that ensures our cell phones work every single time we need them—whether to make a call to the hospital or using Active911 to see the latest maps. We have little or no cell phone coverage in some of our service areas. Topsham, Washington and Orange are particular problem areas. The geography of the area even impacts our radio coverage. On Highway 302 there is an area called “the heights.” Depending on what side of the road you are on, you will either lose or pick up service.
What technology do you rely on to do your job?
In addition to two-way radios, employees use cell phones to communicate with the hospital and between stations. We have three ambulances that are in service each day. A laptop is carried in each in-service ambulance for the day. We have used the laptops for the last two years to collect data needed for state reporting requirements.
You started using Active911 a year ago. How is this application benefiting the department?
Active911 makes the call information very clear, much better than relying on a garbled radio message. The software automatically sends the call out through Lamoille Dispatch. The tone is posted within seconds. We can also send messages to each other. The simplified texting can be very useful in requesting extra trucks. We’ve found the mapping feature to be helpful, especially in rural areas. It is very affordable. It costs just $10 per person for the year. However, the application needs reliable cellular access.
What is your opinion about FirstNet?
It makes sense. Emergency services should have priority for coverage. It will be important to see how FirstNet defines who is a first responder. Cost will also be important. I do not want to carry two cell phones. How will FirstNet costs compare to what I am paying now on my family plan?