Most people think of a map as a means to find a restaurant, the library or a gas station.

For our crews, a mark on a map needs to be much more than a place to land the helicopter. There needs to be enough information to see the entire picture of the location – the weather, how close it is to a health centre and which other resources are nearby, for instance.

STARS is doing just that – utilizing geographic information systems to achieve situational awareness that allow our staff a real-time view of incidents. This innovative use of the technology helps STARS access patients even more quickly and efficiently.

“We are not sending people out to a black dot on a map or a line on a grid,” said Kevin Hatch, telecommunications manager of the STARS Emergency Link Centre, home to our central dispatch. “We are sending them to a real, live place where someone needs help.”

Our hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as STARS was recently honoured with an award of excellence by Esri Canada for our use of GIS to reduce emergency response times. We received this award thanks to the hard work of Hatch and his ELC colleagues, Andrew Lattoni and Paul Wiles.

The president of Esri Canada, a Canadian company that provides geographic information system solutions to institutions around the world, called STARS’ efforts transformational.

“Every piece of information counts in public safety,” said Alex Miller. “In using GIS to establish a common operating picture of emergencies and available resources, STARS has equipped its staff with a powerful decision-making tool to improve response times. Their application is transforming emergency management and plays a critical role in saving lives.”

Previously, STARS primarily used GIS to identify where emergencies occurred so we could dispatch resources to the site. Today, we rely on GIS to achieve situational awareness and provide staff with a comprehensive, real-time view of incidents to better respond to the needs of the critically ill and injured.

Hatch explained the technology as a map that brings together all of the most important information into one place.

“Rather than looking in one place to view the weather, then opening another app to find the closest hospital and yet another to know where the closest responders are, all of this information is available in one repository,” he said. “Each patient’s treatment is different based on their geographic area. Being able to see their exact location in relation to nearby resources on a map allows us to better address their needs, increasing their chances of survival.”

Our ELC dispatchers are using the new application to monitor missions in real time, retrieve and relay information to first responders and notify stakeholders of emergency situations and response plans.

For Wiles, Hatch and Lattoni, they are excited about the innovative opportunities ahead for STARS and our partners in industry.

“At the end of the day, it’s our patient who benefit,” said Wiles.