By the end of next year the New South Wales Fire and Rescue Service will have its entire fleet of 560 vehicles fitted-out with GPS tracking tools to ensure the fastest response to an emergency.

Currently the Fire Service is about 135 units in to the state-wide roll-out of an automatic vehicle location system (AVLS), which uses GPS devices feeding location data into a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to dispatch trucks based on the most up-to-date information possible.

NSW Fire-fighters will join the state’s Ambulance and Police services in experiencing the benefits of GPS-aided emergency response when their systems are rolled-out.

Systems Officer Graham Tait says the AVLS capability will help the Service hit its target of a maximum eight minute response time for 90 per cent of calls: “Anecdotally we have already seen a reduction in response times but until we get the whole fleet up and running we are not going to know the true impact,” he said.

The service uses relatively simple, cheap and readily-available equipment. There are plans to add a data display system to trucks as well, which could be sent informational updates while a truck is en route; currently fire-fighters are handed a piece of paper with their dispatch information as they leave the station.

Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher says the GPS-enabling could save many lives for the low price of just $850,000 over three years: “not only is Fire and Rescue NSW leading the way with this technology, it has been able to do so for a bargain-basement price by researching the most cost-effective technologies,” he told parliament.