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PROMPT Ambulance Service Expands Territory and Grows Business with MOTOTRBO™ Digital Radios
April 13 2011

When PROMPT Ambulance Service increased its territory and fleet size, their analog radio system could not keep pace. By engaging the local Motorola channel partner for a timely, cost-effective solution, within six months PROMPT was operating a new dispatch center on a MOTOTRBO digital platform and is well prepared for the phased migration of the entire fleet. The improved coverage, reliability and capabilities of the new system have launched PROMPT into more service areas and fuels their expansion into other markets.

Headquartered in Highland, Indiana, PROMPT Ambulance Service is the largest private pre-hospital provider in Northwest Indiana. While changes in medical care continue to evolve, the fundamental mission of the staff who work for PROMPT Ambulance remains unchanged. The company’s 400 emergency medical technicians, paramedics, office/support staff and management team work tirelessly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year providing patient care with skill and compassion to those who are ill or have been injured.

Increased fleet size at risk due to poor coverage
In 2009, responding to a growing demand for their services, PROMPT Ambulance Service expanded their fleet by 60% over a six month period, bringing the total number of ambulances from 56 to 90. Though the increase presented a substantial benefit to residents in their service area, it also meant higher demand on the company’s outdated dispatch center. To handle the increased radio traffic, they not only needed additional space for the dispatch center but an overall upgrade for their analog-based system as well. With inconsistent coverage over their service area, it was evident that an all-encompassing solution needed to be found to remedy coverage and usage issues.

“There were times when our crews would be on emergencies and the analog portables they had were useless in certain areas due to the absence of a signal,” says Joe Merry, Director of Operations and Communications, PROMPT Ambulance. “It increased the liability of our field staff and the potential for hazardous situations as they would have no radio link to our Communications Center.”

Needing a solution beyond push-to-talk

When out of radio contact, EMTs in the field had to rely on their cellular push-to-talk (PTT) devices to reach the dispatch center. Investing in more cellular PTT devices wasn’t a workable option either. Aside from being cost prohibitive with monthly subscriptions required for each vehicle, there was also the risk, during times of intense network use, when simultaneous users could effectively overwhelm the available bandwidth, cutting dispatch off from the field. Plus their cellular devices did not have the ability to record conversations which is an important technology for ambulance services.

Needing a solid and quick solution, PROMPT engaged a local Motorola channel partner.

Solution: MOTOTRBO digital radio system with phased migration from analog

The local channel partner proposed the acquisition of two additional channels to handle the increased traffic and worked with its own engineers to develop a plan that would migrate PROMPT to a narrowbanded digital platform within six months.

Though PROMPT originally wanted to add two analog repeaters, the resulting frequency burden on the towers carried the potential for additional complications that could delay the integration of the solution. With half its ambulance fleet already operating with digital radios, the channel partner guided PROMPT toward a less expensive solution, incorporating a MOTORBO digital repeater and 48 additional MOTOTRBO digital mobiles to complete the fleet.

“We discussed the digital capability of MOTOTRBO,” says the channel partner. “We began the process by replacing the old analog radios through attrition and replacing them with with MOTOTRBO mobiles because the dual mode digital radios could handle the analog signal today and be programmed to digital later on.”

Results: Greater coverage enables company expansion

PROMPT’s ailing analog network covered only half of the county and lacked the capacity to handle the increased number of ambulances in the fleet and the resulting radio traffic. They needed a cost effective solution that could be quickly rolled out in phases without immediately making their existing equipment obsolete.

The success of the MOTOTRBO digital system has allowed PROMPT’s further expansion into more service areas. PROMPT Ambulance is presently contracted in five cities of northwest Indiana, with additional townships in that region and in Illinois. With their new digital radio system, they can respond on average to 580 calls per day and run about 100,000 trips annually. Due in part to the increased capacity, coverage and reliability of the MOTOTRBO radios, the company plans to expand into other major cities.

“One of our larger 911 areas is notorious not only for the volume and type of calls that come out of there but also for horrible radio reception. Not a good combination by any means,” says Merry. “That’s the kind of area where we really need our EMTs to be able to communicate effectively with each other and dispatch. MOTOTRBO has remedied the coverage drop outs we used to experience.”

In addition to enhanced coverage and reliability, PROMPT’s timely solution also has reduced their liability and prepared the company for continued growth:

  • Future proof: Building up PROMPT Ambulance’s infrastructure on a digital platform, they are now upgrade-ready for devices such as the Motorola MC75 handheld for mobile data, as well as GPS capabilities to track the location of each ambulance.
  • Swift solution: With a constrained timeline and high need, the MOTOTRBO system was a quick and easy way to realize their goal of expanded coverage and capability.
  • Enhanced dispatch capabilities: Integrating the MCC 5500 dispatch console into the new PROMPT system, dispatchers can more effectively manage the resources at their disposal. Added features such as a flexible GUI provide important visual feedback and quick access to important functions. Everything is at the dispatchers’ fingertips.
  • Easy scalability: As PROMPT Ambulance expands their service area, they have the opportunity to increase their range even further by deploying IP Site Connect, which will provide them with wide area coverage to allow its drivers to automatically roam from one coverage area to another with no manual intervention.
  • Reduced liability: Since the cellular devices essentially operated on an external network, it was not possible to record the communications. With MOTOTRBO radios routed through the dispatch center server, all radio and incoming communications are recorded without additional applications or reprogramming required for the radios.

“Going the route our channel partner identified superseded our financial considerations. The benefit of MOTOTRBO and a digital-based system lies in how it has enhanced our ability to effectively do our job,” Merry says. “Between upgrading our radios and installing the new dispatch center, the way we operate has changed exponentially. It’s hard to put a price on that.”

Even with an aggressive deployment schedule, the effective relationship between PROMPT and the channel partner helped realize a smooth roll out. This included a brand new MOTOTRBO radio system, 45 additional vehicle installations and a five-position dispatch center. In six months the project went from initial proposal to live operations in time for the official unveiling of the new ispatch center with press and local municipalities in attendance.

“Motorola isn’t just the best choice. In our business they are the only choice,” claims Merry. “They are in tune with the technology needs of emergency responders and they deliver on those needs.”

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