GPS Tracking Locates Hydrants for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

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Sun, sand, surf—Palm Beach seems to be one place that does not need an upgrade, and yet an upgrade it is due to receive. The Palm Beach County fire department is using GPS devices to physically map the fire hydrants in the county. Up till now, their fire rescue’s methods of fighting fires were still the standard ones used in the past, which were often accompanied by human mistakes. At one time the county’s hydrants had to be charted by hand onto area maps; even after being recopied digitally, hydrants would be mapped erroneously as on the opposite side of the street or incorrectly measured with error margins of up to 100 yards away. Mistakes like these would cost firefighters vital minutes otherwise used to save lives just to find a useable hydrant.


GPS Tracking to Correct Hydrant Inaccuracies

Enforcers of the new mapping system are hoping to drastically reduce the likelihood of mistakes. The project extends from Boca Raton to Jupiter and, in all, encompasses about 45,000 hydrants. Two GPS tracked devices (each priced at around $1,000) are being used to scan individual hydrants. At the push of a button, a signal is sent to and recorded by a minimum of three orbiting satellites onto an online HydrantNav chart. Besides tracking the exact coordinates, employees will also note via HydrantNav the rate of water flow (in gallons per minute) and current functionality of each hydrant. Dispatchers will then be prepared to best direct firefighters to a hydrant while they are en route to an emergency. No longer will firefighters have to go looking for a hydrant that may or may not be working or in the correctly noted spot; dispatch will have all necessary information at their fingertips.


GPS Hydrant Tracking Methods Elsewhere in Florida

This same type of GPS tracking system has already been operational since 2006 in Boynton Beach, FL; mapping equipment in the trucks allows rescue personnel to view onscreen any hydrant in the vicinity of an input address. Boynton Beach and Boca Raton both use separate dispatching which would keep them from having access to Palm Beach County hydrant mapping information. Even so, Palm Beach will still record all hydrants in all surrounding cities because its rescue department often provides back-up to other zones.

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Janice Grover

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