Case Study

Improving Emergency Response Times through Geospatial Modeling and Simulation

Catawba County, N.C.

In Catawba County, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is a critical function provided for residents. Reaching an emergency incident location in the shortest time possible maximizes patient care time. Catawba County has instituted a policy to respond to incidents in under 8 minutes, on average, to maximize patient success rates. To accomplish this, finite resources must be allocated efficiently. Thus, understanding resource demand is imperative for preparing the most cost-effective EMS budget requests. Traditionally, this understanding has come from analyzing historic incident data and testing alternative dispatch rules in the field. However, using historic data for future predictions is inappropriate as underlying demographic and transportation patterns are continually changing. Furthermore, estimating response times under alternate dispatch rules from historic data is also inappropriate. Testing in the field is inefficient due to increased costs, limitations on the number of tests that can be done, lack of timeliness, and the potential to decrease response efficiency during testing. Because a better way of analyzing data and predicting future demands was needed, Catawba County GIS and Emergency Services collaborated on the development of a spatially-explicit, agent-based simulation. This simulation was designed to proactively analyze alternative dispatch scenarios in response to changes in call volume and transportation patterns in order to accurately predict resource needs. Simulation modeling is a robust, proactive analytical method for testing alternative dispatch rules and also solves the problems inherent with incorporating future pressures. Additionally, simulations take a much shorter time to complete, any number of alternatives can be tested, and the only overhead cost is time for development. This collaborative tool has helped ensure that citizens are provided with efficient services without coverage gaps, minimal overhead cost for evaluating dispatch procedures, and better data analysis for prudent budget and resource allocation.

Ms. Avajean M. Wickes 
Executive Assistant

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