According to a USA Today investigation, more than 1,000 lives are needlessly lost in some of the United States’ biggest cities because the emergency response system is inefficient. In many cases, delays of just a few seconds can result in someone dying when their death could have actually been prevented.

Seconds, even minutes, can be lost as calls for help are routed through busy dispatch centers and as emergency response teams take inefficient routes to reach the victim. During those wasted minutes, countless lives are lost.

In fact, the USA Today analysis revealed that emergency response systems in the 50 largest cities in the nation saved only 6% to 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims who could have realistically been saved if the response time had been faster.

Factors Affecting Response Time

A number of factors come into play when determining emergency response time including the time it takes to receive and process the call for help. Where the most valuable time is lost, however, is during the time when emergency services personnel are travelling to reach the victim.


Emergency response services use Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to plan their responses. Given the information provided earlier about the USA Today analysis, it would seem that this technology is not being used efficiently in many cities.

How GIS Software Can Help Emergency Responders

GIS software is used to gather, , store, and analyze geographic data. It can be used for very simple purposes like locating a specific property, or for complex purposes like mapping a route from the dispatch center to a victim’s location.


Emergency services personnel like fire fighters, emergency medical teams, and first responders use GIS technology in a number of ways. They use it to plan their responses in individual situations, to analyze disaster data to improve response times, and to predict future scenarios. The most common use for GIS technology, however, is analyzing traffic data to map the fastest, most efficient route to reach the site of the emergency and from there to plan the best route to the hospital.

GIS for Crime Management

Another way in which emergency personnel use GIS technology is to analyze and manage crime data. Crime units can use GIS mapping to gather crime data for a particular area in order to prioritize manpower in the areas that need it most.


Disaster planners can use GIS technology to identify disease clusters and areas of environmental risk to help contain disasters and to evaluate the efficiency of their response to improve response times for the future. Emergency service providers use a variety of different GIS tools including handheld data collectors and research models to evaluate real scenarios as well as potential scenarios to improve emergency statistics.


GIS mapping technology has many applications for a variety of emergency services. A large map of the local area, for example, can be used by emergency dispatchers to quickly identify the fastest route to the site of an emergency so that information can be communicated to the emergency responders.

Maps can also be used in operations rooms and meetings to plan future resource allocations and to identify areas of need. Modern GIS technology is incredibly advanced so it can be used to create highly detailed maps, when needed.

The emergency response services sector relies on fast, accurate information in order to quickly reach the site of an emergency. GIS technology is a useful tool that can be used to gather, manipulate, and analyze data in real-time scenarios and for the purpose of planning future responses.