101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Saturday, September 19

Onstar?

I was asked by a client recently if this Onstar really works. The idea is that the sensors in the car send signals to the company who calls 911 in the area and relays the information.




I was wondering if anyone out there has responded to one of these automated calls and how it came in. Was the information accurate? Did it make a difference?

9 comments:

Fink said...

We have something similar in Australia (but I don't know what is called). I'm pretty sure it's installed in all new cars. It sends an emergency signal when the car overturns and responds a police/ambulance helicopter to the location. We get a few MVA's in our area, and we've had the helicopter rock up to the last 2 which involved overturned new vehicles... it wasn't needed, and someone had already called the jobs in, but at least it works.

Great idea for remote areas.

the observer said...

I don't know about emergency medical response, but I do know that the Kansas City Police Department has found a few stolen cars using Onstar.

My mother wanted it...in her Ford.

mack505 said...

I've responded to a couple crashes reported by OnStar. Both had backup cell-phone calls, though. The location was very accurate. I've also used it once to manually report a crash in an area with no cell coverage. (Not my crash.)

More recently, I responded to a medical aid reported via cell-phone, where the caller didn't know her location. The GPS in the phone pinpointed her location within two house numbers. (The last landmark she remembered was over 1/2 mile behind her.)

It's all great technology when it works.

TOTWTYTR said...

mack505, OnStar uses cell phones to talk to the operators. It has two components. One is GPS to determine location, the other is cell phone for communications back to the control center. The difference could have been in the carrier. OnStar currently uses Verizon.

I haven't responded to any calls via OnStar, but I have the depressing feeling that this is going to lead to more calls, but not more patients, nor better information on patients.

I hope I'm wrong.

Jean said...

It works. We got at least one of OnStar call. We were rolling out of station before we realized who one of victims were and how bad the accident was. OnStar vechile was totalled (retired FF who was thinking of replacing vechile). One 'guilty' driver was life-flighted (steering wheel was gone). Other victim was injured enough to need c-section for each birth. OnStar was essenstial to getting help rolling sooner in this case. I wish my van have OnStar...

Little Girl said...

From the dispatcher's opinion (which sometimes means little to nothing for the responding crews) OnStar is a 'nice to have' option in your vehicle, but is not necessary.

The location information is generally correct, but the OnStar Operators sometimes have a hard time pronouncing street names eg. MacLeod, or Shagannappi, so something accident that are in our jurisdiction are sent else where because of the mispronunciations. At my centre, we still need to verify the location that OnStar gave us with the occupants of the vehicle. Also, OnStar is not able to give of direction of travel, which can be important if the accident is on a major road way.

Generally when these calls come into my centre, we are speaking to someone in the deep deep south of USA - the person generally has a thick accent and the 9-1-1 Operator and person in the vehicle have a hard time understand them.

The audio connection between the occupant of the vehicle, OnStar Operator, and 9-1-1 Operator is very week. There is lots of interference, and static on the line, and information is lost or misinterpreted.

Most of the time when I get a OnStar call for an accident, the occupant of the vehicle has a cell phone and they are able to call 9-1-1 themselves but they 'just wanted to see if OnStar was going to work'. Also, while I have been interrogating the occupant of the vehicle through the connection with OnStar other civilians have called in the accident or stopped by the accident scene and asked if the occupant needed help.

Most of the time the accidents reported by OnStar are non-injury accidents or have minor injuries. I have yet to get an accident from OnStar where the occupants of the vehicle was unable to communication with the 9-1-1 operators.

When I bought my new vehicle, I declined OnStar. I have a cell phone, and I faith in the kindness of others.

WVmedicgirl said...

I have been on one onstar call- guy was too drunk to think to call 911 so it helped us know about the accident at 0300 on a back road no one drives down. They of course didnt have any info because the pt couldnt figure out who he was talking to...the downside was once we arrived onstar kept interupting our assessment telling the pt "paramedics are on the way" we had to tell the 3 or 4 times we were the paramedics, finally they got it after one medic used a choice word or two and asked them to disconnect the call.

Jay911 said...

When OnStar was first introduced in Canada, there was a crash which involved a car load of kids and a number of losses of life. The road it was on was called Blank Valley Road (obviously I've changed the name a bit) in a town near me. The OnStar operator, so I'm told, called the non-emergency fire department number to report a crash in "Blank Valluh, Canada" with "one girl reporting a headache". (That's like reporting a crash as being on "Walnut Street, USA", and furthermore, the only girl in the car was in no condition to speak to anyone, much less complain of a headache.) To top it all off, OnStar's call came about 90 minutes after the crash had happened.

Since then, it's gotten much much better. As I understand it, they now have a Canadian call center, which, forgive me, makes it much easier for the accents to be understood, and gives us a fighting chance of having someone who knows at least the city if not the general area. I am in the same center as LittleGirl and I try to persuade our ops to ask for and input the lat/long of the car every time, as our CAD system will accept this kind of location info. That helps a lot, especially when someone (at OnStar) who doesn't know the area is trying to interpret the car's location on their maps and gets a few miles off... which can end up meaning the difference between a freeway and a two-lane mountain road that parallels it (but can only be accessed 25 miles away at an interchange).

Little Girl said...

However, the closest OnStar Centre to Canada that I have spoken to is Chicago.

Jay911 didn't we try to figure out where the Canadian OnStar Centre was one tour??