New GPS technology helps disaster units offer better service

By: Brad Rowland

In times of disaster and peril, many rely on The Salvation Army and, with a new initiative, those in need will be better informed and easier to serve. In partnership with US Fleet Tracking, the Army will begin rolling out new GPS tracking technology for monitoring disaster assets including canteens, tractor trailers and a wide variety of emergency vehicles.

Beginning Feb. 1, divisions throughout the Southern Territory began having high-end GPS devices hard-wired into vehicles with ignition starters. Beyond that, the Army will be able to utilize battery-powered technology easily affixed to smaller mobile units.

GPS will tell a disaster command exactly where a vehicle is deployed at any given time. The grand goal is to provide more detailed, precise information to the public.

“The big piece is that, once this system is fully operational, we will be able to share these unit locations with the general public,” said Jeff Jellets, territorial disaster services coordinator. “So, when someone calls and says, ‘My mother is in the disaster area and is in need,’ we’ll be able to point them to a map that says, ‘Here are our feeding locations, and here is where you can get service.’

“That’s the game-changer. And that’s where we want to be so we can better serve the public.”

The GPS technology, fully equipped with comprehensive customer service support from US Fleet Tracking, also provides the Army with a modern way to pinpoint maintenance needs, monitor overall fleet usage and generally improve oversight.

While the plan to upgrade the technology was in the works for several months last year, the Army had the opportunity for on-the-ground testing. Some of the new GPS-enabled units were used during disaster relief efforts after two devastating hurricanes.

“That real-time live disaster event during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma showed what we had known all along, as far as the necessity in providing service to those impacted by the disaster,” said Steven Hartsook, director of Emergency Disaster Services for the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division.

Positional information is transmitted via satellite and cellular networks. Under the new initiative, that provides upgraded accessibility and increased coverage.

The goal is to have each division completely outfitted with GPS by the June 1 beginning of Atlantic hurricane season.