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Kokua Line

Ambulance crews know their way around, even without GPS

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Question: Early morning Jan. 3, an ambulance with lights flashing drove makai on Hawaii Kai Drive toward Kalanianaole Highway. About two blocks past Kawaihae Street, it made a U-turn and proceeded back mauka on Hawaii Kai Drive. It obviously made another U-turn and again proceeded makai, then turned right on Kawaihae Street where it again passed me. It wound up at the Hawaii Kai Retirement Community. Don’t our ambulances use Global Positioning System guidance when responding to emergencies? Aren’t crews familiar with the location of senior citizen homes? I assume that there are more calls to such places than to the average house in Hawaii Kai.

Answer: Ambulance crews are familiar with neighborhoods and key locations, such as retirement and care homes, assures Patricia Dukes, chief of the city Emergency Medical Services Division.

In this case the ambulance crew "is well versed" on where the retirement facility is but simply missed the street the first time, probably because of the darkness, she said. "That’s all it was."

Dukes said the call came from a medical alert company on the mainland, and the ambulance got to the scene in seven minutes.

City ambulances are not equipped with GPS devices.

"We have GPS to track our ambulances but not to tell them how to get to the calls," Dukes said. It is a cost consideration.

However, each ambulance is equipped with map books, including specialized maps for facilities such as the Hawaii Kai Retirement Community, noting locations of buildings and units.

In another situation that the public might observe, Dukes said an ambulance with sirens and lights on might suddenly turn them off. Observers might think it was just trying to get by, "but that’s not the case," she said. "When we’re responding to a call but are not needed anymore, we immediately shut off our lights and sirens."

In another situation, for example, there’s a call that someone needs help at the corner of King and Kalakaua.

"You may see an ambulance going up and down" both streets several times.

"It looks like we don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going, when in fact we’re searching for the patient or even the caller," Dukes said. "We make a thorough search to make sure we don’t miss anything."

Question: What happened to KHUI-FM 99.5? It was my favorite station because it played mellow music, as well as oldies, but it now broadcasts religious matters.

Answer: "TheBuzz" columnist Erika Engle explained that owner Salem Communications changed its format to be true to its roots as a Christian broadcasting company. See www.staradvertiser.com/business/20101229_LL_franchise_ranked_No_184_by_magazine.html.

MAHALO

To the two highway angels who helped me on the evening of Dec. 30 in Waikiki. I was on my way to meet a friend whom I hadn’t seen in three decades, when my car suddenly died at a stoplight. It was turning dark, and the AAA number on my cell phone was barely visible. As I was frantically trying to call and restart my car at the same time, a young man ran up and told me he was going to try to push my car to the side of the street. As he was pushing, another young man rushed to help. Before I had a chance to thank them, they were gone. Because of them, traffic kept running smoothly, and AAA eventually arrived to tow my car. Their swift action was so kind. I just want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the young men. — Driver in Distress

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Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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