GPS positioning in emergency vehicles

GPS (Global Positioning System) technology is widely used in Finland to provide positioning information in emergency vehicles. Fire engines and ambulances typically use information systems such as PEKE to formulate the fastest route to the location of an emergency. Problems arise when emergency vehicles are under cover inside garages or fire stations. The GPS signal can’t penetrate the building structure so onboard information systems do not receive any positioning data.


Roger-GPS repeaters are installed inside garages and fire stations to provide reliable and continuous indoor GPS coverage. With a live GPS signal, the on-board information systems can immediately calculate a route while still under cover. When the vehicle exits the building it will immediately acquire GPS lock and start to transmit accurate location data to the command and control centre.

Nowadays the availability of GPS signal inside a building is regarded as a necessity. When new stations are built, or existing stations are refurbished, Roger-GPS repeaters are included in the plans to ensure that indoor GPS signal is available from day one. The planning requirements include the specification of locations for the outdoor antenna, coaxial feeder cable and indoor repeater unit. This pre-planning makes the installation process very straightforward.

Jari Wilén, Information Manager at Keski-Suomi Rescue Department ( commented:

The navigation systems in our ambulances and fire engines determine their current locations, and create routes, by use of GPS signals. GPS repeaters are an integral part of the design of a modern fire or ambulance station. Without repeaters to provide GPS coverage indoors, our callout response times can sometimes be extended, especially in those cases when an incident is some distance from the station or in an unfamiliar area. Emergency vehicles that are in emergency standby mode can’t operate effectively properly without continuous GPS positional data, unless they are in a repair facility or non-emergency role. I know that they are needed because I will get a call straight away from end users, firemen or ambulance grew, if repeater is not working in the fire station.

Additionally, when a vehicle exits the garage there is often a long delay until it acquires a GPS fix, which means that (1) the appliance isn’t receiving up to date positional information for the purpose of planning a route and (2) it is transmitting out of date positional information to the control centre.