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Polk County Fire Rescue Saves $40,000 Monthly via RFID

The Florida agency is eliminating its station storage for medicines with an RFID system that tracks its inventory of narcotic and non-narcotic drugs on each rescue vehicle in real time.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 03, 2020

Florida's Polk County Fire Rescue expects to save taxpayers approximately $40,000 per month, thanks to an RFID solution that will enable the district to eliminate medication storage at stations, as well as provide a real-time view into drugs being transported and delivered to patients from its ambulances. The solution, supplied by Silent Partner Technologies (SPT), has been launched at the agency's central logistics storage area in Bartow, Fla., and in one of the county's rescue vehicles, with another vehicle currently being retrofitted.

By the end of this year, the county expects to have half of its 48 rescue vehicles providing real-time data regarding what is onboard each vehicle. The system is slated to be taken live for the rest of the fleet in 2021. The solution is intended to offer better accountability for assets, narcotics and other medications, says Tera Knickerbocker, Polk County Fire Rescue's logistics manager, "so we can fluidly know where the medications are and when they are going to expire." Ultimately, she predicts, that will reduce the amount of waste being generated. She predicts that the system will increase visibility for better decision making, cut medication-carrying costs by 30 to 50 percent and improve overall productivity.

Logistics personnel scan inventory in a rescue unit.
The district maintains 46 fire and rescue stations at which medications are currently stored, and there are 48 ambulances that carry about four days' worth of drugs, as well as several dozen advanced life support (ALS) fire engines. That means 60 to 70 vehicles could have medicines aboard them at any given time. The district tracks the assets and the drugs used on each vehicle by conducting biweekly inventory counts manually, then restocking supplies based on those counts from each station's storage.

The district's central logistics storage receives products from suppliers and replenishes items for each station as goods are ordered. The process is expensive and labor-intensive, however. Although high-value and sensitive products like medications are closely monitored, they can, in some cases, expire before being used, leading to waste. In other cases, a product may be needed in greater volume at one station than at another, but the district has little visibility into how fast products are being used at each site or aboard each vehicle.

By deploying RFID, the district intends to put all of the stations' inventory directly onto the trucks, and to track what comes and goes from each vehicle for the purpose of real-time replenishment. That will reduce the amount of time paramedics would otherwise spend counting inventory, Knickerbocker says, and thus increase productivity. By eliminating station medication storage, she adds, the district can reduce the cost of inventory.

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