A police-style bodycam.
(Getty)
  • The Western Cape plans to equip its ambulance crews with body cams, starting with those most at risk and eventually covering all EMS crews.
  • Such systems are commonly used by police forces around the world to investigate claims of brutal treatment of suspects, or in prosecutions.
  • But it is the emergency workers who are at risk in this case, the Western Cape government says – hence the need for live-streaming video and panic buttons.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The Western Cape plans to equip its ambulance crews with live-streaming video cameras monitored at a central location by operators who can dispatch an "an appropriate support service" when needed.

Such body-worn cameras are popular among police forces around the world, who use the systems to investigate claims of police brutality or other abuses by their officers, and in the prosecution of suspects.

But for its emergency medical services (EMS) workers, the overriding need is security, says the Western Cape government.

"The procurement of a suitable body-cam (with GPS and panic alert) is an action on the EMS safety plan within the technology focus section," said Deanna Bessick, the communications officer for EMS and the forensic pathology service in the province.

"The application is a response to the ongoing attacks on EMS personnel."

By mid-August the Western Cape had recorded 42 attacks on EMS crews – an increase of 12 on the previous full year. In some areas ambulances are routinely accompanied by police, only to have those escorts attacked, with medical workers caught in the crossfire.

The cameras it envisages using will use a video buffer of at least two minutes, to record the lead up to an event trigger, with night-vision capability and a 143 degree field of view.

They will also stream real-time, high-definition video back to a "response desk", which is there to dispatch "an appropriate support service depending on the nature of the incident", Bessick says.

The province is looking for 1,000 body cams for starters, and is considering a three-month test of 20 cameras in the real world to pick a supplier. It intends to start the roll out in the areas where crews are most at risk, but plans to have full coverage for all EMS workers eventually.

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