Nov 21 2018

New Solution Could Help First Responders Avoid Collisions

A startup called HAAS Alert won Department of Homeland Security funding to provide communications technology to emergency responders that can help prevent accidents.

If a police car, fire truck or ambulance is racing down the street to respond to an incident or ferry someone with a medical emergency to a hospital, the last thing the first responder would want is to get into an accident. 

However, that is far too common an occurrence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there are about 60,000 emergency vehicle collisions per year, according to Government Technology, and the National Fire Protection Association has said that one in five firefighter deaths over the past decade occurred while en route to or from a call.

A Chicago-based startup wants to cut down on such accidents and fatalities using technology. In October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate awarded $1.1 million to HAAS Alert to advance consumer vehicle safety solutions using cellular technology. The solution, which uses cellular vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication protocols, allows approaching emergency response vehicles to warn other first responders and civilian vehicles on the road.

The contract will allow HAAS Alert to leverage input from active and retired first responders from across the country by engaging the S&T First Responders Group, according to a statement. By working with the group, HAAS Alert “will have the opportunity to ensure the top-priority needs of the first responder community are met during product development.”

HAAS Alert says its solution provides collision-prevention technologies and products to first responders and other municipal fleets. The service “streams real-time safety messages to drivers and connected cars via in-vehicle systems and smartphone apps when emergency vehicles are approaching and on-scene.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how local governments use drones to enhance public safety! 

How HAAS Alert Aims to Improve First Responders’ Safety

HAAS Alert COO Noah Levens told GovTech that the DHS contract will give the company 12 to 18 months to develop new hardware, specifically a mobile advanced warning device for responder-to-vehicle communication. The funding will also allow the company to update its software.

First responders need more technology solutions to alert other vehicles and pedestrians, HAAS Alert claims. “Just having your windows up and doing another action, most of the time it’s a phone, can take the alert radius down from 1,400 feet to 200 feet, which means the average person has about four seconds to respond,” Levens says. “Four seconds to respond to a fire truck barreling down the road at 50 miles an hour blowing an intersection, that’s the problem.”

Such solutions not only prevent accidents, they save money, since collisions can lead to costly litigation for public safety agencies. 

Sirens and flashing lights are not going away any time soon. However, HAAS Alert hopes its technology can supplement those warning systems. The form that takes will depend on the feedback the company receives from first responders, as well as car and mobile device makers.

However, Levens told GovTech the company wants to coordinate with all of the stakeholders to “create an iconography for the alert, akin to a low-oil light or other universally recognized symbols in cars,” and he said the alert radius will be variable.

The alerts will likely reach people through displays in dashboards found in many newer vehicles as well as navigation apps on users’ phones, and also through wireless emergency alerts and the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. Additionally, the system will issue alerts to other responders in the area, according to GovTech.

“A lot of communities polled said that if they’re responding to an incident, there could be multiple types of departments from surrounding communities all converging on one location,” HAAS Alert CEO Cory Hohs told GovTech

HAAS has secured just over $2 million in venture capital funding, and has brought its tech to nearly 50 cities and sent more than 20 million driver alerts, Hohs told ChicagoInno. The startup is backed by Techstars, Ride Ventures and Stacked Capital, among others.

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