Story originally posted by the City of Lenexa.
Every day, the Lenexa Fire Department responds to emergencies on roads and highways in and around our community. While risk is always a part of the job, roadside incidents are especially dangerous for fire crews. Struck-by collisions are the leading cause of death for firefighters in the field, and according to respondersafety.com, 46 emergency responders have already died in 2020 after being struck on the road during an emergency response
“People typically think structure fires are the most dangerous thing we do,” said Lenexa Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Welch, “but the reality is, our safety is significantly compromised when we’re working an emergency incident on an interstate or other high traffic road, even for the most minor incidents.”
The Lenexa Fire Department recently equipped front-line apparatus with Safety Cloud, an advanced collision prevention system by HAAS Alert that protects responders from struck-by incidents by digitally alerting approaching drivers. Safety Cloud enhances emergency lights and sirens by delivering digital alerts to nearby motorists through Waze and similar navigation apps, adding an additional layer of protection for fire crews when they’re most at risk. Safety Cloud already comes standard on most new fire apparatus, and the Kansas Highway Patrol also uses the service on its motorist assist vehicles, but Lenexa Fire Department is the first fire department in Kansas to officially deploy the technology.
When Safety Cloud-equipped LFD apparatus activate lights and sirens during an incident response, any driver within half a mile of the apparatus can receive an alert as an advance warning through the Waze app. Studies show that most drivers have less than three seconds to react to lights and sirens, but advance warning systems like Safety Cloud can provide up to thirty seconds of advance notice and reduce the chances of a collision by 90%. Chief Welch says that time can be the difference between a safe response and a tragedy.
“Drivers are distracted, and vehicle cabins are quieter than ever,” Chief Welch said. “Our traditional means of alerting drivers are simply not as effective as they once were. These alerts represent a different approach, but are an effective way for us to get the attention of drivers.”
Drivers today can receive the alerts automatically through Waze, a free app available for Apple and Android devices. HAAS Alert says that Safety Cloud digital alerts will be available on more navigation platforms in 2021. The company is also working directly with car manufacturers to get the alerts added into vehicle dashboards and infotainment systems. Ultimately, Chief Welch says, this investment will improve safety for the entire city.
“When you factor in all the costs from a single collision — the medical and legal expenses, repairing or replacing an apparatus, the impact on the rest of the department — preventing just one collision can save our community millions of dollars,” Chief Welch said. “These alerts give us extra peace of mind when we’re out there responding, and at the end of the day it helps us make sure that everyone can get home safely.”