WEST MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) – West Manchester Township Fire Department has released a new service Thursday that gives York drivers real-time digital alerts when there is a fire apparatus nearby.
The service is called Safety Cloud by HAAS Alert and is used to protect first responders and will help enhance driver compliance with Move Over laws.
The program rolled out in mid-May. Chief Clifton Laughman said it cost about $4,000 to get everything up and running, but he said you cannot put a price on saving lives.
“I want to make sure all my guys go home,” Laughman said. “That’s our motto, everybody goes home.”
Pennsylvania’s Move Over law is supposed to keep Laughman’s firefighters safe. The law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle, but Laughman said that is not enough.
“Motorists still don’t always see us right away, so they end up slamming on their brakes or they just have a lot of distractions, you still have all of that texting and driving,” he said.
Drivers will receive a real-time alert when they approach active responders that are either en route or on-scene. The service creates a digital component that will be likely less missed than lights and sirens.
The Safety Cloud works by sending drivers nearby a digital alert that warns them of the responder’s presence. This new service reduces the chance of a collision by up to 90%.
Many drivers fail to follow Pennsylvania’s Move Over laws which require drivers to move over and slow down when they approach active emergency vehicles. The Safety Cloud service will give drivers up to 30 seconds of warning.
“We have a way to alert drivers 30 to 50 feet out from our instance to say, ‘Hey look, there’s a fire department on scene,'” Laughman said.
The alerts are generated automatically by a device inside every fire truck. It activates when the emergency lights are turned on, senses whether the fire truck is moving or stationary and sends out the alerts accordingly to drivers in the area.
“There is that little extra time for them to be able to react,” Laughman said.
The alerts can be received by drivers using the Waze navigation app, Apple Maps or Google Maps. Newer model vehicles with screens or Apple CarPlay will also get the alerts on their dashboard.
Safety Cloud alerts are delivered to millions of vehicles through a partnership with Stellantis which is a global automaker.
Drivers of 2018 and newer models of Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, and Alfa Romeo vehicles will receive Safety Cloud alerts through the new EVAS (Emergency Vehicle Alert System) feature. This also includes vehicles that use FordSync, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
According to HAAS Alert, they are continuing to expand the service to other vehicles and services.
“We’re excited to add another level of protection for our firefighters in order to make sure they are able to do their jobs as safely as possible,” said Fire Chief Clifton Laughman. “This service connects and protects our crews in the field and the drivers around them by giving motorists extra time to see us, slow down, and move over safely. Waze and Apple Maps are free-to-use apps, so we encourage drivers to get advanced warnings of our presence when we’re actively responding. In alignment with our mission to protect lives and prevent fires, the implementation of Safety Cloud will help protect the lives of our firefighters and improve the safety of our roads.”
For more information on HAAS Alert, visit their website here.
In June, Laughman said he will receive a report on the first month of the program with numbers on how many alerts were sent out and how many were received. He said that will start to give him an idea of the program’s impact.