Troy fire crews utilizing alert system to notify drivers of incoming emergency vehicles

Now, it's not only lights and sirens that will tell a driver if an emergency vehicle is inbound. 

Despite the law requiring drivers to pull off to the side of the street if an ambulance or fire engine is inbound, not everyone follows the rules. With new technology that can notify a motorist automatically, cities like Troy are hoping to make their emergency runs safe for both the first responders and those on the road.

"It came to us two years ago. It was a no-brainer for us to start implementing it in all of our first-line apparatus and then all of our staff vehicles as well," said Lt. Keith Young with the Troy Fire Department. 

"It" is HAAS Alert, a tech start-up. The company started in 2015 with just three employees. Young said the department's epiphany came after HAAS Alert caught their eye at a booth at the Detroit Auto Show. 

For the operator of a large fire rig traveling at high speeds down a busy road, their services offered a better solution than guessing driver behavior.

"Everyone reacts differently when the trucks are responding," Young said. "We have the person who pulls to the left in the middle turn lane and then you have the guy who goes to the right and then you have the vehicles that just stop."

HAAS Alert got started after the company's founder was almost struck by an emergency vehicle. According to one of the company's heads, the near-miss came with a realization: "There has got to be a better way to know when an emergency vehicle is approaching," said Ted Serbinski with HAAS Alert.

"Lights and sirens only go so far, but digital alerting can go much farther," he said.

The technology works by using existing cell towers and merging them with the technology used in vehicles manufactured after 2018. The idea is to leverage that infrastructure to inform drivers in a safe way of where exactly an emergency vehicle is in relation to their own automobile.

"When you're in a fire truck and you turn on so the lights go on, the siren goes on. The alert automatically goes out to vehicles in the vicinity," said Serbinski.

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So far, HAAS has partnered to make the alert service standard in all new Stellantis vehicles. It also works with those that use the Waze navigation app on their phone. 

"What that allows us to do is alert those drivers way before we get to those vehicles, so the lights and sirens - you might not even hear those or see them yet, so this alerts them with a distance that they're able to react without us being involved," said Young.

Serbinski also said they're standard in new emergency vehicles that are "made at the OEM level." The alert system can also be retrofitted into existing vehicles. 

"In terms of the impact, it's exponential," Serbinski said. "It can send an alert miles in advance."

The cost for the service is subscription based and is on the city to pay for it. According to HAAS Alert, that breaks down to about $42 per vehicle per month.


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