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Wednesday - September 8, 2021

How Can Smart Nodes Improve Emergency Response Outcomes?

First responder personnel face dangers every day in the line of duty. They interact with the community during moments of chaos and confusion. They’re often called to intervene during dangerous events. One of the most underreported dangers of their jobs, however, is from traffic collisions that occur when they’re traveling in emergency response vehicles or assisting people at the side of the road.

Data extrapolated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 60 percent of ambulance accidents and 70 percent of firetruck accidents occur during emergency response. Total first responder collisions in the U.S. each year range from an estimated low of 47,165 to a high of 61,735. While so-called “move over” laws that require motorists to change lanes to accommodate emergency services have helped, technology can improve first responders’ safety with more reliability.

Smart Nodes Can Ensure First Responders’ Safety

One way to improve the safety of personnel such as law enforcement, ambulance crews and firefighters is through coordinated use of smart nodes, which are installed in a smart city connected lighting network. Smart nodes can optimize traffic flow and prioritize emergency response vehicles to prevent collisions, fatalities, and lower the overall cost of emergency response services.

By synchronizing streetlights with traffic signals and integrating them into a citywide intelligent transportation system (ITS), smart nodes can support a citywide traffic signal preemption program. This would clear the path for first responder vehicles on their way to an emergency while giving other drivers time to react and get out of the way. A study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration found that traffic signal preemption can dramatically cut response times and reduce emergency vehicle crashes.

In addition, smart nodes can help first responders set up a safer work zone by signaling to motorists that they are coming within range of an emergency site and that the traffic pattern is about to change. Pulsing streetlights along one side of the road can help drivers anticipate which side of traffic will be affected.

Smart streetlights could even be used to influence daytime traffic. In the daylight, with little risk of blinding drivers, a flashing pattern may prove more effective than pulsing to alert drivers upstream of the incident.

Saving Lives While Saving Money

The successful implementation and use of smart nodes can also save municipalities money in several ways. A smart node system as an element of a connected city program would allow emergency services to cut a clear path through traffic, which not only prevents deaths, but also reduces emergency vehicle accidents, lowering the overall cost of emergencies to society.

There are also significant implications for healthcare savings. Research conducted by RapidSOS found that a one-minute quicker response time in cardiac emergencies alone would save the U.S. $7 billion in healthcare expenditures each year. Additionally, since municipalities bear more than half of the direct costs (medical, insurance, legal, and property damage) of any collision involving a first responder, a reduction in first-responder accidents would save those municipalities millions of dollars each year.

VENNFROG believes the future of smart nodes lies in their power to change urban environments. Synchronizing smart nodes to an ITS shows clear benefits for all stakeholders and adds a critical tool for first responders to save lives while saving taxpayer dollars.

Jim Fiorentino
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