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VEHICLE OPERATIONS By Mark J. Finucane Vehicle Detection New technology aims to inform the public about emergency vehicles Dealing with difficult traffic problems that slow emergency vehicles typically nondirectional, and the time taken to search for and locate the as they travel to their destinations is a dilemma encountered on a daily emergency vehicle after hearing the siren is a crucial factor in decreasing basis. Anticipating and identifying hazards while responding to incident the reaction time.10 scenes is critical for ensuring safe arrival. Reducing response times by emergency services is vital. The Early Deaths in crashes account for a significant proportion of annual fire- Emergency Detection System (EEDS) is designed to assist responders fighter fatalities. Motorists represent the greatest threat to safe and effi- by giving an early warning signal to motorists that emergency vehicles cient responses by emergency vehicles.1 Every year in the U.S., there are are approaching. The ability of other drivers to detect and safely avoid almost 16,000 collisions involving fire department emergency vehicles. emergency vehicles is crucial to collision prevention.11 In 2008, Rita Fahy from the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Analysis and Research Division completed a study on U.S. firefighter HOW EEDS WORKS fatalities in road vehicle crashes from 1998–2007.2 She found that With EEDS, emergency vehicles are equipped with a transmitter to send overall, crashes, including collisions and rollovers, consistently accounted an electronic warning signal ahead of the unit. The driver activates a switch for the second-largest share of firefighter deaths. The number of deaths to send out the signal. The public can pick up this signal with a receiver annually ranged from lows of 10 in 1998 and 2006 to highs of 25 in plugged in to a cigarette lighter. The receiver will have a blinking light, buzzer 2003 and 2007. and recorded message to inform the driver that an emergency vehicle is approaching. When the vehicle ignition is turned on in new-model vehicles, Emergency vehicle operators must always the EEDS will be reception-ready. The plug-in receiver operates indepen- dently of the car’s radio, and the radio does not need to be on for EEDS to be cognizant that they have little control provide the early warning. over the way members of the public react to If the emergency vehicle is traveling at 40 miles an hour, the public will have approximately 20 seconds to clear a lane by pulling over to audible and visual warning devices. the right. This will allow the emergency vehicle a free lane to continue Responding emergency units should make every effort to minimize the to its destination. risk of injury to themselves and the public. One of the most frustrating The inventor of EEDS is Ralph Pickens from Kingsport, TN. Pickens had things for emergency response drivers is moving through traffic in a timely an experience with a responding emergency medical unit as he was on manner. Many people panic or simply don’t adhere to the rules of the his way to the local post office. He was inspired to find a safer and more road for approaching emergency vehicles. EMS personnel have witnessed efficient way for emergency responders to deal with traffic problems. He instantaneous panic reactions among automobile drivers who, after being conceived the idea after discussions with local emergency personnel. approached by fast-moving ambulances with sirens yelping and lights Greg Duncan, maintenance division director of the Tennessee blazing, didn’t know whether to stop, swerve, pull over or just keep going.3 Department of Transportation, says EEDS falls into the category of intel- Many such drivers become hazards to themselves, other vehicles, and the ligent transportation systems (ITS), since it is providing communications emergency crews and their patients.3 from vehicle to vehicle. According to Duncan, EEDS devices appear most A complicating issue is that sirens must compete with vehicle noise. effective when all vehicles are equipped, and a national effort should be Sounds created by engines, drivetrain and exhaust systems, car radios, spearheaded by groups such as the Intelligent Transportation Society of and vibrations from h
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