Penn Hills firefighters using new technology to alert drivers of nearby emergencies

PENN HILLS, Pa. — A first-of-its-kind piece of technology in Allegheny County is helping firefighters in Penn Hills more safely respond to emergencies.

HAAS Alert transponders were mounted in five Penn Hills Volunteer Fire Department No. 7 trucks just this week.

Any time those trucks’ flashing lights are on, the transponder sends alerts to nearby drivers through their phone’s GPS apps — or even directly to some cars’ digital screens.

“There’s a notification going off and they look at it, ‘Oh, there’s an accident a mile ahead, maybe I ought to slow down,’” explained Chief Bill Jeffcoat.

“[Drivers are] going to get that notification either in their device or in their vehicle much earlier than they would have otherwise seen that emergency vehicle,” added Brock Aun, HAAS Alert’s VP of communications.

Aun said the alerts are designed to be just another way firefighters let drivers know they’re at a scene, or headed to one, in addition to the traditional lights and sirens.

“Drivers usually have only about two or three seconds between when they see lights on the road and when they have to move over. Safety Cloud alerts reach drivers about 30 seconds before they reach that hazard,” Aun explained.

According to Jeffcoat, his department is the first in Allegheny County to install the HAAS tech.

It was motivated to do so after a driver crashed into a tractor-trailer on the Parkway because they didn’t see a fire truck stopped at the scene of a previous crash.

“It was just one of those things where they had to slam on their brake and they immediately jerked the steering wheel to the left and they hit the tractor-trailer,” Jeffcoat said.

Several departments in the area, according to Jeffcoat, have already reached out to Penn Hills Fire wanting to learn more about this new technology, interested in installing it in their own trucks.

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