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Greenfield FD now has ‘responder-to-vehicle’ system that alerts drivers when first responders are nearby

GREENFIELD -- The Greenfield Fire Department is leading the effort with new technology aimed at keeping you safer on the road during emergency calls.

"This is a real-time feed from the truck," said Jeremy Agulnek, HAAS Alert Connected Car vice president.

A blinking light tracked one of Greenfield's fire engines Wednesday, July 25 on its way to a nearby crash.

"They turn on the emergency lights and the device starts transmitting a signal to vehicles that are in our proximity," said Greenfield Fire-Rescue Chief Jon Cohn.

Fed over a cell network, the HAAS Alert system pings when the truck gets to the scene. Meantime, drivers using apps like Waze, Google or Apple Maps will automatically receive alerts too.

"So we're really giving them a 10-20 second advance notification, as opposed to a last-second collision avoidance," said Agulnek.

Installed Wednesday, Greenfield is the first department in Wisconsin to implement the 'responder-to-vehicle' system, which notifies drivers of flashing lights before crossing paths with them.

"Responding to a call is one of the most dangerous time periods for first responders," Cohn said.

The HAAS Alert got off the ground after one of its co-founders narrowly avoided disaster.

Jeremy Agulnek

"Driving his motorcycle through downtown Chicago and almost got hit by an ambulance at an intersection. Literally both of them slammed on their brakes and that was his 'aha moment,'" said Agulnek.

In 2015, a Greenfield fire crew had a similar experience.

"We were stuck on the freeway while tending to another crash," said Cohn.

No one was hurt, but it did put the latest technology on the department's radar.

"Departments like Greenfield are really the ones who will help bring greater security to their local community and really have a halo effect around the surrounding area," said Agulnek.

About 50 departments and counting across the nation are using HAAS Alert. The company is now looking to continue growing in cities throughout the state of Wisconsin.