New highway first responders app may shorten road closures

 

A new mobile app will help first responders on Bay Area highways share information more quickly and shorten highway closure times, Caltrans and Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials said Monday.

Caltrans maintenance crews and dispatchers tested the app through March and are preparing to make it available to other first responders.

Eventually, it is intended to be used by California Highway Patrol officers, tow truck drivers, paramedics and anyone else responding to crashes and other highway incidents.

It works by allowing first responders to take pictures and write messages that are added to a central source of information about an ongoing incident that is accessible by other first responders and dispatchers.

That way, everyone can have access to the best, current information and the correct equipment and resources can be directed to scenes.

It will be an optional method for employees to log information, but one that Caltrans and the MTC hope plenty of first responders will take, MTC spokesman John Goodwin said Monday.

Goodwin said:

“There’s nothing mandatory about this, there’s nothing that obliges any one agency to use it…But it’s one that we expect will be opted for.”

The app, currently only built for the iPhone platform, will soon be available to MTC employees both using agency-provided devices and personal devices used for agency work.

All MTC agency-provided phones are iPhones, Goodwin said.

The app may be expanded to other platforms in the future, Goodwin said.

MTC Transportation Management and Coordination Principal Radiah Victor said:

“A picture really is worth a thousand words…This is a simple and inexpensive way to use existing cellphone camera and map technology to ensure responders have a common operating picture to support quick response and safe clearance of incidents.”

Every minute saved in clearing a highway incident saves an estimated four minutes in traffic delay time, according to Caltrans and MTC officials.

Getting first responders off roadways quicker also puts them at that much less risk.

While the system, developed by the Oakland-based Monsoon Company, will only be in use in the Bay Area at first, Caltrans and MTC officials expect it may be something scalable to a much larger area.