Automatic Collision 911 Notification Coming

Local officials and public safety groups are working to develop standards so cars can send crash data to 911 centers.
by | October 5, 2010

Typically, 911 centers receive notifications of car collisions from motorists passing the scene. Callers are rarely able to answer additional questions about the accidents they report, leaving first responders with little context before they arrive.

This isn't the case, however, with collisions in which the car has a satellite-based vehicle monitoring and response service, like OnStar or similar providers. Vehicles with features like this have built-in computers that record numerous details of a crash, such as whether the car flipped, where the impact occurred and at what speed. The computer sends the details, referred to as Automated Collision Notification (ACN), to the telematics company which then places a call to the appropriate 911 center.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) think responders can reduce fatalities by receiving this sort of information before arriving at an accident, especially if the telematics computers could route alerts directly to 911 centers, enabling responders to arrive faster.

Bill Hobgood, project manager for the Richmond, Va., Department of Information Technology, and others in the emergency management field want to make the transfer of ACN data part of normal emergency response and are working to do so. The hope is that sending crash data to 911 centers will indicate the severity of injuries in such crashes and prepare professionals to treat victims.

"If we get data saying there is a likelihood of a severe injury and if some of these other factors [register] as positive, such as a rollover or multiple impacts, or even that someone is trapped in the vehicle, we're going to send a lot more rescue equipment than we normally would," said Hobgood.

Consider this: Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that about a third of collision fatalities occur within 10 to 90 minutes after crashes. CDC research predicts that 25 percent of fatalities in the 10-to-90 minute category could be eliminated if the patients are automatically routed to a Level I trauma center. With improvements in technology, responders could know en route to a collision if they should alert the nearest Level I trauma center."It would be pretty neat for a Level 1 trauma center to know a crash just happened. They can get prepared and be ready for the patient in order to start treating them faster," said Hobgood.

Hobgood, who doubles as a representative for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Professionals - International (APCO), says that the current problem is that there is not a consistent way for all of the telematics providers to present this data to a 911 center. Nor are there any training standards or operational standards in place on how 911 centers should receive this data. He and representatives from the CDC, NHTSA, telematics providers and other related groups make up a working group that is developing such a standard. Creating the standard involves agreeing on what type of ACN data should be transmitted, what predictive analytics algorithm should be used and how telematics centers should route the data.

Hobgood thinks the easiest way to route data to 911 centers would be to send it to the Computer-Aided Dispatch systems. But he said that the working group wouldn't decide on the standards until several pilot projects experimenting with different combinations of standards had occurred. So far, one pilot project is set to happen in Miami-Dade County, Fla., this month, with several more expected to be announced. Hobgood said that the pilot projects would give an idea of how many minutes automated routing of data could save responders. He predicted his working group might agree on a standard sometime in 2011.

Such a standard will likely become more relevant to citizens and 911 centers as more citizens use telematics devices. Time will show whether once Hobgood's work group establishes a standard, 911 centers will adopt it.


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