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Merrill tries out system to alert drivers of emergencies

 Demonstration of an emergency
Isak Dinesen
WAOW Television
Demonstration of an emergency alert

If you've noticed a buzz on your phone when there's an emergency vehicle nearby, it's because of a safety feature on that vehicle.

It's called "Safety Cloud," and is used by the Merrill Fire Department that alerts nearby drivers when an emergency vehicle has its lights on, prompting them to slow down.

"It actually came as part of a free trial when we got our new Pierce fire engine," Fire Chief Josh Klug said. "It's been around for several months now, we continue to demo it and play with it and make sure it's working," he added.

The alerts show up while drivers use the Apple Maps and Waze apps, as well as on the dashboards of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram cars from 2018 or newer.

Its aim is to be a safety feature limiting the number of injuries due to people being unaware of an emergency scene.

"For firefighters, even though there are move-over laws in all 50 states, they still face more risk working at the side of the road than actually they do at a burning building," said Brock Aun, the vice president of communications for HAAS Alert, the company behind Safety Cloud.

Klug says it's been especially useful for getting information out in less-than-clear spots on the road, like in heavily wooded areas.

Sometimes, obviously, you have to have the sight of the accident or the emergency vehicles. This system actually allows for that alert to take place before you get up on scene," he said.

"Every disaster prevented is a life saved, and that matters," Aun added.

This alert system is the product of a 2021 act of Congress and has sent out more than 3 billion digital alerts nationwide.

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