FRA RD&T Aims to Assist First-Responders

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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FRA’s Office of Research Development & Technology (RD&T) is sponsoring a research project titled “Assessing the Safety Benefits of a Real‐Time Railroad Crossing Blockage Information System for Emergency Responders.” As part of the project, the agency has contracted Winnipeg, Manitoba-based TRAINFO to develop a model to identify the risk of first responders being exposed to active rail crossings and to quantify benefits of live rail crossing data in the overall emergency response process.

TRAINFO, working in partnership with the city of Winnipeg and several first responder agencies in the U.S. (Seattle, Denver and in Florida), “will develop guidelines for the use of live rail crossing data in the emergency response process,” FRA said. The agency is providing approximately $250,000 in funding for the project, which was awarded under FRA’s 2018 Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The project commenced in September 2019 and continues through this September. 

“The outcome of this project will help determine the likelihood of a crossing being blocked without interfering with the railroad’s operations,” FRA said.

TRAINFO, founded in 2016, is partnering with RapidDeploy, developer of “cloud-aided emergency vehicle dispatch software” on an “open and integrated emergency response platform.” The goal is to incorporate new technologies that combine TRAINFO’s predictive rail crossing blockage data with RapidDeploy’s dispatch software. These technologies, the company said, “will help emergency vehicles re-route around blocked rail crossings.”

The project includes prototyping and field testing an in-vehicle driver alert system with Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services and combining TRAINFO’s predictive train information into RapidDeploy’s computer-aided dispatch software. TRAINFO said it is “developing models that can identify which geographic areas and fire stations have the highest risk of emergency delays due to trains, identify which rail crossings produce the most risk to emergency responders, and quantify response time savings offered by these new technologies.”

The objective, TRAINFO said, is to “prevent traffic delays and accidents at rail crossings by helping drivers re-route before they encounter a train.” The company said it “pioneered technology that predicts traffic delays at rail crossings up to 30 minutes before a train arrives and integrates this information into roadside signs, traffic signal management systems, and emergency dispatch software.”

RapidDeploy said its dispatch technology “transforms 9-1-1 communications centers of any size into data-centric organizations, achieving new levels of situational awareness and reducing 9-1-1 response time by seamlessly integrating third-party data, ensuring it is available when, where and how telecommunicators and first responders need it. Our web-based cloud platform includes analytics, mapping, dispatch and first responder applications.”

TRAINFO is conducting surveys with emergency response agencies from across North America to obtain feedback on these technologies and is planning to conduct pilot projects starting in January 2021. Agencies interested in participating in these surveys or pilot projects or wanting to learn more about these technologies should email TRAINFO at [email protected] by July 31, 2020.

“RapidDeploy is committed to improving emergency response time for first responders by enabling new levels of situational awareness,” said RapidDeploy Co-founder and CEO Steven Raucher. By joining forces with TRAINFO, we’ll be able to provide relevant, real-time information about rail crossing blockages to avoid delays and improve vehicle routing.” 

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