Ambulances in Qatar are testing new technology that alerts vehicles about their approach by broadcasting warning messages over the radio.
Australian makers Emergency Warning Systems (EWSP) said this allows motorists more time to move safely out of the way.
They also claim the the technology, called Radiolert Mobile FM80, is more effective than using sirens and lights, which can only be heard in vehicles up to 50m away.
Four ambulances yesterday began testing the system to see how it works in Doha traffic, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) said.
The trial will run for two months to see if the system speeds up response times and improves safety for ambulances navigating Qatar’s busy roads.
If successful, it will be rolled out across all ambulances in the country, HMC told Doha News.
Drivers hearing a siren that is 20m away only have up to six seconds to respond, which can lead to accidents, particularly at busy intersections.
How it works
Emergency vehicles are fitted with a small box, which has six buttons for different emergency messages.
When the button is pressed, all vehicles up to 200m in front of the ambulance that are listening to FM radio at the time will get an alert.
In Qatar, the message will interrupt the radio broadcast, saying: “Warning, ambulance approaching. Give way.”
The alert will be given in Arabic, English, Hindi or Malayalam, depending on the language of the radio station being listened to at the time, Thomas Reimann, executive director of HMC’s healthcare coordination service said.
“Our ambulance lights and sirens can be seen or heard by drivers up to 50 meters away, but the Radiolert system allows us to forewarn drivers much further ahead,” he added in a statement.
According to EWSP, the system gives drivers more time to more safely move out of the way of approaching emergency vehicles.
This helps to speed up the vehicles’ response times, it added.
The technology is already being use in Indonesia, the company said.
Qatar’s Ambulance Service has more than 160 ambulances, 20 rapid response vehicles and three helicopters.
Last year, it responded to nearly 92 percent of emergency calls in Doha in under 10 minutes, HMC said.
However, navigating the city’s increasingly congested roads has been a challenge.
To cope, authorities here have tried other technologies and campaigns to improve response times.
The Emergency Vehicle Preemption System (EVPS) allows ambulances and Civil Defense trucks to “speak” to traffic lights as they approach them, from up to 1km away.
The signals can give them a green light at intersections, while safely stopping traffic coming from other directions.
And earlier, in 2012, the Ambulance Service ran the public awareness campaign Help us help you to teach people practical ways they could assist ambulances during emergencies.
“One of the key messages of the campaign was to give way to ambulances on the road in order to ensure our teams are able to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible.
The technology we are currently testing offers us a highly advanced way of alerting drivers that an ambulance is approaching,” Ahmed Al Bakri, operations manager at the Ambulance Service, said.