Upstate News

November 8, 1999
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Health Science Center Wins $975,000 Federal Contract to Develop Statewide Emergency Notification Plan

The State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse has signed a 3-year $975,000 contract with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Intelligent Transportation Systems Program to develop a statewide emergency notification plan that could drastically reduce emergency response time to traffic crashes, especially in rural areas.

Federal statistics show that in rural areas there is, on average, an almost 7 minute delay from the time a vehicle is involved in a crash to the time emergency personnel are notified of the crash. Hindering emergency response efforts, officials say, is the widespread use of cellular telephones, which do not give 9-1-1 notification centers any information about where the call is coming from. Nearly one-third of all emergency calls to 9-1-1 centers are now made from wireless phones, statistics show.

“With this plan, the communications technology available to us today will be able to help not hinder the response time of our medical personnel,” said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D.

The Health Science Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine will facilitate development of the statewide plan. “Our work on the project will require us to meet with emergency medical services professionals and government leaders and communications administrators throughout the state,” said Richard Hunt, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Health Science Center.

Hunt added, “An efficient emergency response system needs the development of a sophisticated state infrastructure, including transmission and delivery capabilities, standard operating procedures and complex administrative agreements. We all have a common interest: reducing morbidity and mortality on our state highways.”

Kathleen A. Dunn, M.D., will serve as project medical director for the plan, titled “Wireless E9-1-1 Demonstration Project and Automatic Crash Notification Project.” Dunn comes to the SUNY Health Science Center from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where she served as a medical officer.

As part of the agreement, the Health Science Center, in conjunction with the NHTSA, will bring state stakeholders together in a number of conferences and create interdisciplinary work groups to address specific technical and administrative challenges.

In addition to wireless telephones, the plan is expected to highlight a device similar to that of a black box on an airplane-that can be installed in a car. Upon impact, the device would emit an electronic signal that would be sent to an emergency services dispatcher with instant information pertaining to location of the vehicle and at what speed the car was traveling at impact. The feasibility of this system has been demonstrated by a previous Intelligent Transportation Systems grant to the Veridian Corp. in Buffalo, N.Y.

Hunt said he hopes the plan when finalized will be used by other states. “We will produce a model that will enable all 50 states to use technology to make our highways safer,” he said.

At a press conference to announce the project, Onondaga County Executive Nicholas J. Pirro urged his support and noted the project would be beneficial to area residents. “The Health Science Center project will save the lives of the Onondaga County residents and people throughout New York,” Pirro said. “I look forward to its successful completion and our 9-1-1 Center personnel are eager to be as helpful as possibile to facilitate its success.”

The SUNY Health Science Center is one of 125 academic medical centers nationwide. In addition to conducting research, the Health Science Center educates tomorrow’s health care professionals in its four colleges: Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions and Graduate Studies, the 350-bed University Hospital and its specialty clinics.

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