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Waze Shows Emergency Managers the Way

Every month, Waze guides 65 million travelers through 6.5 million miles of tangled roadways, finding the best routes through expected delays caused by rush hour and construction as well as sudden hazards caused by accidents and detritus in roadways. Crowdsourced, real-time data gathered by the Waze app provide drivers with immediate, dynamic route suggestions.

Sudden accident ahead on the interstate? The app suggests you exit and take side roads.

Mattress fragments in the center lane? The app lets you know how far away it is, giving you time to slow down and react in a safe manner.

For the average consumer, the time saved and safety gained can be well worth the free download and occasional touch-to-confirm obstruction reports. And, if that doesn’t grab you, note that users of the application can gain points to unlock aesthetic content; the more they use the app, the more they can engage with the reporting tools.

Emergency managers and responders could also benefit from the aggregated data Waze offers, using the on-demand traffic reports to shorten response times, keep responders safe, and protect the public.

Connected Citizens Program

In 2014, Waze introduced the Connected Citizens Program (CCP) to establish data sharing with partner municipalities. Waze provides accurate overviews of traffic conditions in exchange for access to the latest feeds from road sensors and the most recent closure reports. More than 100 partners are currently enrolled, and Waze already reports positive results for the emergency community.

data report from Genesis Pulse reveals that 70 percent of the time, crashes are reported by Waze users an average of 4.5 minutes before they are called into emergency response centers. Shaving one minute off average ambulance response times would save more than 10,000 lives in the United States annually.

Less obvious impacts on emergency responses come from other applications of Waze data. Washington, DC, one of CCP’s first partners, relies on Waze user reports to report on potholes. When compared with other states, DC ranks as one of the worst for road conditions, with more than 92 percent of major roads being rated as “poor” by TRIP, a national transportation research group. TRIP further reports one in every three traffic fatalities is caused by roadway features and 145 lives may be saved for every $100 million invested in highway safety improvements. Since 2010, DC’s Department of Transportation has patched 350,000 potholes with the help of direct reports from Waze users.

In 2016, mapping platform company Esri announced it would work with customers engaged in the CCP to provide Waze data through its ArcGIS software. As a result, the constant stream of large amounts of data is synthesized and presented in a user-friendly, easy-to-consume manner.

Incidents Featuring Waze

Waze cites the following case studies in detailing the success of its CCP initiative during disasters:

  • Hurricane Joaquin During Hurricane Joaquin in South Carolina, Waze was efficiently used to give over 1.9 million users information about 1,000 road closures and dozens of shelter locations. Additionally, FEMA and South Carolina’s Department of Transportation worked with Waze’s data throughout the storm to see where people were reporting incidents.
  • Storm Jonas The January 2016 storm that crippled the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States was no match for Waze when PA Turnpike, DDOT, and KYDOT were able to utilize the online community to help communicate shared shelter and real-time closer information throughout the storm. After the storm, Waze communicated 69 crisis centers and 4,707 road closures.
  • Hurricane Matthew The Category 5 Atlantic tropical hurricane wreaked widespread havoc and destruction in its five-state path. During the storm, over 11,500 Waze users clicked on the 379 various shelters that were added to the map and over 140 people were successful routed to them.
  • Gas Shortage An Alabama gasoline line spill caused an extreme shortage of fuel in the southwestern states, including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. During the shortage, approximately 2 million Waze users asked to update gas station availability. In the end, Waze covered 22,008 gas stations and found that 4,127 of the gas stations updated on the app ran out of gas.

CCP Program Outlook

In 2013, Google purchased Waze for $966 million. Google already had its Maps application; however, with the acquisition, the tech behemoth brought social data into the fold. For now, the applications continue to co-exist, and Maps has begun showing data feeds sourced from Waze. The CCP is still intact, and it’s still free to join. To sign up your municipality or EM program for data sharing, click here.

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