App Adds Safety for Farmers

SOLUS enables people to both request and receive 24/7 emergency assistance anywhere in Canada

by Megan Madden

SOLUS means 'alone' in Latin, but this new, easy-to-use smartphone app helps farmers and rural residents be anything but solo in emergency situations.

Launched by STARS, the well known non-profit helicopter air ambulance organization, SOLUS enables people to both request and receive 24/7 emergency assistance anywhere in Canada (as long as they have a cell signal). While other apps and emergency services already exist, SOLUS is uniquely positioned because of its integration with the existing STARS’ Emergency Link Centre.

“We can quickly and seamlessly co-ordinate emergency responses with provincial health systems and our partners on the ground,” Karen Walker, emergency communications specialist said. “Our service is further set apart by the involvement of our emergency physicians in medical emergencies.”

SOLUS tracks the user’s location in real time and, when activated by the user in an emergency situation, will connect them with an emergency communications specialist in the STARS Emergency Link Centre. A simple one-button activation alerts STARS to then notify the user’s emergency contacts
and coordinate the most appropriate level of response.

The one-touch “I need help” button does allow the user 20 seconds to cancel an accidental false alarm, but also offers the option of bypassing the 20-second delay by hitting the button a second time for immediate activation.

Emergency response does not always mean an ambulance or helicopter. An innovative feature of SOLUS is the Neighbour Helping Neighbour safety network — a voluntary database of farmers, lone workers, industry medics, and first responders who can potentially be called to the emergency site as immediate assistance while medical personnel are dispatched. On any given day, STARS has approximately 4,000 registered sites in Western Canada. These sites primarily are oil and gas locations — many of which have trained medical professionals on site. During a confirmed medical emergency, STARS has the ability to reach out to these sites and see if they are able to assist until EMS help arrives.

But the Neighbour Helping Neighbour network is not just medical professionals. “What supplements this data is we can also use SOLUS subscribers to become a neighbour (medically trained or not) during a medical emergency,” says Kaz Matsumoto, STARS Emergency and Safety Services Lead.

“There are many statistics that speak about the benefit of having someone at your side to provide hope and reassurance during a traumatic experience.” All SOLUS users are encouraged, though not required, to enrol in the program.

Neighbour Helping Neighbour is already part of the strong community culture in agriculture and rural areas. The agriculture industry is the fourth most dangerous profession in Canada, with an average of 100 deaths annually related to the industry. Most significant is that 50 per cent of the deaths were while farmers were working alone, says Matsumoto.

Chad Rogers works at an equipment dealership in Assiniboia, SK and farms in the area. In 2012, he was haying on some rolling land near Mazenod and was run over by a tractor and baler.

“When I had my accident, I texted home, and my mother called 911. When 911 contacted me, I was in severe pain and could not get the operator the directions she needed,” recounts Rogers. “We had to place first responders and family members at the corners of the country roads to direct the  ambulance to my position. If I had the SOLUS app, not only could they have assessed my situation over the phone, they would have known my exact location. With a push of a button you can be connected to the people you need.”

STARS asserts that SOLUS is not a 911 replacement app. In fact, once they have confirmed that it is a medical emergency, STARS brings on 911 as their first step to ensure ground resources are dispatched as required.

In addition to Neighbour Helping Neighbour, what differentiates SOLUS from 911 is that, based on the type of emergency, STARS can utilize their own Transport Physician. The Transport Physician is a doctor who is paid and trained by STARS to assist them during medical emergencies. The role of the
Transport Physician is to be on the call to determine the best transport method based on the patient’s condition, and provide medical treatment advice if necessary.

SOLUS is available for $9.99/month and no hardware is required outside of a cellphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android operating systems.