When firefighters or paramedics respond to an emergency call, trying to get through intersections can costs precious time.
The Opticom™ GPS system, a new program implemented at two busy intersections in town, gives emergency responders a green light.
The system uses a network of satellites and a vehicle sensor to track everything from speed to turn signals. Similar sensors were installed at the Route 130 intersections with Route 33 and Robbinsville-Allentown Road.
As the emergency vehicle nears the intersection, the traffic signal changes to give it “priority right-of-way.” The traffic signals change to yellow and red for the cross-street, bringing traffic to a halt and allowing the first responders to pass through uninterrupted.
“Sometimes traffic really backs up on Route 130. The Opticom™ system provides us with more safety and a quicker response time for alarms,” said Bob Thomson, a fire board trustee and veteran township firefighter. “Our volunteers have been trying to work to get this through for a long time. It just makes it safer to get through the intersection.”
Five of the department’s 16 vehicles are equipped with the sensors, in addition to first-aid vehicles. Hamilton Township fire vehicles and traffic signals are already equipped with Opticom™ sensors, Thomson said.
But while the Opticom™ system will protect emergency responders entering dangerous intersections, it also gets them on the scene quicker.
According to a 2006 Federal Highway Administration study, 25 percent of emergency vehicle crashes occur at signalized intersections. When utilizing an “emergency vehicle preemption system,” response times improved between 14 and 23 percent, about 70 seconds per call, the FHWA study said.
“Whoever is driving the apparatus has to be very aware of the traffic, their surroundings and people turning in front of them,” Thomson said. “They have to be very careful of all those things, so anything we can do to make it safer and get a quicker response is our responsibility.”
Source: NJ.com (November 30, 2013)