Traffic during emergency situations is about to get a whole lot safer in Brookhaven, with updated traffic safety systems the town will provide for fire departments.
The Setauket Fire District adopted a measure on Sept. 15 outlining regulations for the Setauket Fire Department's use of the emergency control management system, giving the project the green light in the district's coverage area.
Current fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles use a light sensor system called Opticom, which allows them to transmit a signal to traffic lights to hold traffic while emergency vehicles pass through.
According to Setauket Fire Department Chief Brendan Brown, the old system failed in inclement weather, including fog, rain and snow.
With the new system, Brown said, that shouldn't be a problem. The old systems only worked if the truck was in the line of sight of the traffic light, whereas the new system operates through GPS routing.
The new system works off of satellites and a GPS system which allows traffic signals to be alerted to an emergency vehicle's route before the vehicle even arrives at a traffic light. Before the emergency vehicle even turns a corner, the traffic light will be ready to hold civilian traffic at an intersection, and change to allow the vehicle to pass through safely.
"Bringing the systems to the 21st century will be safer for us [firefighters] and safer for the town, and if it's safer for the people, then I think it's a good thing," Brown said.
The new, more efficient system will be installed by the firehouses, and will be provided at no cost, according to Brian Lenz, assistant director of traffic safety and street lighting for the Town of Brookhaven.
The money for the project came from a $1.8 million federal grant, which then-town councilman Keith Romaine applied for in 1998, and which was never used.
Each firehouse will receive new equipment through a trade-in system. As they trade in old systems that were formerly set on the roofs of emergency vehicles, Brown said, new systems will be distributed in their place.
The old systems, in place for about 13 years, were also costing the town roughly $100,000 per year in maintenance, according to Lenz.
The systems are to be installed at about 450 traffic lights in Brookhaven, and Lenz said he expects all major intersections to be finished by December. The new "traffic friendly" vehicles will be able to reach destinations quicker, without interfering with the flow of traffic.
Traffic Safety and Street Lighting will be holding three demo classes to teach how to use and install the equipment over the next week.