Making Some Intersections More Emergency Friendly

At times, busy intersections around the City of Dothan can be an obstacle for emergency personnel, but the city has plans to make some intersections more emergency friendly.

In Dothan’s 2008 budget there are plans for improving many of the city's 130 traffic lights in its intersections.

Along with that, the city plans on installing more lights that allow firefighters to green the signal so they can arrive on site faster.

Dothan Traffic Manager Charles Metzger says, "it preempts the signal and it turns it green for the fire truck or gives it time to go and give them a green light. We have 25 locations installed around the city."

As far as ambulances and other emergency vehicles they don't have access to the system at this point. Other cities have flashing indicators for ambulances. But being in the emergency business they understand the difficulty getting around.

"With the newer vehicles, they've got them sealed up; so you don't hear the road noise. So that eliminates our noise as well, and they've got folks on cell phones or listening to the radio," says Chris Johnson of Care Ambulance.

As far as how the system works for firefighters, the sensor has to be at a certain range before it can be activated. If not, it could cause a timing disruption and interrupt traffic for blocks.

Dothan Fire Dept. Capt Chris Etheridge says, "There is a receiver mounted at the traffic receiver, it receives an encoded signal from the fire trucks responding to an emergency, it begins to cycle at that point to a green light."

While many dream of pressing a button and changing a traffic signal, the folks taking care of fires around Dothan will soon be able to do it more often.

Every year, the city plans to add the signal preemption capability to five more traffic lights.

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