Mount Pleasant sees success with devices prioritizing emergency vehicles at stoplights

Published: Jun. 27, 2021 at 9:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2021 at 11:38 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - First responders will tell you every second matters when trying to get to an emergency scene. That’s why the town of Mount Pleasant installed technology on every stoplight in town two years ago to help first responders get to emergencies faster.

Deputy Fire Chief Craig Oliverius said since implementing the technology, response times have dropped after they had been getting slower due to rising traffic from the town’s explosive growth.

“There’s a technology that’s installed in the (stoplight’s) traffic cabinet, and then… in each fire apparatus we have a box that sends the signal through the cloud and to that traffic signal box,” he explained.

That signal lets the light know when to change the light from red to green so emergency vehicles don’t have to wait. It can sense firetrucks approaching from up to 2,000 feet away and then quickly change the lights, giving drivers queued at intersections time to get through or make a turn to get out of first responders’ way.

“It works on our radios and our truck, it works on cell signal and it works on GPS,” Oliverius said. “What it does is it senses the truck, the speed of the truck, the location and if you have a left turn signal on or a right turn signal.”

The devices were installed over a several-week period in 2019 at a cost of $294,000. For Oliverius, that cost is well worth it.

“Our drivers would typically encounter getting to a red light that was in the stop position and we might be 25, 35 cars back, and that was difficult for the public because the public at that point is not able to move,” he said. “Now when we get to the traffic light, it’s green, traffic is fleshed out ahead of us and the public can safely pull over.”

In 2020, the first units to respond to high-risk fire calls got there a minute and 46 seconds faster, the department said, and fire engines and ladder trucks also arrived more than 45 seconds quicker.

After seeing success in the town, Oliverius said he hopes will spread to other parts of the Lowcountry.

“We hope that this is something the whole entire county and our local fire departments will consider investing in this technology because we have seen the benefits,” he said.

Charleston County said it has the technology installed on a very limited number of its emergency vehicles but added it’s too early to say if they’ll consider a wider rollout down the road.

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