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Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department Grant for Traffic Pre-Emption Device

The Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel are taking the first steps to add a potential lifesaving traffic pre-emption system on Northern Boulevard. The system will improve public and firefighter safety, as well as traffic flow, as responding emergency vehicles transition through intersections controlled by traffic signals. Assemblywoman Schimel has secured a $125,000 grant to apply the pre-emption system to 19 intersections on Northern Boulevard, stretching from Great Neck Road to Port Washington Boulevard.

Motor vehicle accidents while responding to an emergency have traditionally been the number two killer of firefighters in the United States, second only to heart attacks. Thanks to this grant from Assemblywoman Schimel, the M-LFD will be able to add this traffic pre-emption technology and reduce the potential of accidents involving emergency response vehicles.

“We are pleased to announce that with the help of Assemblywoman Schimel, we will be able to install these traffic pre-emption systems to enhance safety for the public and our firefighters,” said Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department Commissioner Rudy Barranco. “When firefighters are responding to a scene, it is very difficult to maneuver through traffic and many motorists can’t physically pull over in traffic. With these pre-emption systems, we will be able to safely transition through the intersection without dangerous confusion.”

The traffic pre-emption technology will allow the emergency vehicles an orderly transition through busy intersections, eliminating confusion. It will be installed in traffic lights along Northern Boulevard, and on all of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department’s engine trucks and ambulances.

“The safety of the public and the people who serve them are paramount. When firefighters and ambulance responders are making an emergency call, I want to make sure they arrive in the safest way possible. This traffic pre-emption system is the beginning of what I hope to accomplish across the north shore of Long Island. I am hoping that we will have the ability to allow other fire departments and ambulance services to utilize this public safety tool,” said Assemblywoman Schimel.

The pre-emption technology begins with a special LED light installed on the emergency vehicles. This LED light triggers a sensor installed on an approaching traffic light, causing it to turn the light green in the direction the emergency vehicle is traveling and posting a red light to the opposing direction. This control of the intersection assists the public by giving them clear direction - a red light to stop for the emergency vehicle, or a green light, in order to pull over and let the emergency vehicle pass through the intersection. In addition to increasing the safety of motorists and firefighters in responding apparatus, the equipment will also reduce overall response times to emergencies and especially allow the M-LFD’s fleet of ambulances to get patients to hospitals quicker and safer, improving service to the community.

The M-LFD protects four of the busiest miles of Northern Boulevard in Nassau County. In 2009, the M-LFD responded to over 2,050 emergency incidents, most of which required the response of multiple pieces of apparatus from multiple stations. Northern Boulevard is one of the M-LFD’s main response roads, sitting in close proximity to four of the Department’s five fire stations. It is also the main feeder road to North Shore University Hospital from the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas.

The most recent traffic study of the Northern Boulevard corridor by the Department of Transportation reported an average volume of approximately 30,000 vehicles per day. As a result, intersections such as Northern Boulevard and Community Drive become gridlocked during rush hour, making it almost impossible for responding fire department vehicles to get through the intersection efficiently during an emergency.

The M-LFD’s response area covers ten square miles, protecting a residential population of over 44,000 – a number that more than triples during the workweek. Within the district there are two major hospitals, an industrial park, three high schools, seven middle and elementary schools and numerous shopping centers, houses of worship, office buildings, stores and major access highways.

With the second largest fire district in Nassau County, the traffic pre-emption system will also allow the M-LFD to limit unnecessary emergency responses by allowing a chief officer to get to the scene more efficiently and cancel additional responding units in the case of a false alarm. Less responding vehicles will lower the potential for apparatus-involved accidents.

Thus far this year, over 20 percent of on-duty firefighter deaths in the United States have occurred as a result of motor vehicle accidents while responding to emergencies, making these accidents the number two killer of firefighters on-duty. This new system will help prevent unnecessary exposure to some of the hidden dangers encountered during an emergency response.