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Published on Aug 12, 2013
A new piece of technology has been literally green-lighting emergency vehicles on call with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps over the past year, according to RVAC Chief Joseph Oliver.
The device, called an Opticom®, uses GPS to determine location, speed and trajectory of first responders and ambulances, communicates that information to traffic lights along Route 58 by radio and turns them green as needed, Oliver said, ensuring a clear path for RVAC vehicles.
Because the devices can cause swift and unexpected changes to traffic lights, he advised drivers along Route 58 to remain alert, particularly between Tanger Outlet Mall and Ostrander Avenue.
"A light that has just turned green can turn red again in a matter of seconds if there is an ambulance en route," he said, "So, drivers should be aware this technology is being used."
The Opticom® not only helps cut down on response time, he said, but reduces the amount of stress to critically injured patients being transported to area hospitals.
"If you have a C-spine injury, laying on a backboard is already tough," he said, adding there is increased turbulence during a ride in an ambulance that needs to keep slowing down and changing lanes to get around stopped traffic.
"The Opticom is saving us valuable seconds and making it a lot safer for our ambulances," he said.
Brookhaven Town also uses the technology, he said, expediting mutual aid endeavors, including RVAC trips to Stony Brook University Hospital.
"It's been amazing for us," he said, adding he wouldn't be surprised to see the Riverhead Police and fire departments follow suit in using the devices.
"In the future, we hope all the traffic lights in Riverhead will respond to this technology," he said, instead of only those lights on Route 58.
RVAC uses the devices only in emergency situations. When transporting non-critical patients, RVAC follows standard traffic laws, Oliver said.
Source: Riverhead Local, Riverhead, New York (April 18, 2013)