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Smithtown Looks to Reduce First Responders' Response Time

Town receives federal grant to install GPS-activated signals that will have traffic signals react to ambulances, fire trucks.

Smithtown Looks to Reduce First Responders' Response Time

Smithtown officials are looking to expand a system that can potentially reduce first responders response time to accidents and fires. 

The Town of Smithtown has received a $500,000 grant to expand its emergency traffic signal preemption system to an additional 56 intersections throughout the town. A traffic preemption system reacts to first responders' vehicles to interrupt traffic lights, and change them to favor the direction of oncoming ambulances or fire trucks.

Mitchell Crowley, Smithtown's traffic safety director, said the town has approximately 152 traffic signals, of which 65 have optical preemption devices that work on infrared. The town will use the federal grant money to install updated GPS-activated preemption system in an additional 56 intersections, doubling its existing network. 

"The GPS gives you an improved response time and it doesn't need a line of sight to work," Crowley said.

The GPS-activated system is also an upgrade in that it can determine whether or not an ambulance or fire truck will be going straight or turning, and adjust the traffic signal appropriately, where the existing optical system does not. 

Under the federal grant, Smithtown officials will be providing all fire districts and ambulance corps with dual emitters that can interact with both the infrared and incoming GPS-activated preemption systems. Overall, more than 57 vehicles will be outfitted according to Crowley. 

Smithtown town board members took the first step of approving a $37,800 contract hiring engineering firm Nelson & Pope, based in Melville, to design the outlaw of where the devices will be installed and map out the intersections at the Jan. 24 board meeting. 

The design of the pre-emption system must be approved by the federal government before construction can begin. Crowley said the town will look to its neighbor, Brookhaven, as an example as they installed a similar system over the past year.

"We are looking to use Brookhaven as a road map to follow. We are different as we are smaller and don't have the money they had," he said. 

The traffic safety director said with any hope the GPS-activated system could be in place by the end of the year. The town could then install devices as remaining intersections as budget allows. 

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