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Springfield Fire Department purchasing new tool to improve response times

Thomas Clatterbuck

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During a fire, response time is critical. And in most of Springfield, response times are generally good. Once they get the call, the Springfield Fire Department is only about four minutes away. But in the southwest corridor, the response time is eight minutes – double the citywide average.

Typically, longer response times are due to greater distances from a fire station. But in this case, traffic, not distance, is the real culprit. With more than 27,000 vehicles per day using Veterans Parkway, even emergency vehicles can find it slow going.

To shorten the response time, the Springfield Fire Department is purchasing a “traffic preemption” system for use in the southwest corridor. These systems help control the flow of traffic to clear the way for emergency vehicles. By adjusting stoplight patterns, the system can ensure these vehicles have the right-of-way to their destination. This results in lower response times and better safety for first responders.

At an upfront cost of $141,000, the selected system is more expensive than some other options. However, this cost was justified by the lower ongoing costs. A cell-based system has higher service bills over the long run. This system is also expandable to other areas of the city. Fortunately, some of the cost of the new system will be picked up by the Foreign Fire Insurance Board.

Once the purchase is approved at the next city council meeting, installation will take 60 to 90 days.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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