New road-closure notification system could save lives

A new Perth County pilot project could save your life.

Perth County, along with its lower tiers – North Perth, Perth East, Perth South and West Perth – and partner municipality St. Marys, is set to begin a one-year trial of an innovative new road-closure notification system. This interactive map-based approach will provide the county’s first responders with a real-time display of closures and delays on area roads, helping reduce response times to collisions, fires and other life-threatening incidents.

The quality of the provided information will help paramedics, firefighters and police pinpoint the exact locations and details of these closures, helping them plan the most efficient routes to their destinations. Those extra minutes could potentially save a life in some of the more critical situations.

“It’s much clearer information for our first responders,” Dave Colvin, the county’s emergency management co-ordinator, said.

Working within the Municipal 511 system developed by Toronto-based Transnomis Solutions, Perth County will soon replace its outdated system of handling road closures and other disruptions. Instead of faxes, e-mails and tweets from the different municipalities or originating agencies – and the ensuing wall maps, post-it notes and bulletin-board notices – there will be a one-stop source of information.

“It is a real challenge tracking road closures, especially during construction and winter storms,” said Linda Rockwood, the county’s paramedic services chief, in a media release. “The Municipal 511 system will be a great tool for paramedic services.”

The system, Colvin said, is also extremely cost effective when compared to its obvious benefits. That attractive price tag was one of the reasons Perth County became the first municipality in southwestern Ontario to sign up.

“We feel it’s a good solution and very reasonably priced,” said Colvin, who described the cost as only “hundreds of dollars” per member municipality. “There has been a definite advantage to getting on board early.”

While first responders are the Perth County priority, this road-closure information will also be available to the public through the municipal511.ca website and smartphone apps like Waze. Embracing the open-data movement – and the crowdsourcing that improves the quality of information – this system could potentially help every Perth County motorist. Commercial truckers and commuters, for example, can easily locate delays and closures along their planned routes. With the province also involved in the system, the Municipal 511 map also features Ministry of Transportation road projects and highway traffic snarls.

“Looking at what the options are, people have moved from paper maps to GPS to something that will actually route them,” Colvin said. “You can see the traffic.”

The county is still in the setup stages of the system – a process that Colvin said was “pretty straightforward” – but should go live in mid- to late September. As the emergency management co-ordinator, Colvin has been “test driving” the system for a couple of months, and he’s been impressed with the quality of information and ease of use. In house, there are other “layers” of information available to the county, including detailed weather conditions. He’s already provided Transnomis with suggestions and corrections to the system that could benefit Perth County. He was also impressed with how some of the member municipalities in eastern Ontario used the system to track road closures during the recent flooding. While Perth County might be the first area municipality to adopt the system, it won’t be the last.

“Other counties – neighbouring counties – are also looking at it,” Colvin said.

For Perth County, the only missing piece at the moment is Stratford. While the city has been involved with the discussions since the beginning, it has yet to sign on.

“Stratford isn’t part of this yet,” Colvin said last week, “but we’ve been working with them and hope they come on board.”

Source: The Mitchell Advocate