ALPENA - The safety of roads and of those working on roadways can be improved in Northeast Michigan, and communication is a key tool. A large group of first responders, police, fire, EMS, road agency towing/recovery, and dispatchers from Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda, Alcona and Iosco counties gathered for a traffic incident management workshop in Alpena Thursday morning. Eric Precord, Michigan Department of Transportation maintenance coordinator, hosted the presentation at Alpena's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary where a variety of guests and speakers discussed traffic incident management and safety issues that develop on Michigan roads.
Angie Kremer, MDOT traffic incident management engineer, presented information about the National Unified Goal for traffic incident management, which includes working together for responder safety, safe and quick road clearance, and prompt, reliable, interoperable communications.
"When it comes to safety, communication can always be improved on," Kremer said.
According to Kremer, in 1998-2011 the leading trend was roadway deaths. She said more officers were killed in traffic-related issues than any other occurrence in the line of duty, and 20 percent of firefighter deaths occur on roadways each year.
In order to protect responders and anyone else working on roadways, Kremer said wearing high visibility safety apparel is effective.
"If the apparel is not worn, it really opens yourself up to liabilities, you really want to make sure you're wearing your vest," she said.
Kremer also discussed safety tips for working near live traffic and how responders can ensure safe and quick road clearance through communication, cooperation, collaboration and coordination, an objective of the National Unified Goal for traffic incident management.
"I'm here looking back at incidents and how things could have been done differently and more efficiently. My goal is for you to walk out of here with knowledge on how to do our jobs better and safer," Sgt. Tim Robbins, MSP reconstructionist, said.
Robbins discussed Michigan laws and tips on how to use best judgment when responders use lights and sirens. He said all responders should consider the priority of the call and patients, the time it would save to use the sirens, and safety before deciding to use sirens or flashing lights.
"I encourage cooperation. You guys have a great opportunity here to help clear roads quicker ... for a small community, you have a good cohesive group that can be more progressive," Robbins said.
An emergency traffic control trailer lodged in Alpena is now operable for the six counties and will be used regionally to help assist first responders in re-routing traffic during road closures.
"The trailer is now operational. When and where it will be used will be determined case by case," Precord said. "Hopefully through this workshop we have improved our communication and coordination a little bit."
Other discussion topics included reponder safety, sharing information, notification, Department of Transportation information, hazardous spills, and primary and secondary accidents.
"Be aware of surprises, anything can happen," Robert Wagner, of the DEQ, said. "Communication is very important for public heath and safety."
For more information on construction and traffic closures, commuting, laws and licensing, and maps, visit Mi Drive at www.michigan.gov/drive. To report any pollution or environmental emergencies, call the DEQ hotline at 1-800-292-4706, for emergencies or routine business, contact the Gaylord DEQ at 731-4920.
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5687.