Valdosta - When firefighters head out on a call, time is priceless. "The quicker we can get there, the better everybody's going to be," said Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice.
But in Valdosta, its all too common for first responders to lose valuable time because of blocked railroad crossings. "The tracks literally split this town in half and that makes it very difficult for us," said Rice.
There are about 42 different railroad crossings in the city and 2 swtichyards. The city is considering a new system that would cut down on the problems these crossings cause for first responders. "They would be informed at the time of a call where crossings are blocked so they can choose the route that would provide them faster access to the scene," said City Engineer Von Shipman.
If a first response vehicle comes to a crossing near a switchyard where a train is loading or unloading, they could be stuck there for up to 20 minutes. In an emergency situation, just a fraction of that time can mean the difference between life and death. "Every minute that we delay, a fire doubles in size," said Rice.
The system could eventually be expanded to help motorists too. "We could put advanced message boards on the side of the road that will indicate which crossings are blocked and open," said Shipman.
Cutting down on the number of traffic jams in the city, and giving first responders the extra time they need to keep us safe.