Thursday, March 22, 2018

A new portable reader board is ready to go the next time the snow flies.

Here’s your sign

Emergency responders now have one more tool to keep them safe and alert motorists to crash scenes.
A portable warning message board arrived recently and has been mounted to a Columbus Fire Rescue (CFR) vehicle. The goal is one of pure safety by giving motorists yet another visual warning that they are approaching some kind of accident scene and need to slow down. Not only does it keep motorists safe, it keeps the first responders on scene safe as well.
The latter is of particular concern, with emergency responders in Stillwater County having been put in harm’s way at least three times so far this winter season. At least two citations have been issued to drivers who failed to slow down while passing first responders working accident scenes. One driver has also been cited with careless driving for running into the back of a Stillwater County Sheriff’s deputy who was parked on the shoulder of the road to alert motorists to an accident scene ahead.

The notion of the usefulness of some kind of electronic sign at crash and other emergency scenes was discussed at an emergency planning meeting held a few months back, prior to the arrival of one of the monster storm fronts that has pounded the area this winter season. In attendance at the meeting were Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services (DES), CFR, the Columbus Police Department, the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Sibayne-Stillwater Mine, Columbus Mayor Gary Woltermann and the Stillwater County commissioners.
The overwhelming sentiment was that such a sign could greatly help in creating safer conditions for first responders working accident and other scenes, said DES Coordinator Carol Arkell.
However, federal law prohibits putting a sign directly on any interstate, said Arkell.
A bit down the road, the idea to purchase a portable sign that could be mounted on a vehicle was broached with the help of CFR. That agency had acquired a truck through the United States Department of Defense surplus, to which a portable sign could be mounted.
Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger said he approached Arkell to see if money might be available to buy a sign.
The $8,000 purchase was made through a 50/50 matching grant, with the local portion coming from Arkell’s DES budget.
CFR added a snowplow to the front and a small sander was added to the back in order to provide a little traction on slick roads at accident scenes.
The sign and vehicle can be used by any county or city agency that has a need, said Arkell.