Georgetown County first responders hold ribbon-cutting ceremony for ‘Opticom,’ new time-saving system

Opticom system ‘talks’ to traffic lights
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Georgetown County first responders are celebrating their new Opticom System.

They officially cut the ribbon on it Wednesday and it’s all thanks to the community.

Citizens brought up concerns about first responders getting to where they needed to go in a safer, quicker and easier way.

At the Midway Fire Station in Georgetown County, Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said the campaign was grass-roots.

“This really, truly was a grass-roots campaign from several members in our community that saw the need and saw the challenges we were having at some of the intersections and such and reached out to us wanting to know how to help,” said Eggiman.

Seventeen intersections throughout the Georgetown County, and 41 emergency vehicles are now equipped with this new technology. Technology that cuts down travel time through intersections by 15-30 seconds.

Transponders are placed on emergency vehicles, and receivers are placed at intersections.

When the vehicles are near the intersections the flashing lights trigger the receiver to send a message to the lights at the intersection. This allows the lights to stay green for emergency vehicles and red for everyone else at the intersection.

This technology can help first responders like Lieutenant Paramedic Joseph Anderson get to you faster, which is especially critical in life-threatening situations.

“Going from here all the way to Grand Strand with a level one trauma could be a long time in the summertime, so if we get green lights the whole way from here to Grand Strand, that’d be huge for turnaround time to get our ambulances back here to protect our area, as well as getting that person up there safely,” said Anderson.

This technology is part of a ten-year lease program. There won’t be any additional costs over the next decade for software or hardware updates.

One citizen of the community, Karen Waniga started a committee 5 years ago called Life’s Saving Lights to get this new system initiative started.

Karen Waniga speaks at ribbon cutting celebrating the new Opticom System. She started a...
Karen Waniga speaks at ribbon cutting celebrating the new Opticom System. She started a committee called Life's Saving Lights to begin this new system initiative.(WMBF)

“It saves lives. It saves property and it saves time to get to the site where someone’s help is needed and it will be a great safety piece for the responders and the drivers, so they can all flow together and get to the site where it needs to be,” says Waniga.

Over the last two weeks, all emergency vehicles and intersections have been equipped with this technology. Officials say this is universal equipment, so even responders from Horry County can use it too.

Officials at Midway Fire Rescue want to thank Councilman John Thomas for funding this initiative.

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