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First responders given comprehensive guide to the Pennsylvania Turnpike

September 22, 2018

With a new, detailed map of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Somerset County emergency responders will be better prepared for emergencies on the major thoroughfare.

The map was created by OneStar, of North Huntingdon, with funding from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant.

At a meeting with emergency responders Thursday, Joel Landis, director of emergency services, distributed the maps to turnpike-area emergency personnel.

“We’re kind of blessed having the turnpike come through and providing commerce, but, of course, there’s a lot of vehicles that travel through, and as soon as they come through Somerset, it’s our responsibility to protect them all the way through,” Landis said.

“And we protect the people who live on the outskirts of the turnpike as well.”

In addition to mile markers, road names and access points, the map also shows bodies of water, evacuation zones and potential helicopter landing zones.

Gene Komondor, OneStar spokesman, said the map shouldn’t be used in a fire truck on the way to an incident — it should be used for training before incidents or for educating responders from outside the county.

For example, when Winter Storm Jonas dropped 3 feet of snow on the county in 2016 and stranded motorists on the turnpike, the map could’ve been used to plot access to and evacuations from the turnpike.

Dave Fox, Somerset County Control coordinator, said that 911 has a similar map for railroad lines in the southern part of the county.

“It’s a good reference and includes maybe things you don’t think about,” he said.

He gave the example of two charter buses crashing and 80 people being stranded on the turnpike, prompting the use of outside crews. The map could help those crews understand the area.

Sipesville Volunteer Fire Co. Deputy Chief Jim Livingston said he could imagine the map being used in any major incident on the turnpike.

“Especially in our section; we have a lot of crashes in the eastbound lane and there’s not a quick way to it,” he said. The map will show firefighters where they can turn around.

“It’s definitely an asset.”

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