The city will have some help combatting communication during snowstorms with an updated system that will allow everyone in Gillette to watch the snowplow fleet plow roads, drop material and more.
The need for an update came about because of the number of calls that the Public Works Department would get during snowstorms, particularly large ones. The new and improved system should help alleviate some of those calls and concerns because people will be able to watch the snowplowing efforts as they happen.
The city’s current system tracks the plows on a map, but it is limited in the information that flows back to the city as to how much Ice Slicer and scoria is dropped or the condition of roads after they’ve been plowed, said Doug Ninas, city GIS manager.
“When it gets down to the nuts and bolts of what’s going on, it really isn’t painting the correct picture,” Ninas said. “What we’re looking for is an opportunity to show the public more of what’s going on.”
The updated AVL system will take that same information and more and feed it through a web application and onto a public website. The interactive map will look the same no matter what device is being used — a desktop, a smartphone, or a tablet.
The city anticipates that the program will be ready to implement by Nov. 1. However, it wants about one month to test it more with the City Council and the city administration before it opens the system up to the general public.
“I do know there’ll be some bugs we’ll want to work out,” said Administrative Services Director Pam Boger said.
What you’ll see
Once the system is up and running for everyone to access — likely in December — people will be able watch plows move throughout the city, clearing streets. They will be able to watch the city in its entirety, or can zoom into certain neighborhoods. As a snowplow completes a route, that street will be highlighted to indicate that it’s clear.
But those highlighted areas may disappear, depending on the ferocity of the storm.
“If we know that a storm event is recycling in, say, a half an hour, then that road is no longer going to be plowed in that half-hour time frame. So we’re just going to pop it off the map. That way, the public is actually looking at road segments that have been plowed in the last half hour,” Ninas said.
That rate can be reset depending on the strength of the storm and how quickly it is filling the roads back up. If the storm starts to taper to a two-hour time frame, then the plowed streets will stay highlighted longer, Ninas said.
The city also is working with the Gillette Police Department to include accident locations on the map, once calls come in. That information will go through the police department’s dispatch.
Once the accident has been cleared, it will be removed from the map.
The system also will track when and how much material is dropped on the streets.
“(It’s) actually showing the public what’s going on with snow removal and giving them the detail to understand the work and processes we’re going through,” Ninas said.
The entire system is being run through the city’s servers. The only time a person will be involved would be when the police department dispatch update the accidents, Ninas said.
“When everything is done with the event, we’ll be able to pull that information for that specific intersection and know how much Ice Slicer was put down, how much traction material was put down,” Ninas said.
Nothing inside the truck will change to prevent the operators from getting distracted. The crew’s supervisor will be watching everything the system and coordinating the efforts, he said.
For major snowstorms, the city may set up a response center to make sure that everything is running smoothly and going according to plan, he added.
The system also will be able to track the conditions of the vehicle, identify the driver of each truck and monitor potential aggressive driving through an accelerometer, which will be sensitive to aggressive braking or acceleration, Ninas said.