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Preface Events Investigation Conclusion

168 Days: 28 May 2010

By Ken Snyder

At the time, I regarded the incidents that happened this day as another lesson learned, and my instruction was from the one rightly considered the top authority in the shop -- DeGraeve. Here's how I initially mentioned this incident, in a document I wrote on 4 September 2010:

"On one occasion Mr. Dunn and I had an issue with a signal controller at Metropolitan Avenue and Woodland Boulevard. The unit was not responding to programming and we planned to replace it. Since this was an older installation, it had a controller that we were not as familiar with. Mr. Dunn and I went to program another controller of the same type and kept missing steps in the programming that kept it from operating. After lunch I went back out and attempted to work on it again. Mr. DeGraeve came to the intersection and we were able to find the steps that had been missed, once this was rectified the intersection worked properly."

Eagle Traffic Signal Controller
Here is more detailed information: All new traffic signal control cabinets come with controlling computers ("controllers") made by the Eagle Division of Siemens Corporation. With having assembled five new control cabinets in the time I worked at BPU, I was fairly familiar with the Eagle units:

Multisonics Traffic Signal Controller
However, at this intersection, the controller was a unit made by the Multisonics Corporation. These units do not program alike, and I had not personally had the opportunity to program a Multisonics® unit:
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After initially programming another Multisonics® controller in the shop, I headed out alone to the intersection with the replacement controller. As I was working to install the replacement controller, DeGraeve arrived at the intersection. Once I had the controller installed and operating, we noticed a problem with the way the signals were operating. As DeGraeve pointed out the steps I missed, my cell phone rang. At the most, I flinched when it rang unexpectedly. DeGraeve said "Don't answer that", which was what I had planned to do (let it ring), given that DeGraeve didn't come out to intersections often, I regarded him as the most authoritative person in the shop (he started when the shop was still working mechanical signal controllers versus the computerized controllers today) and wanted to learn all I could from his expertise.

After his comment at the intersection ("don't answer that"), nothing more was said regarding phone calls. DeGraeve reiterated (rightfully so) that details are extremely important when it comes to traffic signal controllers. I don't know if anything was said to Dunn regarding his inability to get the original controller to operate or not returning to the intersection after lunch.

I never got the opportunity to show I learned from this mistake. I did go back to the shop, put another Multisonics® unit on a test stand and go through the programming procedure, but I didn't show anyone (especially DeGraeve) the results of that effort. Once, when asked about whether or not I felt "ready" to handle trouble calls on my own by DeGraeve, I reiterated to him that I wanted to have a little more experience with the Multisonics® controllers; other than that, I felt good about my abilities. The Multisonics® units were, for the most part, very reliable. But when they failed, I had seen everything from a simple reset in the field to one incident where Sisson tried to get a unit to reset in the field and couldn't get it to restart; he brought it back to the shop to reprogram it, only to still have it malfunction in the field until he worked with the settings in this particular situation.

Only well after I was "sent home" would I learn just how much the 28 May incident would factor in my employment with BPU.

In conclusion:
Did I make a mistake when programming a Multisonics® controller that was installed on 28 May at Metropolitan Boulevard and Woodland Boulevard?  Yes.
Was this the first Multisonics® controller I programmed on my own?  Yes.
Did DeGraeve show up at the intersection, point out what I did wrong, and was the mistake rectified before leaving the intersection?  Yes.
Did my phone ring while Mr. DeGraeve was showing me where I went wrong?  Yes.
Did I do anything more than flinch when it rang?  No.
Did I try to answer it?  No.
Was there more than one incoming call?  No -- but it kept ringing because I did not answer it.
Once we were finished at the intersection, was anything more said about this (phone calls)?  No.
Did I leave the intersection with any public safety concern?  No.
Did I ever get a chance to show I learned from my mistake? No.
Was anything said to Mr. Dunn about his inability to initially rectify the situation, or how he didn't return to help me finish repairing the intersection?
Don't know -- but he's still there and I'm not.


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