Green light, go! Anaheim Fire expands traffic signal preemption system


Siren blaring, the fire engine races down the street.

The signal at the intersection ahead is red.

Equipped with a GPS emitter that is activated when the red lights and siren are turned on, the engine sends a signal to the intersection equipped with the GPS receiver and — viola! — the light ahead turns green.

Beginning last fiscal year, the City of Anaheim started purchasing and installing Opticom system components from Global Traffic Technologies that allow Anaheim Fire & Rescue emergency vehicles to change from red to green a select few intersection signals as they respond to emergency calls.

The so-called Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) Traffic Systems are now up and running at 27 intersections. Soon, they will be operating at 15 additional intersections after the City Council approved nearly $100,000 at its Aug. 12 meeting to expand the EVP system with Chino-based vendor DDL Traffic Inc.

Studies show that signal preemptions systems improve emergency response times by an average of 20 percent while also reducing collisions at controlled intersections, according to a report prepared by the city’s Finance Department.

Other O.C. fire agencies also use the technology but most employ infrared, and the GPS-based system with dual emitters on the fire vehicles utilized in Anaheim provides the latest technology while providing interoperability with the infrared systems used in neighboring jurisdictions.. This maximizes the technology and utilizes the funding in the most cost-effective manner, said Rusty Coffelt, Deputy Chief of Support Services for Anaheim Fire & Rescue.

He said the intersections selected to be equipped with the technology have the highest volume of traffic flow and are most commonly used by his department’s truck and engines while responding to emergency calls.

With more than 300 intersections with signals throughout Anaheim, the EVP system still is in the early stages.

But it’s a great start, Coffelt said.

“With this technology, fire personnel can respond faster to fire incidents while at the same time provide a safe travel experience for other vehicles as well as our fire personnel,” Coffelt said.

When an emergency vehicle is responding to a call, motorists should remind themselves to take the following actions:

* Pull over to the right shoulder if it is safe to do so.

* Stay focused on the road; limit distractions including radio and mobile phones.

* Stay alert; additional emergency vehicles may be responding to the same incident.