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Cloud-Based Solution Clears Roadways for First Responders

The Next-Gen Emergency Vehicle Preemption technology provides first responders the ability to alter traffic lights on a complete route to an event, not just one light at a time.

A police car on a road coming towards the camera with a fire truck behind it. Both have their emergency lights illuminated.
We know the dangers that confront first responders, and just getting to an emergency event, such as an accident or fire, can provide a gauntlet of hazards, from other drivers to getting traffic lights to cooperate.

A new cloud-based Next-Gen Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) technology being piloted in the Sacramento and Elk Grove, Calif., areas is making life easier for first responders by not just changing a traffic light here and there, but acknowledging the actual route of the first responder and clearing the way by changing all the lights.

Until now, the best first responders could hope for was that drivers on the road heard the sirens, saw the flashing lights and moved over, and that as the first responder approached a traffic light it would change, allowing them to get through and stopping all other traffic.

“Emergency vehicle pre-emption is incredibly important,” said Dan Quiggle, deputy fire chief with the Cosumnes Fire Department, which is partnering with the city of Elk Grove on the pilot. “Response times are critical to the nature of the work that we do at the Cosumnes Fire Department and throughout the fire service, and as our urban and suburban areas get denser and more impacted by traffic, the ability for our emergency units to safely get to emergency scenes in a timely manner is very important.”

The LYT NextGen EVP solution enables traffic signals to adjust in real time to traffic congestion as emergency vehicles are approaching, enabling any public safety vehicle a safe route to its destination.

The pilot consists of EVP at 43 traffic signals, including two pedestrian crossings, along major thoroughfares where emergency vehicles will receive pre-emption.

“We had an opportunity to meet this vendor, LYT, over the last few years and see some presentations that they gave and look at the results of some small-scale trials that they did, and it looks very promising,” Quiggle said. “That’s why the Cosumnes Fire Department, along with the city of Elk Grove, are conducting a trial in the Elk Grove community to evaluate the system and see how much of an impact it can have on improving emergency response times.”

“What makes this really different from legacy technology is that this now changes the concept from not just changing the lights, but why do we change the lights and when?” said Tim Menard, CEO and founder of LYT.

“This technology is taking a top-down approach to not changing a single traffic light, but to changing multiple lights that are in the response stream of the emergency responders,” he continued. “We demonstrated that 24 hours a day, through peak morning traffic and afternoon traffic, that we could consistently get fire trucks through a notoriously bad traffic spot.”

Menard described the cloud-based technology as breaking down geographical jurisdictional boundaries and being able to show on a map a large region of multiple jurisdictions where the solution could be enabled during an emergency.

“What’s different about our system from legacy systems is we get the full amount of information,” Menard said. “We know if there are pedestrians at an intersection who have pushed that button and are wanting to cross the road. We know what’s red and what’s green.”

“Because this is a more intelligent and data-driven system, it has the ability to safely change the traffic light at the right time so that a pedestrian can finish crossing but not allow others to go.”
Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.