EMTRAC Systems - News Items
Improving Safety for Rail Workers, Passengers, & Pedestrians
We've worked closely with Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), as well as Houston METRO to develop the Personal Notification Unit (PNU), which is worn by rail-maintenance workers to warn them of approaching trains.
Due to these enhancements, the EMTRAC system is in a unique position to meet rail-transit safety requirements, such as those for the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC Res. 09-01-020), which addresses wayside worker safety.
In addition to wayside worker safety, the EMTRAC system also includes Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality, and the ability to implement near-miss reporting, collision avoidance, speed-zone monitoring, positive train control, route and schedule adherence, and wireless communication at operation centers.
The following PDF links describe tests and results regarding EMTRAC rail safety:
- VTA Personal Notification Unit Test Report - Jan. 19, 2012
- Houston Final Performance Report - Nov. 15, 2011
The following white paper describes the functionality of the EMTRAC system in more detail:
Please also refer to the Personal Notification Unit (PNU) page for more information.
July 26, 2013 - The core function of the EMTRAC system is to help reduce response times for first responders by enabling their vehicles to automatically request priority through upcoming intersections. However, first-response agencies that use the system often find their own ways to utilize the flexibility that it offers—all in an effort to meet their own goals for improved safety and performance.
One such agency is the Stillwater Fire Department (SFD) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The SFD response area includes a unique combination of surroundings. In addition to residential, business, and manufacturing areas, the SFD response area includes a major university (Oklahoma State University) that expands the population on an annual basis, as well as vast rural areas that are prone to brush fires throughout the summer.
"Stillwater has used traffic control preemption devices for at least the last 20 years. On a college football weekend there is huge influx of visitors, so being able to have that little extra help in clearing controlled intersections provides huge safety dividends for our emergency responders and the public," says Chief Tom Bradley.
"Stillwater is a regional hub of commercial activity with a major university, so all of this activity creates dynamic traffic conditions." adds Chief Bradley, who has been with the Stillwater Fire Department since 1984.
In their continuing effort to ensure public safety, the Stillwater Fire Department has some key factors working in its favor:
- Major thoroughfares that cover large portions of the city, enabling SFD vehicles to avoid excessive turns and side streets when on call.
- Extensive use of traffic signal priority at intersections along major thoroughfares, significantly reducing travel time by providing a green signal in advance of the fire vehicles reaching the intersection (while stopping conflicting traffic to further help clear the intersection).
- A fire department focused on rapid response and personal safety to ensure that technological advantages result in measurable gains—protecting and preserving lives and property in Stillwater and surrounding communities.
- A progressive city administration that recognizes the value of using technology to its advantage. In Stillwater's case, multiple departments collaborated to facilitate the installation—including city government, the Fire Department, the Transportation Department, and the IT department. Because of this teamwork, the Stillwater Fire Department has an advanced traffic preemption system that allows them to gather and analyze response data while also enhancing department safety as well as the safety of the motoring public.
"As the first-generation devices began to have issues including increased maintenance and reliability, we began to explore systems that could provide a greater number of options while providing a high degree of enhanced safety for our apparatus making emergency responses," Chief Bradley said. "I have been very pleased with the high degree of reliability and the increase in the confidence with our system that we now enjoy."
An example of Stillwater's progressive approach was demonstrated by their desire to implement anti-collision functionality, which was provided by the Collision Avoidance feature of the EMTRAC system. This feature triggers an audio alert to notify drivers when equipped vehicles are approaching each other and there is potential for collision.
The Collision Avoidance functionality was initially developed with the idea that it would be used mainly in urban environments, where many first-response vehicles often respond to the same call. For Stillwater, however, the occurrence of brush fires present prime conditions for collisions due to lack of visibility, particularly when multiple trucks are on location. Because of these brush fires, anti-collision capability was specifically addressed in Stillwater's requirements for traffic-signal preemption.
According to Chief Bradley, "This system has capabilities beyond just responding to emergency incidents. We can collect and analyze data to ensure we are providing safe and effective delivery of emergency services to our community."
Bradley adds, "This project would never have been started much less completed without the support of our Mayor and City Council."
Creative Approach to Reduce Response Times
June 12, 2013 – At it's core, the EMTRAC system is about enabling agency vehicles to request signal priority through equipped intersections. However, EMTRAC customers throughout North America have found other ways to use EMTRAC to cut travel and response times.
For first-response applications, every second is vital, and cutting a minute or more off response time can dramatically increase the chance of survival for patients receiving critical care. While signal priority is a key feature in reducing response times, some of our customers have expanded their systems to take advantage of the full range of EMTRAC capability.
One example of this expanded functionality is with the use of indoor ambulance bays, which are designed to offer a secure and private environment and to protect patients and responders from the elements. Most ambulance bays include overhead doors that automatically open and close when an ambulance arrives or departs the hospital.
However, these doors also present the challenge of providing a secure environment while also allowing the ambulance to quickly enter the enclosed bay. In some cases, in-ground loops are used to open the first door. To prevent the general public from opening the door, the ambulance typically has to park in a specific narrow area for a minimum amount of time before the door will open.
One EMTRAC customer reported that this process took no less than 60 seconds to complete. Needless to say, the one-minute delay was unacceptable. Because their ambulances were already equipped with EMTRAC—to provide signal priority along the corridor to a recently completed hospital—using the system to control the ambulance-bay doors was a natural solution.
Their solution to open the doors was very much like the way they use the EMTRAC system to request green signals at intersections. When an EMTRAC-equipped ambulance enters a GPS-defined zone, it automatically transmits an RF call to a detector unit at the ambulance bay. The detector then prompts the door to open through a connection to the door control.
The zones to initiate the door-opening sequence start at the entrance to the hospital emergency center. Multiple overlapping zones are used to ensure coverage throughout the approach, providing time for the door to fully open before the ambulance arrives at the entrance.
Because the same customer also uses the EMTRAC Central Monitor system, they also have remote access to the detector unit inside the bay, enabling them to view real-time vehicle and door activity, and to view detailed logs (which show the date and time specific ambulances opened the door, in addition to the other information).
The agency described in this example gained the following advantages by using EMTRAC:
- Timeliness: Response times were reduced by 60 seconds for all ambulance runs.
- Security: Ambulances are now the only vehicles that can open the entry door. Previously, any vehicle could conceivably park over the loop and open the door. This security is also extended to critical-care areas inside the hospital.
- Reliability: Due to the scheduled opening date of the new hospital (and an eleventh-hour replacement of the original in-ground-loop design) the EMTRAC door components had to be installed one day before the new hospital opened—without a test period to ensure proper operation. After installation, and a quick initial test, the first ambulance arrived to open the door at 6:00 AM the following morning. All 37 equipped ambulances have since made hospital runs—with every one of them opening the doors prior to arrival.
- Ease of Implementation and Use: Components for the bay doors were installed in less than one day. Future installation will take even less time.
- Safety: Minimal driver interaction is required. In fact, agencies can decide whether they want to require any driver interaction.
For more information about how the EMTRAC system can improve response times for your agency, please contact us.
EMTRAC Unveils Optical Signal Priority
March 27, 2013 – Traffic engineers from the Northern California region were able to watch demonstrations of the recently released EMTRAC optical Priority Detectors at the ITS trade show in Lodi, California on March 21st.
The Priority Detectors are installed in controller cabinets in place of phase selectors or signal processors (as they are called in optical-preemption applications). The Priority Detectors are able to receive signal-priority requests from all major brands of vehicle-mounted emitters, which flash pulsed frequencies of light toward pole-mounted detectors, which then forward the requests to the control cabinet.
At the trade show, EMTRAC Western Region Account Manager Luke Faubion, used third-party emitters (which are mounted on vehicles in the field) to show the EMTRAC system responding to optical priority requests—as well as RF requests sent by EMTRAC vehicle components.
"The ST-9365 Priority Detector is basically a universal phase selector because it can interpret signal requests from any of the optical brands out there, and that's in addition to handling the 900 MHz requests that are sent from EMTRAC-equipped vehicles," Faubion said after the show.
This dual functionality was a particular area of interest for a lot of the traffic engineers because 80 to 90 percent of agencies with the ability to request signal priority are still using optical systems and are unable upgrade to the more advanced EMTRAC RF/GPS-based system all at once.
"Agencies can begin upgrading some of their vehicles to EMTRAC while leaving the optical system in other vehicles. Their upgraded vehicles can then request priority earlier—and more reliably—and they don't lose any functionality in the vehicles that still have optical equipment," Faubion added.
In addition to the dual optical/RF Priority Detector, EMTRAC has also released two and four-channel optical-only Priority Detectors. As with the dual model, the optical-only units can easily be installed in directly into the input file of Type 170 control cabinets or may be provided with a Priority Detector Case for NEMA cabinets (when input-file space is not available). All optical units are capable of deciphering encoded signals.
Additionally, all units are provided with the EMTRAC Systems Manager software, which enables agency personnel to easily customize system settings, including:
- Ranging Values: Define the acceptable signal intensities for specific intersection approaches
- Output Connections: Modify controller outputs to accomodate non-standard connections
- Vehicle Allow/Deny: Restrict signal priority for specified vehicles or request types
For specific information about how the EMTRAC system works with optical preemption systems, please refer to the following pages:
Preventing Collisions During Fire Responses
February 1, 2013 - The very purpose of Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) is to lower response times by requesting signal priority for equipped vehicles. However, the potential for collisions involving first-response vehicles remains a concern even for agencies with basic EVP capability.
Vehicles equipped with the EMTRAC system request priority through signalized intersections by using secure radio communication with Priority Detectors installed in signal-control cabinets. Through this communication, these vehicle are able to communicate with other equipped vehicles, resulting in a efficient network of intersections and agency vehicles.
Among other features, this network enables EMTRAC-equipped vehicles to recognize immediate potential for collisions with other equipped vehicles—and to alert drivers of this threat. Driver alerts are provided by a compact, dash-mounted monitor, which:
- Indicates the direction from which conflicting vehicles are approaching
- Sounds an audible beep
- Notifies the driver whether signal priority for the upcoming intersection has been granted or denied
While the collision-avoidance functionality is an optional feature, it is compatible with standard EMTRAC components—enabling agencies to upgrade their system without having to purchase new vehicle and intersection hardware.
The Stillwater Fire Department in Oklahoma uses both the EVP and collision avoidance features of the EMTRAC system, serving both the urban and rural landscapes that make up the Stillwater area. It's not just large fire vehicles that are equipped with the EMTRAC system. Brush trucks, ambulances, police, and rescue vehicles also benefit from the safety features of the EMTRAC system.
One advantage of the EMTRAC system is that it allows for installation of only those components needed for EVP, offering agencies the freedom to expand their system capability as budgets and time allow.
Another advantage of this system is that it is compatible with existing optical EVP detectors. This ability enables agencies to upgrade individual intersections to the more advanced EMTRAC RF/GPS system without losing EVP capability at intersections with legacy optical components.
Please feel free to contact us for more information about how the EMTRAC system can benefit your agency.
Columbia County Installs EMTRAC System
June 28, 2012 - The Columbia County Fire Department, which serves a portion of the Augusta, Georgia metropolitan area, has recently installed the EMTRAC system on many of their fire vehicles, with plans to equip patrol cars and ambulances as well. EMTRAC components have also been installed at many of the intersections along major thoroughfares to enable agency vehicles to wirelessly request signal priority through those intersections.
With the EMTRAC system, agency vehicles will be able to reduce response times, while also providing a safer environment for drivers who find themselves at these intersections while crews are responding to emergencies.
Click the following link to see this story as reported by WRDW Channel 12 in Augusta:
Global Traffic Technologies (GTT) Subject of Antitrust Complaint
KM Enterprises (dba "EMTRAC Systems") filed an antitrust complaint against Global Traffic Technologies (GTT) on March 23, 2012 in United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The complaint alleges that GTT engaged in monopolization activities through a series of practices designed to manipulate the market while eliminating competitors from consideration during the competitive-bidding process.
Among other practices, the complaint claims that GTT participated in conduct amounting to "illegal tying" where a competitor manipulates the market for its product by requiring that maintenance of its obsolete product is tied to upgrades and future purchases of a new product for which there is market competition. The complaint also claims that GTT influenced the results of a bid in its favor by illicitly learning the low-bid amount for the purpose of beating that price.
About KM Enterprises, Inc.
Headquartered in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, KM Enterprises, Inc. markets the EMTRAC Priority Management System—a system that utilizes precise navigation technology and secure RF communication to enable equipped transit, emergency, and municipal vehicles to place priority or preemption requests to intersection signal-control equipment. The EMTRAC System is the leading GPS-based priority and preemption system in the industry.
Click here to open a printable PDF copy of this news story.
Click here to open a PDF copy of the full legal complaint.
White Paper: Transit Applications and the EMTRAC System
Each customer has their own particular challenges to address. Whether it be ensuring that light-rail train operators obey traffic signals (as with Houston METRO) or granting signal priority for buses behind schedule (as with Metro Transit in Minneapolis), the EMTRAC system is capable of meeting a wide array of transit-agency needs.
Brampton, Ont. Implements EMTRAC for Signal Priority/AVL
May 24, 2011 - The March/April 2011 IMSA Ontario newsletter highlighted the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service that is currently being expanded in Brampton, Ontario. This advanced BRT service was carefully designed to meet specific reliability and efficiency recommendations—and it is the first of its kind in North America.
We are happy to report that the EMTRAC Priority Management System was selected as the signal priority provider for this leading-edge service. In addition to providing conditional signal priority, the EMTRAC system also provides Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality, enabling monitoring personnel to track vehicle locations in real time. These features are described in more detail in the IMSA Ontario article below.
Located in the Toronto metropolitan area, Brampton has a population of over 480,000 people and is one of only 10 cities in North America to be designated as an International Safe Community by the World Health Organization. For more information, please visit the Brampton Transit, Brampton City, and IMSA Ontario web sites.
IMSA Ontario Article: City of Brampton – Transit Signal Priority
In 2007, the City of Brampton, in partnership with the federal and provincial governments, secured funding to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along three corridors within Brampton. On September 20, 2010, the City unveiled the result of that partnership: Züm, its new BRT service.
The service currently runs along the busy Queen Street corridor, from downtown Brampton to York University. It will expand to Brampton's Main Street/Hurontario Street in the fall of 2011, and Steeles Avenue in the fall of 2012.
In order to accommodate Züm and ensure that the service would be reliable, efficient, and cost effective, the City retained a consultant to review the existing traffic management system and field hardware. The proposal scope required the consultant to review the current technologies available to the market and recommend a Transit Signal Priority (TSP) system to meet the City's current and future needs.
Recommendations from the review included:
- Upgrade of the traffic controller firmware
- Implementation of a new distributed traffic signal system
- Implementation of a GPS-based system for TSP/Emergency Vehicle
- Decommission of existing infrared fire preemption system over several years
The TSP system reduces transit vehicle travel times and schedule variability while minimizing the impact on other traffic. If the transit vehicle is running behind schedule, the system accommodates it by either extending the green phase or shortening the red time (reducing the conflicting green phase times), allowing the vehicle to obtain a green indication sooner.
In order to do this, the TSP system uses a combination of onboard and on-street system architecture. The onboard system receives priority requests from the transit vehicle's Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system. The AVL system tracks the transit vehicle's position relative to its schedule and can accommodate conditional parameters, such as levels of lateness and number of passengers onboard.
The on-street system takes advantage of features built in the traffic signal controller and TSP/EVP firmware. Specifically, the firmware includes the capability of using multiple 'check-in' detectors based on selectable time-points (in lieu of fixed distance points). In utilizing time-points, priority requests are transmitted to the traffic signal controller based upon the Estimated Time En route (ETE) of the transit vehicle. The algorithms used to calculate the ETE time points in the field and central equipment are what make this system unique to North America. Unlike detection zones that track the vehicle's Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) from a defined x/y coordinate, the TSP system's time-points react in real time, to on-street congestion. Therefore, as traffic volumes fluctuate, so do the time-points.
Finally, a Global Positioning System (GPS) determines the transit vehicle's location based on its coordinates and sends a wireless 900 MHz frequency to upcoming intersections. As the transit vehicle arrives at each advanced time-point, the traffic controller preconditions its internal timings in preparation of the oncoming transit vehicle (under low priority for transit). The advanced time-points help the traffic controller to gradually modify the timings to reduce the impact to the intersection while ensuring the intersection maintains coordination.
In time for the arrival of Züm on Queen Street, a new transit terminal was built adjacent to the Bramalea City Centre. An exclusive transit lane was constructed to keep transit vehicles on schedule as they leave the terminal. Dedicated traffic signal heads with white bar transit priority indications and video detection allow transit vehicles to exit the terminal on a protected phase twice per cycle.
Since its official launch in September, Züm has been operating at near capacity and Brampton Transit has benefited from the highest monthly ridership numbers in its history. Feedback from riders has been positive, with many noting that Züm has set a new standard for public transit in Canada, if not North America.
EMTRAC Priority Control Devices Added to Florida APL
February 15, 2011 - The Florida Department of Transportation has approved the EMTRAC Priority Management system components for inclusion on their Approved Product List (APL). As a part of this process, the EMTRAC components were evaluated against the FDOT's minimum specifications for Traffic Control Signals and Devices (Section A700, July 2010).
The Florida DOT vendor and product evaluation processes is widely considered one of the most rigorous in the country. Click here to open the FDOT Approved Product List in a new window.
KM Enterprises (EMTRAC) Files Suit Against Global Traffic Technologies (GTT)
November 5, 2010 - KM Enterprises, Inc. filed a Complaint today against Global Traffic Technologies, LLC (“GTT”) in United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that GTT’s United States Patent No. 5,539,398 is invalid and not infringed by KM Enterprises’ EMTRAC Priority Management System. Last month, GTT incorrectly asserted the ’398 Patent against a non-existent corporation, EMTRAC Systems, Inc., as well as the President of KM Enterprises, Kris Morgan, and his two sons, who are neither officers nor shareholders of KM Enterprises. To combat the confusion in the marketplace caused by GTT’s misdirected lawsuit, KM Enterprises filed today’s Complaint. KM Enterprises asserts in its Complaint that GTT’s ‘398 Patent is invalid and does not reach KM Enterprises’ products. KM Enterprises also seeks damages and an injunction against GTT for the false advertising of its products, for interfering with prospective contractual relations and for deceptive trade practices.
About KM Enterprises, Inc.
Headquartered in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, KM Enterprises, Inc. produces and sells the EMTRAC Priority Management System—a system that uses precise navigation technology and secure RF communication to detect equipped transit, emergency, and municipal vehicles to place priority or preemption requests to intersection signal-control equipment. KM Enterprises, Inc.’s EMTRAC System is the leading GPS-based priority and preemption system in the industry.
Kris Morgan, President of KM Enterprises, Inc.
Click here to open a PDF copy of this news story.
Click here to open a PDF copy of the full legal complaint.
Signal Priority: Cost-Effectively Mitigating Evacuations
As first-response and transit agencies throughout North America have discovered, there are many benefits that can be realized by the use of EVP/TSP technology. Click the following link to open a paper that was recently presented by EMTRAC's James Jarzab at the 5th International Conference on Social Science Research. This paper evaluates use of Intelligent Transportation Systems to cost-effectively implement disaster-mitigation procedures.
EMTRAC Shows Compliance with VTA Transmission Specs
September 2, 2010 - As part of a third party installation acceptance test for VTA of San Jose, California in July of 2010, Caltrans was asked to verify compliance of the installation with standard specifications. In the process of acceptance testing, the range of EMTRAC equipment transmissions were calculated along El Camino Real in Santa Clara County. The test was supervised by Caltrans engineers; a sample of field observations were generated with the following test procedures:
A floating car was used to replicate a VTA bus operating along El Camino Real, with the antenna placed at approximately 30 inches above pavement resting on the dash board inside of a sub-compact Caltrans staff car
The intersection antennae were mounted on the top of the traffic control cabinet at approximately 6 feet above pavement in the typical VTA installation configuration
Revenue service conditions for this deployment type would have involved a transit bus with antenna mounted approximately 10 feet above pavement. Under the circumstances the test used an antenna deployed seven and one-half feet below standard height, which—as anticipated--significantly reduced observed detection range. Actual test results yielded acceptable revenue service ranges for transit applications with the minimum transmission distance measured at 1300 feet
EMTRAC at Urban Transport World Australia 2010
March 26, 2010 - On February 22, EMTRAC's own Jim Jarzab summarized the current state of BRT practices during his opening remarks at the Urban Transport World conference in Sydney, Australia.
As Co-Chair of the NTCIP 1211 Emergency Vehicle Preemption and Transit Signal Priority standards committee, Jim Jarzab is a valuable resource about the specific strategies available to municipalities looking to implement a cost-effective Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Mr. Jarzab's remarks included the following points:
"Many notable BRT projects have been developed around the world over the past two decades. Up to this point, the most successful projects have operated on exclusive rights-of-way in a manner, and at a comparable cost, to light rail. This comparison has often led to debates regarding the relative merits of investments in light rail transit compared to BRT.
"Advances in electronic data storage and information-processing speeds have allowed for transit operators in virtual rights-of-way using advanced vehicle location and identification (AVL/AVI), as well as sophisticated traffic control software, to replicate the safety and functionality of exclusive rights-of-way without the physical structures and resulting adverse community impacts. Sometimes called 'rapid bus', these BRT applications greatly expand the effective range of faster bus operations with enhanced schedule adherence, giving the traveling public better service with minimal investment in additional land or other infrastructure.
"These Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) components expand the sites suitable for successful BRT applications by an order of magnitude. Modern public transportation services are no longer restricted to large metropolitan areas with significant political influence and abandoned rail rights-of-way available to exploit. With apologies to Churchill: 'This is not the end, or even the beginning of the end but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning' with respect to BRT development."
EMTRAC TSP Shown to Decrease Bus Travel Time
February 8, 2010 - Based in Santa Clara, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) serves the transit needs of six municipalities. Their bus and light-rail lines have seen significant increases in ridership each of the past five years, and VTA has continued studying and implementing improvement programs to better serve their growing number of riders.
One study in particular examined the increase in average operating speed provided by the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) application of Bus Signal Priority (BSP) in rapid bus operation as compared to traditional local bus operation. This study evaluated two methods of signal priority, an in-ground loop and detector system and an EMTRAC GPS and RF-based vehicle detection system.
The study noted that signal priority enabled the operation of rapid bus service with reduced stops and more liberal operating rules than local service. Buses receiving priority traveled 18.4 percent faster than those without priority. Further, buses receiving priority using the EMTRAC system traveled 23 percent faster than those without priority.
Another advantage the EMTRAC system offers is that there is no need to bury in-ground loops, enabling municipalities to improve on-time bus performance without requiring costly sub-surface installations.
From a financial standpoint, public transit has few opportunities to implement productivity improvements. The approximately 20 percent gains from Bus Signal Priority are very important to transit agencies from a resource-allocation perspective. An improvement of 20 percent equates to an effective operating savings for VTA of nearly $1 million annually. Since 2005, operating and maintenance costs for the BSP elements have been negligible, with no equipment failures encountered since installation. Capital costs for BSP average less than $10,000 per intersection and $3,000 per bus.
The use of Bus Signal Priority in combination with other BRT features has proven to have the desired effect on vehicle operations, and thus fulfills the goals of ITS projects. Not only are the results statistically significant, but rider gains in the corridor also accompany the perceived improvement in service quality by the public.
VTA's experience with BSP is similar to that of other transit agencies across the nation. Bus Signal Priority is one of the few cost effective tools available to public transit agencies that improve productivity without adverse consequences. BSP is a foundation element for VTA's extensive Bus Rapid Transit planning effort, and it is likely that BSP will will be a major component of transit operations industry-wide in the near future.
EMTRAC EVP in Coquitlam, British Columbia
(Original article by Angela MacKenzie appeared in Coquitlam NOW, Friday, October 10, 2008)
Firefighters in Coquitlam are using advanced technology to get to emergencies faster.
On Monday, Coquitlam council watched a live demonstration via web cam of the fire department's new EMTRAC traffic signal system that gives fire and rescue vehicles priority at traffic intersections throughout the city.
A city van equipped with an EMTRAC device demonstrated how a vehicle would travel through a major intersection without having to slow down or stop.
Coquitlam Fire and Rescue trucks are being fitted with the EMTRAC traffic signal system to help with response time and intersection safety.
The EMTRAC device, about the size of a book, is mounted in the interior of the vehicle.
When activated by the release of the emergency brake and switching on of flashing lights, the device automatically sends a signal to the traffic lights when the vehicle enters a specific zone.
The area of that zone is tailored to the intersection by city traffic technologists, but can be up to approximately 900 meters (3,000 feet) away.
The traffic signal for the vehicle then changes or remains green.
At the same time, the other signals in the intersection change to red to stop all other cars, allowing the priority vehicle to pass through without slowing down or stopping.
The advance signal allows enough time for pedestrians to finish crossing and for other cars to stop safely.
"If we come up to an intersection that is totally clogged, it can add 30 seconds to a minute to our response time, which can make a difference," said Coquitlam Fire and Rescue assistant chief Tom Boechler.
The system is expected to help improve response times by up to 20 per cent and increase safety at intersections.
All emergency vehicles find it difficult to move through heavy traffic, but Boechler says fire trucks are also typically larger in size than other emergency response vehicles and consequently not as maneuverable.
"Emergency driving is always a problem," he says.
"With heavy traffic, it's always a problem because you don't know what the people in front of you are going to do. They're supposed to pull over to the closest curb, but a lot of them just hit the brakes and stop."
The city estimates it will cost $290,000 to equip all of the department's fire and emergency vehicles.
Installation of the new system began in April of this year and approximately 75 percent of the vehicles have the devices installed.
Boechler believes it is money well spent.
"It may seem like a large amount of money at the beginning, but amortized over the lifetime of the system ... It's the life safety that's the issue," he says.
"One injury could make up for that cost."
320 South 11th St.
Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
Phone: (618) 204-0888