Could traffic preemption reduce fire response times and save lives?

Once overlooked as expensive and impractical, signal preemption has come a long way since the 1970s

Published on FireRescue1 - See Full Article

BY Yoona Ha, FireRescue1 BrandFocus Staff
(Posted: March 1st, 2019)

In Goshen, Indiana, the fire department saw shorter response times after using a traffic preemption system


It’s all too common and frustrating to be stuck in gridlocked traffic, unable to move your apparatus as you’re rushing to a fire. Even if you have some drivers trying to get out of the way, often many drivers simply do not see or hear your emergency response vehicle.

Every fire department wants to provide its citizens with the safest, yet fastest response time possible, but distracted drivers and general traffic are obstacles.

But what if you could turn that red light green before you got stopped? The good news is that there’s already a wireless technology known as traffic signal pre-emption that’s been around since the early 1970s. When it was first introduced, this tool was music to the ears of first responders, but it came with several challenges. Not only was it too costly for many departments, but often the preemption transmitter would have a very limited range that often didn’t give enough optimal green time for emergency vehicles to successfully pass through.

But all of that has changed over the past few years, according to Goshen Fire Department Chief Danny Sink, who says signal preemption has become an affordable option for small to mid-sized fire departments across the country.


Unfortunately fire apparatus accidents plague departments year after year. According to the United States Fire Administration, vehicle crashes account for the death of approximately 20 to 25 percent of the annual line-of-duty deaths.

Making fire safety improvements is an ongoing effort in all corners of the nation, but making those improvements without lengthening response times continues to be a challenge. Chief Sink wanted to do something to protect providers and prevent accidents from happening in advance. He looked into the Eliminator, a traffic pre-emption system, as an option to cut dispatch response times while also protecting everyone from possible collisions.

Within just a month of introducing the Eliminator to several busy intersections around Goshen, the agency saw shorter response times.

“The system allows us to work through traffic at a sustained pace, especially at some of those angled intersections that are more prone to accidents which prevent civilians from seeing our apparatus,” Sink said. “This makes us a safer department while decreasing our response times”

The Eliminator gives fire rescue staff total visibility into traffic signal pre-emption status. It also offers a touch screen that displays traffic signals and other vehicles equipped with pre-emption technology over a real time map.

“The system is completely automatic and doesn’t require any intervention on the driver’s end,” Sink said.

When combined with proper seat belt use, pre-emption technology can protect first responders in transit and save departments the hefty cost of an accident. When your emergency response vehicle collides with a civilian when the civilian has a green light there’s the question of right-of-way and liability. By changing the light to green ahead of time not only does it create a safer, faster, less congested path for your apparatus, but it also solves the problem of liability because your vehicle now has the right-of-way.


When Chief Sink looked for a pre-emption solution, he knew his department couldn’t wait for another grant cycle and had to make the purchase directly from his department budget.

Unlike pre-emption technologies that rely solely on line-of-sight optical technology, the Eliminator uses GPS positioning and 900 megahertz radio transmission to pre-empt traffic signals. But the good news is that Collision Control’s pre-emption technology is available at a price comparable to a standard optical system both at the intersection and in the vehicle (that’s a fraction of the price your typical GPS-based solution would go for.)

Drivers can see the pre-emption as it happens to traffic lights without the department needing to pay for confirmation lights in a traffic signal, which would have tagged on an additional maintenance fee. The purchase was a no-brainer, Sink says.

“Collision Control charged us a third to a half of the price I’ve seen and heard from other fire chiefs with pre-emption products,” he said.

When people call 911, they’re having an emergency and need an immediate response. The threat of a costly collision and the potential to shave precious minutes off response times make traffic signal pre-emption systems worth a second look.


Meet the Firefighter/Engineer that designed our Preemption System.

However, being a firefighter is only half the story, Adam has spent over a decade designing systems for defense contractors that use Radio and GPS. He knew from his diverse experience that existing GPS, Optical and cellular Traffic Signal Preemption System weren't meeting the two most important needs, affordability and performance.

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GPS Preemption Compatible with Optical

Do you already have an Optical Preemption System or Infrared Preemption system or commonly referenced by a brand name such as Opticom ®, Emtrac ®, Tomar ®, Strobecom ® or MIRT ®? Upgrading to a GPS Traffic Signal Preemption System is affordable and simple.

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FireRescue1 Industry Article

Could traffic preemption reduce fire response times and save lives? Once overlooked as expensive and impractical, signal preemption has come a long way since the 1970s

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Fire Departments

As the call comes in and your department is focused on digesting and learning the circumstances of the emergency and the scene while enroute, traffic should not be a major consideration. Today�s electronically distracted drivers have made the opposite even more true. Motorists already respond to the presence of an emergency vehicle differently but often distracted drivers do not react at all.

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Police Departments

The Eliminator Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) System provides specific features designed for Police Departments. Most EVP systems use ETA or GEO windows to define when or where preemptions occur. However Police Cars typically travel at a higher rate of speed than Fire and EMS, specifically faster than the larger vehicles such as Engines, Tankers, and Ladder Trucks.

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From the moment an emergency run begins, there is potential for an even greater disaster; colliding with another vehicle enroute to the scene of the emergency. This often results in that vehicle and its occupant(s) becoming an additional emergency incident to address. Many cities have experienced an increase in collisions with emergency vehicles at intersections, but emergency vehicle preemption has been shown to effectively reduce the probability of these collisions by giving ambulances the right of way.

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