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New system could help Mesa firefighters respond safer, faster

Posted: 4:56 PM, Dec 06, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-07 04:53:17Z

Mesa traffic engineers and the city’s fire department are testing a GPS-based system for preempting traffic signals that could reduce crash rates and improve response times in the city.
 
In certain areas, crews “get in a lot of congestion and, sometimes — while responding ‘code 3’ to an emergency — actually have to stop,” said Mesa Fire and Medical Deputy Chief Brian Yox.
 
The city is testing GPS systems in two locations: 

  • Power Road between Southern Avenue & Guadalupe Road
  • Dobson Road between Southern Avenue & Guadalupe Road

The current system used in Mesa and most other Valley cities involves sensors on or near traffic signals and strobe-emitting devices on individual trucks that must be within visual view to prompt a signal change. 

The GPS system, however, is tied to the city’s traffic center and monitors a truck’s location in real-time. Yox said it’s able to analyze a truck’s current location, whether or not a turn signal is engaged and change traffic lights en route to an emergency long before the truck arrives to the intersection. 

“It dramatically increases the safety,” Yox said, for firefighters, pedestrians and citizen drivers.

Opticom, one of the vendors being tested, claims the GPS system can reduce intersection crash rates by up to 70 percent and improve response times by up to 25 percent. Yox said since the pilot program launched in October, they’ve seen even more promising results. 

“[Firefighters] are actually stating to me that the response times are decreasing and they’re able to get to areas along Dobson twice as fast as they were initially,” he said. 

The pilot program is expected to last for around a year and Mesa is already evaluating potential grants or funding to expand the system city-wide.