Harris County Emergency Services District No. 16 leads Traffic Signal Preemption Project

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 16 (ESD 16) has taken the first steps in upgrading the local traffic signal light preemption system in the North Harris County area to the latest Opticom™ GPS System. This project is being undertaken in conjunction with neighboring emergency services districts that have contracted with Global Traffic Technologies (GTT) to provide the upgrade to the traffic signals in the region.

ESD 16 has initiated this project to provide a safer environment for the greater Klein and North Harris County community.

There are two major benefits to be gained from this program. First and foremost, the goal of a traffic signal light preemption program is to get firefighters, ambulances and equipment to the public faster and safer. It is believed that these traffic signal light preemption systems can reduce response times by 60 to 90 seconds, and sometimes more, which allows an emergency responder to reach the scene faster.

The second benefit relates to fire personnel and fire apparatus safety. Apparatus are large and heavy (especially when carrying water), and are harder to stop or swerve to avoid congestion or stray vehicles that miss a light change. If a fire truck collides with vehicles in the roadway, fire apparatus goes out of service, people are injured and tax dollars are wasted. Since more firefighters are injured or killed in-route to a scene than in a fire event, it is also hoped that this program will save lives.

The system is entirely redundant, ensuring that when the primary communication from emergency vehicles to the traffic preemption system fails, a secondary system automatically takes over to prevent any lapse in functionality. Further, the system is monitored 24/7 by GTT, who will receive an alert if any equipment proves faulty and can immediately dispatch a technician to correct the issue.

ESD 16’s funding of this initiative comes from the district’s property tax revenue. While each participant with the project is funding their own district’s portion, ESD 16 has led the way by (1) researching and evaluating the different traffic systems available, (2) coordinating the commercial contracts, (3) negotiating interlocal agreements with Harris County Engineering and (4) cooperating to provide proof-of-performance testing on intersections within the ESD 16 district boundaries. ESD 16 has been leading the way in this area for a very long time. The previous system being replaced was managed by ESD 16 for almost a decade. The technical experience and intersection database previously maintained by ESD 16 for the northwest Harris County region was key in moving forward with the system upgrade.

These GPS-based emergency vehicle preemption devices will allow mutual-aid agencies to be better served in assisting one another. The Opticom™ GPS System by GTT provides unique, precise control that anticipates vehicle movement and helps responders reach their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.

Once this initiative is completed, it is hoped that response times will be reduced and responses will be safer for apparatus and residential drivers alike.

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