City looks at GPS system to help emergency responders

City looks at GPS system to help emergency responders

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - For years, the city of Jonesboro has looked at getting equipment to get emergency responders to the scene quicker and safer.

The GPS equipment would send signals between traffic lights and emergency response vehicles, giving responders like fire, police and EMT the green light in an emergency situation.

"The traffic situation has continued to grow and amplify over the years," Jonesboro Fire Chief Kevin Miller told Region 8 News."Morning rush hour, noon, 5 o'clock rush hour. Response times are definitely impeded in those areas."

While traffic might be frustrating for drivers, Chief Miller said it can equal wasted time and dangerous situations for emergency responders.

"We may not necessarily have the green light on our side, so we're having to rely on the public to stop, recognize the situation, identify that we're there, stop and give us the right of way through the intersections," Miller said. "In today's society, traffic congestion, a lot of people being distracted, this sort of thing, that becomes more and more of an issue."

Though the city has been interested in obtaining the equipment for years, budget constraints have kept them from doing so.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting however, the city received the first green light to purchase the GPS system and received a $36,000 grant from State Representative Harold Copenhaver to cover part of the cost.

"This first initial phase is only for 18 traffic lights," Miller explained. The GPS system will also be installed in 12 fire trucks.

Miller said there are over 80 traffic lights or "controlled intersections" in the city but it's those busy intersections that will get the GPS units first.

“Red Wolf Boulevard, Highland, Caraway, Main Street area.”

Miller explained that motorists likely won't notice much of a difference.

"Most common thing that might appear is that when we're approaching an intersection in an emergency capacity, the light that they may be approaching may turn red sooner than what they're expecting," Miller said.

However, the traffic light will still go through its normal phases from green to yellow to red.

Miller added that the system will only activate if an emergency response vehicle with that GPS system approaches with its lights and sirens going.

"Once the truck has moved through that intersection, the light goes back into its normal cycle."

Miller said the software costs thousands of dollars to install in both the fire trucks and on the stoplights. Approval of the purchase still has to go before the full city council for approval.

Mayor Harold Perrin told Region 8 News that the bid for the equipment came in under $90,000. While they received a significant grant from Representative Copenhaver, the city will budget a certain amount annually to complete the project and continue to search for available grants.

If approved, Miller said the city hopes to add the GPS system to more intersections over the years as well as more emergency response vehicles like police cars.

As ambulance services are private companies, Miller said they would have to purchase the GPS system on their own.

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