San Jose Fire Department

San Jose Leaders Approve New System to Aid Police and Fire Response

San Jose city leaders took a big step Tuesday to try to help emergency response vehicles get to critical situations in the midst of heavy Silicon Valley traffic.

The San Jose City Council unanimously approved spending $600,000 to upgrade its traffic system with the so-called emergency vehicle preemption system that uses new software that ensures traffic lights are green for crews on their path to an emergency.

"This technology allows us to change the signal in our favor to green and turn the other signals to red, and that would alert cars that they need to stop," San Jose deputy fire chief Mike Patterson said.

The new system will eventually be merged with the signal lights in about a third of the city that already are hooked up with sensors, the chief said. Mayor Sam Liccardo praised the fire department for coming up with the system because hooking up all of the city's lights with sensors would have cost $9 million.

The San Jose Fire Department has taken a lot of public criticism for not meeting required response times to emergencies. The department, in fact, has been penalized by the county for not making its contractually required response times of 8 minutes to emergencies.

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