Sandy Springs is purchasing technology to automatically give fire trucks and ambulances green lights as they drive to emergency locations.

The $676,284.44 contract, which was approved at a Feb. 18 council meeting, will use a technology product called Glance. Using GPS, wireless communication and route-predicting software, the system changes specially outfitted traffic signals to green ahead of the emergency vehicle and red on cross streets.

The contract will outfit all 26 fire and EMS vehicles and 113 traffic signals, plus setup and five years of “connectivity and support services,” a city memo said.

The city’s ever-increasing traffic is an ongoing concern for the Sandy Springs Fire Department, which purchased smaller, more nimble trucks in recent years partly to get through the congestion. “An ongoing challenge is maneuvering around stopped traffic and traffic queuing at the intersections,” a press release said.

City Councilmember John Paulson questioned if the new technology will disrupt the traffic signals’ normal timing.

“We have lights out there that are tuned in time like Swiss watches,” Paulson said at the meeting. “Does the timing of that particular intersection go back to its normally scheduled timing?”

Traffic Unit Manager Kristen Wescott said the system can respond quickly and will not disrupt the timing of the lights.

“Once [the vehicles pass through], the signals can resume to normal operation,” Wescott said.

Wescott said the technology is a data-intensive collecting system so the city can look at reports and make changes if need be.

The proposal comes at the same time the city intends to build a temporary fire station at Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway, a heavily used intersection where vehicle access is pegged as a major challenge.

The city claims the technology, created by a company called Applied Information, can reduce response times by up to 20%.

“With preemption technology, the city estimates a savings of approximately 10-12 seconds per intersection or an overall savings of 20 percent in response time,” the release said.

According to the memo, the 2018 average response time for an EMS call was 7 minutes, 59 seconds 94% of the time, and for a fire call was 10 minutes, 19 seconds 90% of the time.

According to the release, the fire department received more than 14,000 calls for service in 2019.

The installation on all vehicles should be completed by the end of 2020, Wescott said at the Feb. 18 meeting.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.