Preemption, in one form or another, has been in existence for 40+ years. It has transitioned from optically based to GPS and has included sirens, sound activated systems, and even switchboards that connect circuits across town. In all cases, these solutions address the challenge of getting emergency vehicles to the scene as quickly and as safely as possible.
When city leaders debate the installation of a preemption system, there are several things to consider while making a decision, especially if experience among leaders is limited. Let’s look at an overview of the process and what needs to be done.
1. Determine the needs and purpose of the installation
While the right preemption and priority system will offer a solution to many current and future challenges, the city’s immediate need and its leaders’ expectations need to be evaluated.
If your agency has never deployed a preemption system, it’s beneficial to do an analysis to determine what purpose the system will serve. Both the traffic and the emergency services departments often have different objectives for pursuing a preemption system, so an assessment is a critical first step.
Agencies who are interested in upgrading or modernizing their system have experience trying to manage the different needs and opinions of the two departments. Historically, emergency services benefit the most while the traffic department deals with complaints, maintenance issues, and the expense of the system. That’s where the value of the reporting, diagnostics, and communication features comes into play since it benefits both sides.
It also adds another layer of value to those agencies by connecting all the traffic controllers to their network. The traffic side wants their controllers connected to the system so they can more efficiently manage, update, and monitor activity. When they realize the preemption system also offers a connection to utilize the pass-through for their traffic controller, their opinion transitions from burdensome to beneficial.
2. Consult with a provider
Installing or upgrading to a preemption system is an investment that will last for years, so it requires education, guidance, and answers that will help you make an informed decision.
Consulting is a major component. Initially, you’ll talk broadly about capability and requirements, but part of the assessment is reviewing specifics about current equipment and the ability to operate at a level that is in line with installing a preemption system. You’ll need to address the potential updating, upgrading, or replacement of older equipment to accommodate the new features. It’s important to assess the situation upfront so that you’re clear on the total cost of your equipment, the cost of the new system, and any other costs that might be involved beyond the preemption system.
3. Site visits and due diligence
While many city leaders have heard anecdotal stories of the benefits of preemption systems, seeing a system first hand is a tremendously beneficial way to see how modern-day systems work. Before engaging with a provider, it’s important to clearly understand what the preemption system can deliver.
Cities that are interested in more information often personally visit different locations and speak with those who were closest to the installation as well as current operators of the system. Don’t be afraid to ask bold questions about work, maintenance issues, capabilities, and opinions about service and the provider.
It’s easier than ever to see how the final product works and the benefits it can bring to your community. Once you have your objectives in line, your expectations accurately set and your homework done, you’ll be able to make a confident decision about implementing, and reaping the efficiency and safety benefits, of a preemption system.