Las Vegas private ambulances hope to use changing light tech - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Las Vegas private ambulances hope to use changing traffic light technology

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Private ambulances in southern Nevada are hoping to improve emergency response times in the valley.

They want to use technology already used by other first responders, and both Clark County and the city of Las Vegas are drafting ordinances to make it happen.

"Our primary purpose for asking for the device is the safety of the public, our employees and our patients," said Michael Gorman, general manager for American Medical Response.

The device is an Opticom emitter, something private ambulances in southern Nevada don't have, but Gorman says could save a lot of time and lives.

"In a 911 call, seconds matter, so the sooner we can get to a call, the better," Gorman told FOX5.

Here's how it works - the emitter flashes an infrared signal, which is next to impossible to duplicate, and when the Opticom sensor on top of the traffic light sees it, it'll change the light green in favor of the approaching emergency vehicle.

Gorman says that would be a vast improvement to how a private ambulance currently must approach an intersection with a red light.

"They look both ways, they try to clear the intersection and slowly then move through it as safe as they can," Gorman said.

That type of approach can quickly turn deadly.

On Sept. 4, a 63-year-old woman died after the ambulance she was riding in was struck by a truck and flipped near Decatur and Craig.

The driver of the truck, two firefighters and two MedicWest workers were also taken to the hospital.

Gorman's company also operates Medic West Ambulance.

"You'll see an ambulance coming and you pull over and people just keep driving. They don't see it or don't hear it and for some reason just aren't paying attention. But red lights and green lights people pay attention to," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

Sisolak said he's in favor of allowing the private ambulances the emitters, especially since the infrastructure is already there for police and fire vehicles.

He said that means the only cost is on AMR's end, not the county's.

But Sisolak said there is some opposed to allowing too many emitters on the roads.

"The contractors are saying that if there's too many of these things on different vehicles the lights are going to be turning a lot. I don't see it as being that big of a problem," Sisolak told FOX5.

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