Hays County first responders utilizing new technology for safer, faster response

As the population of Hays County grows, first responders are implementing new technology to help increase safety and efficiency when responding to emergency calls.

"From about 3 p.m. to almost 7 p.m. every evening, it’s gridlock at all the red lights," said Chief Kyle Taylor of the Kyle Fire Department, also known as Hays County Emergency Services District No. 5. "In the ten years I’ve been here, the response time has tripled."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the City of Kyle was roughly 6,000 in 2000. In 2010, it was about 28,000. As of 2021, the city’s population was more than 51,000. The population of Kyle octupled in two decades.

For about a month now, the Kyle Fire Department has been using Global Traffic Technologies (GTT), Opticom Cloud Platform, an emergency vehicle technology.

A device in a fire engine, for example, can be triggered by releasing the parking brake and turning on the emergency lights as the vehicle approaches an intersection.

With the help of GPS, it can tell which direction the vehicle is traveling and which red light the vehicle is about to hit and send a signal. The corresponding red light will then turn green.

Chief Taylor noted the system hasn’t been utilized long enough by KFD for hard data but they have noticed a change.

"From what I understand from our firefighters and police officers, there’s been a huge improvement," said Chief Taylor, who thanked the City of Kyle for providing the funding.

The Kyle Police Department initially implemented the system to use at 19 intersections and within 50 units. Now, it’s also being used by KFD as well as San Marcos Hays County EMS.

Firefighter Declan Trevethan pointed out that it not only allows for faster response times, it also increases safety for the firefighters themselves and the other drivers in the intersection at the time.

"Whenever we’re passing through a red light, we’re having to weave between cars…we run the chance of getting t-boned," said Trevethan. "It’s been absolutely a night and day difference between having to fight people who are trying to get that last little bit of their green light versus now their light is red, and it lets us get through with no hassle." 

Along with the new technology, KFD’s fourth engine hit the street on Sunday. The department has also started the bidding process for construction on a fourth station.