Roadway Incident Safety for Firefighters
Category: Fire & Rescue
Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for fire service personnel. Today I am going to talk about safely operating on the highway.
When you arrive on scene, make sure to do a mental size-up of your escape routes. Have a plan of where you can escape to or bail out safely if a rogue vehicle enters your scene.
Roadways are one of the most dangerous places where firefighters routinely operate. This is due to a number of reasons, but the most common problem seems to be distracted drivers. Drivers are distracted by phones, GPS, food, makeup, kids, other drivers, and just about everything else. Firefighters could be working daylight with 20 miles of visibility and some drivers still wouldn’t see them. Why?! Because they are distracted!
Knowing that many drivers on the road are distracted means fire service personnel operating on roadway incidents need to be ever vigilant. When you go into a structure fire, you make sure you have more than one way out. You also make sure that you’re wearing your gear. The same rules of self-preservation apply to roadway incidents.
When you arrive on scene, make sure to do a mental size-up of your escape routes. Have a plan of where you can escape to or bail out safely if a rogue vehicle enters your scene. And always wear the appropriate high-visibility garments.
Many departments use cones to close off traffic lanes. Others use flaggers or rely on their law enforcement brothers and sisters, fire police, or DOT workers to direct traffic around the scene. These can all be effective, with one variable. They all rely on the oncoming driver paying attention.
That’s where fire apparatus come into play. A twenty-five-ton engine or a ladder truck can be a useful tool to close down traffic lanes and provide a significant amount of protection to the crews working on the scene. That is, if they are positioned correctly. Apparatus should be angled to block off an area around the scene. This will help create a safety zone for personnel. Some departments use a decommissioned but road-ready rig for this purpose. It can be a great way to recycle that engine with a bad pump without placing newer apparatus in harm’s way.
Even with the scene adequately blocked, personnel need to pay close attention to the traffic around them. Be sure to avoid turning your back on traffic and wear your high-visibility vests or coats. Finally, listen for odd sounds like screeching brakes or yelling voices.
While no roadway scene is going to be completely safe for responding personnel, these are a few of the action items that can increase safety and reduce risk. Remember, there is no substitute for solid situational awareness.
For more information on this please visit respondersafety.com.
And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.