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Roadway responses: It's a 2-way street

Various resources are available to all public safety agencies to use and learn from

By Mike Wieder

A column that I read on this website recently regarding fire and police interactions at roadway incident scenes caught my attention. Without reciting the entire column, there were several items within the piece that particularly popped out.

One was the assertion that the various major fire service organizations have done nothing to address this situation and that they needed to get involved. While the article was written tongue in cheek, I felt it was important to highlight the good work that has been done to address the issue of multi-agency cooperation.

The fact is that many of the national fire service associations have been working on these issues for a number of years. There are a variety of training materials on these topics already available on this issue. Members of these organizations have been very visible around all of North America presenting these lessons at seminars, conferences, and local fire departments.

Much of the information that is currently available was made possible by the United States Fire Administration’s effort to reduce firefighter injuries and fatalities. Traffic collision and firefighter struck-by incidents on the roadway are consistently the second-leading cause (25 percent) of firefighter fatalities each and every year.

They also have been the leading cause of police officer fatalities for the past 12 consecutive years. Struck-by fatalities, in particular, have slowly risen in recent years. The USFA has engaged numerous organizations to assist in developing and delivering information and training on this issue through cooperative research agreements.

The following is a summary of the various projects that have been completed to date. Most of these are available for download from the Internet at no cost.

  • Guide to Model Procedures for Emergency Vehicle Safety
    This was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Emergency Vehicle Response and Roadway Incident Safety for the Career Fire Service
    This was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the International Association of Fire Fighters. This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Best Practices for Emergency Vehicle and Roadway Operations Safety in the Emergency Services
    This was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the IAFF. Funding was also provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. This document addresses all agencies that respond to roadway incidents including the fire service, EMS, law enforcement, DOT first responders and others. This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Effects of Warning Lamp Color and Intensity on Driver Vision
    This report was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Effects of Warning Lamps on Pedestrian Visibility and Driver Behavior
    This report was also developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the SAE. This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Emergency Vehicle Safe Operations for Volunteer and Small Combination Emergency Service Organizations
    This report was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the National Volunteer Fire Council. This program can be downloaded for free from the following website.
  • Traffic Incident Management Systems
    This report was developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the International Fire Service Training Association Numerous fire and law enforcement agencies were represented in its development. Download a free copy of the report here.
  • Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Study
    This report was also developed through a cooperative agreement between the USFA and the IFSTA. Funding was provided by the U.S. DOJ National Institute of Justice. Download a free copy of report here.
  • Highway Incident Safety for First Responders
    These training materials were developed by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute. Their main website is www.respondersafety.com. Their training videos and tools are available here.
  • IMS Model Procedures Guide for Highway Incidents
    This textbook was developed by the National Incident Management System Consortium through funding provided by the U.S. DOJ. Developers included representatives of fire, EMS, law enforcement, and public works agencies. It can be purchased at www.ifsta.org.

This list clearly indicates that an enormous amount of attention has been paid to this issue. These documents are being used for training and education within all of the various response disciplines who work at roadway emergencies.

Based on incident reports, it is very clear that many emergency response agencies and individuals, including the fire service, have yet to address or embrace many of the concepts covered in these reports or applicable national standards.

It is easy for firefighters to point at police officers and say that the police are compromising their safety related to blocking issues. However, it is also easy to travel around the country and see firefighters who are operating on the roadway without wearing appropriate safety vests and operating outside the protected area.

Many of the agencies and personnel who respond to roadway incidents, including the fire service, still have a long way to go from a safety standpoint.

The entire issue really boils down to a few issues. All response agencies must develop and enforce standard operating procedures that emphasize safe operations at roadway incidents.

All of the agencies that respond to these incidents, including fire, police, EMS, and other agencies, should participate in pre-incident planning so that any potential conflicts that may occur in the various SOPs can be resolved in a conference room, not on the shoulder of a highway.

Lastly, each individual who responds to these incidents must take accountability for their own actions and do the right things.

Mike Wieder serves as Associate Director at Fire Protection Publications and the Executive Director of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. Mike holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in fire protection, occupational safety, and adult education. He has written more than 35 books and major government reports, including several of the reports listed in this article.




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