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Non-emergency vehicle response reduces accidents

Submitted by Steve Pegram, FireRescue1 Columnist

There has been a lot of talk lately about when and if it is necessary for fire apparatus to respond with lights and sirens to emergency calls. Some supporters of the non-emergency or "on-the-quiet" responses say it has helped reduce the frequency and seriousness of accidents involving emergency responders. Most of those that are against non-emergency responses are concerned that response time will be negatively affected by responding with normal traffic.

What if the call is more serious than what you were dispatched for? What if the fire spreads? What if the patient condition gets worse? What if someone steps on or touches that downed phone line and is electrocuted while the engine company sits in traffic? The "what ifs" are endless. Each community must do a risk benefit analysis of their response and determine when it should use a non-emergency or "on-the-quiet" response.

Below is one example of a policy some departments have implemented to address non-emergency responses. Regardless of what policy your department chooses to follow, so far statistics have shown that running "on the quiet" does reduce apparatus accidents. What does your department do?

Automatic alarm activation includes: smoke detector, heat detector and sprinkler alarms. The automatic alarm activation details, with no reports of fire or smoke, could be handled as follows:

  • The first-due company shall initiate an emergency response.
  • Remaining units will follow with non-emergency response.
  • The ranking officer on the scene may choose to upgrade the units to emergency if the first-arriving unit and/or further updates from dispatcher indicate more serious conditions exist.

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