Marked and Seen – Rear Apparatus Visibility

Editor's Note: Be sure to also check out more suggestions by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute in Innovations in Apparatus Conspicuity.

By Steve Austin
Project Manager
Emergency Responder Safety Institute  

View this video to see how some fire departments have already retro-fitted existing vehicles to make them more visible from the rear.
The latest revision to NFPA 1901 Standard for Motorized Fire Apparatus became effective in January. Already departments are taking delivery of apparatus that is marked with high visibility red and yellow/lime retro-reflective materials arranged in a chevron pattern covering a minimum of 50 percent of the rear.

The move to mark fire apparatus and ambulances (that aren't covered under NFPA 1901) began about 10 years ago when progressive departments such as that in Plano, Texas, became concerned with secondary crashes involving fire department vehicles.

Their work, along with other departments across the country, contributed to the development of the new standard.

Questions have arisen about the standard especially about why the colors must be red and lime/yellow. The answer lies in the meaning of a "standard." Essentially, in order for a standard to be the most effective in protecting emergency responders, the uniformity of design and color must be same.

By the end of 2009, without any specialized training, the entire public safety community will recognize fire apparatus parked on the roadway as they approach from the rear thanks to departments implementing the standard.

In addition, early recognition of fire apparatus working on the roadway should alert drivers to slow down and move over. This desired result would not be as effective if every community marked the rear of their apparatus with a whole host of colors rather than those that would lead to a standardized recognition.

Highway incident scene safety has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce deaths and injuries to firefighters, police officers and other responders. Just as high-visibility vests are helping to protect personnel, so will standardized marking on the rear of apparatus.

Reacting to the requests from fire departments who wish to retrofit their existing fleets to make them more visible, the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association Emergency Responder Safety Institute has posted new materials.

A video produced through a grant from the Sheriff's Association of Texas offers solutions and explains the principles that departments should keep in mind as they upgrade their vehicles.

The video, which can be seen at the top of this article, is called "Marked and Seen" and offers ideas and solutions to retrofit older apparatus to meet and even exceed NFPA 1901.

The CVVFA Emergency Responder Safety Institute and a host of fire departments and associations encourage improvements in rear visibility. How visible is your fleet?

Steve Austin is the manager of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association's Protecting Emergency Responders on the Highways project.  In addition, he is project manager of the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, which serves as an informal advisory panel of public safety leaders committed to reducing deaths and injuries to emergency responders in the United States. To view the range of materials it has put together for NFPA 1901, go to Contact Steve at

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