Three tools for firefighter road safety

Learning modules, study and updated manual established for on-road safety

Dealing with a motor vehicle collision on moderate to heavily trafficked road is one of the greatest dangers for firefighters. Now, three new interrelated resources are available for keeping firefighters and other emergency personnel safe when operating on a roadway.

Federal statistics show that from 1996 through 2010, 22 percent of the firefighter deaths were attributed to some form of vehicle collision. During those years, 70 firefighters were killed when struck by a vehicle.

Some solutions
Free, online training modules that teach emergency responder safety on highway incidents are now available at, a joint venture between the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association's Emergency Responder Safety Institute and VFIS.

VFIS and ERSI made a joint announcement about the program at FDIC.

"This network is the culmination of over 13 years of hard work by ERSI to educate highway incident responders about the dangers of working in moving traffic and the negative impact traffic congestion has on secondary accident frequency," said Stephen Austin, ERSI's project manager.

The group is working with a $300,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to create 14, 30-minute-long highway-training modules. The module that is ready now covers which advanced warning devices to use and where to deploy them.

The second module, which is near completion, covers proper traffic blocking techniques that allow traffic to flow. It examines when it is best to use emergency vehicles in a linear position and when it is best to use them in a blocking position.

A third module, also near completion, will present the National Unified Goal as a roadmap for multiple agencies and multiple jurisdictions to carry out consistent traffic-incident management.

Certificates are available for those who successfully complete a module. Also, the Fire Department Safety Officers Association is offering continuing education units for completing the modules that are credited toward Pro Board accredited safety officers' programs.

The modules were developed and vetted by experts in various disciplines, including fire, police, EMS, departments of transportation, towing and recovery who represented federal, state and local government, private sector, nonprofit agencies and professional associations.

Driver behavior
ESRI also worked with insurance provider VFIS's education, training and consulting division on a research project that examined the effectiveness of public service announcements and brochures on the public's driving behavior near emergency vehicles.

Part of the research involved placing subjects in driving simulators both before and after seeing a public service announcement on safety near emergency vehicles, said VFIS Executive Vice President William Jenaway. "More than 80 percent who saw the PSA, changed their behavior," he said.

The research also involved a literature review and an evaluation of currently available public service announcements.

From the Feds
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fire Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the International Fire Service Training Association have released the 2012 version of the Traffic Incident Management Systems manual. That manual was last updated in 2008.

This nearly 100-page manual includes research, case studies and recommendations.

"Effective traffic incident management can enhance roadway safety for firefighters and other emergency responders of which too many have been killed on duty from being struck by vehicles," said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell.

Some of the manual's research findings include a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that looked at fatalities among volunteers from 2003 to 2007 and found that more than half of the volunteer firefighter fatalities were related to a vehicle collision. Firefighter deaths involving vehicles were highest for those in personally operated vehicles, many responding to or from a scene.

A similar study looked at firefighter injuries due to vehicle collisions and found that the percentage of those injuries compared with all injuries never rose above 2 percent. The study looked at 1995 through 2010.

The updated report includes 17 recommendations for improving emergency responder safety. Some of those recommendations are:

  • Limiting the speed of responding emergency vehicles
  • Equipping emergency vehicles with the necessary traffic-control and safety equipment
  • Properly train those who flag traffic
  • Ensure personnel wear approved reflective vests
  • Mark emergency vehicle perimeters with reflective striping
  • Extinguish forward-facing vehicle lights
  • Position the initial arriving vehicle in a blocking position toward oncoming traffic
  • Train responders on roadway hazards and safety procedures.

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