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|SUBJECT:||Safety Procedures When Working In or Near Moving Traffic|
|TOPIC:||Highway Terminology for Emergency Responders|
|OBJECTIVE:||Identify specific locations of a highway incident scene using the safe parking program recommended standardized terminology.|
|TASK:||Upon study of this material and given any street, road or highway location within your response district, the reader will be able to identify specific locations using standardized highway terminology.|
Photo by Ron Moore
Identification of the lanes of this expressway begin on the right with lane 1 and move left for lane 2, lane 3 and lane 4. The right shoulder is also referred to as the outside. The inside is also the left shoulder. The same system is used to identify the lanes of the service road and the opposing lanes of traffic.
Standardized names and terms have been developed to identify specific features of any street, road, or highway where an incident may occur. A first-due police or fire officer can use these standardized terms at a highway incident to direct the placement of apparatus and personnel as they arrive at the scene.
Common highway terminology will reduce confusion, improve the safety of responders and make operations at the scene more efficient:
Lanes of the roadway. The lanes of a street, road or highway can be identified by a number, beginning with the number 1. When facing in the direction that traffic is flowing, the traveled lane of the road furthest to the right is identified as lane 1. If there are two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, the lane to the immediate left of lane 1 is identified as lane 2, followed by lane 3, the next lane to the left and so on. The way to remember this is the lower lane number is typically the slower vehicle speed lane.
Photo by Ron Moore
This rural two-lane road runs north and south. Identification of the lanes is simple; the lane directly in front of the camera is lane 1 northbound. The right shoulder is the grassy area at the right of this image. The opposing traffic lane is lane 1 southbound. The southbound right shoulder is where the mailbox and driveway culvert are located.
Right and left. Orientation to right and left are based upon facing in the direction that traffic is flowing. Left is always to the driver's left and right is to the driver's right.
Inside and outside. Inside and outside are terms given to the sides of the highway when facing in the direction that traffic is flowing. Inside refers to the driver's left side of the highway or lane and is commonly used to refer to the middle median or divider of a divided highway. Outside is the name given to the far right of the traveled lanes of a road or highway. Police agencies typically refer to the inside or outside lanes of a multi-lane expressway.
Upstream and downstream. Upstream refers to any area of a highway or any moving traffic that is approaching the actual incident or activity area. Downstream refers to that area that is past the incident scene. Thinking of water as it flows down a stream will assist in remembering the upstream/downstream terms.
Photo by Ron Moore
This is a three-lane roadway with all three lanes of traffic traveling in one direction. The engine is blocking lanes 3 and 2. Lane 1 remains open so traffic can flow past the incident scene.
Block. Positioning an apparatus or other vehicle at an angle across one or more lanes of traffic to shield the activity area at an incident scene is known as a block. Blocks are made "to the right" or "to the left" depending upon which way the unit is positioned at the scene.
Activity area. The area at an incident scene that is protected from moving traffic because of the placement of a blocking vehicle is referred to as the activity area. This is an officially recognized term in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration. All fire, EMS, and rescue operations should take place within the protected activity area at an incident scene when working in or near moving traffic. The activity area is on the downstream side of a blocking apparatus.