Safe Parking – Part 5: Special Safety Equipment

SUBJECT: Safety Procedures When Working In or Near Moving Traffic TOPIC: Highway Safety Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Signaling Equipment OBJECTIVE: Understand the specifications, application...


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Section 6C.02 of the MUTCD recommends that when flares are used to initiate temporary traffic control at incidents, they should be replaced by more permanent devices such as cones or barricades as soon as practical. Flares work well at night to warn motorists of lane changes and merges due to the bright red light they emit as they burn. The visibility of traffic cones can be increased under night conditions by deploying flares and cones together. When flares are placed near a traffic cone, the light given off by the flare not only warns upstream traffic, but illuminates the cone as well.

APPARATUS CHEVRON STRIPING

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Photo By Ron Moore
The MUTCD-compliant chevron striping pattern on the rear of this Plano, TX, ambulance clearly shows the retro-reflective performance of this highway safety system.

One of the advantages of quick-clearance operations (time on scene less than 30 minutes) at highway incidents is that we are considered a temporary work zone instead of the full work zone if we operate for a longer period. As a temporary work zone, MUTCD Section 6G-3 allows use of more simplified traffic control procedures. For example, appropriately colored or marked vehicles can be initially used as advance warning prior to deploying portable warning and control equipment such as signs, cones, and flares.

Introduced in the U.S. by Chief Bill Peterson of the Plano, TX, Fire Department after extensive visits to England, rear chevron patterns are becoming popular as rear visibility warning for major apparatus. Plano has applied retro-reflective red and lime-green material on the rear of its engines, ladder trucks and ambulances.

Officially classified by the DOT’s highway code as a “vertical panel,” the alternating red and green, red and white, and even blue and yellow patterns provide approaching traffic with remarkably improved visibility of the apparatus ahead. The Arlington, TX, Fire Department has gone one step further with its apparatus visibility efforts. The front bumper of its newest apparatus has the highway chevron pattern affixed to it as well. Because this will work well only when the apparatus headlights are turned off, Arlington designed its rigs to shed the headlights when the parking brake is activated.

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Photo By Ron Moore
Do NOT orient your chevron striping like this! The stripes must slant downward towards the lower outside corners. When MUTCD-compliant, the striping pattern will resemble an inverted V.

To comply with MUTCD Section 6F.57, the chevron pattern stripes should slant downward on both sides of the vehicle at an angle of 45 degrees, pointing in the direction of the bottom rear corner of the tailboard. The pattern should resemble an inverted V with the point of the V at the top center of the apparatus.

ARROW PANEL

Many police department units as well as fire department vehicles are being equipped with arrow panels. An arrow panel consists of a series of horizontal amber lamps that light sequentially to indicate a direction of travel to an approaching motorist. The DOT requires that they be able to be dimmed to half power when used at night to prevent blinding of approaching traffic. Officially, to be DOT-compliant, arrow panels have to be a minimum of four feet in length.

The difference between what you see on the roof of a police cruiser and what you see at road construction sites is that the road repair work zone arrow boards have a pointed arrow head with a minimum size of 24 inches as required by MUTCD Section 6F.53. This is the critical design flaw that exists with the standard arrow panels used by emergency responders. Without a significant size pointed arrow head, all the motorist sees as they approach the scene is a confusing array of yellow lights blinking on and off.

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Courtesy of Captain Rick Elvey/Calgary FD
Members of the Calgary Fire Department in Alberta, Canada, wear Class III jackets while deploying cones at an extended-duration traffic incident on a major highway. The large arrowboard, installed on the rear turntable of all fire department quint apparatus, provides clear directions for upstream traffic.

The Calgary Fire Depart-ment in Alberta, Canada, mounted the larger-size arrow boards on the rear of its apparatus to specifically address this shortcoming. Responders are reminded: do not trust effective traffic direction to our present-day arrow panels. They are ineffective and should not be relied upon for emergency scene traffic control.

AMBER LIGHTS ON APPARATUS