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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All the highway safety specialists who study traffic signaling and warning devices agree that the rear lights on emergency vehicles parked at a highway scene should be amber. Many fire departments have adopted the amber rear warning light system.

In situations such as multi-lane freeways, it is recommended to “shed,” or turn off, all forward-facing emergency lights that affect traffic in the oncoming lanes. Light shedding reduces rubbernecking and prevents secondary crashes, especially in the opposing lanes of traffic on the other side of a divided highway.

FLASHLIGHTS

What To Do in the Early Stages

Emergency workers are exempt from full MUTCD requirements for traffic control during the initial phase of a highway incident until they have adequate time to raise the level of traffic control. The earliest time frame listed in the MUTCD for deployment of traffic control devices beyond the basic cones, flares or fluorescent pink signs is the period from 30 minutes after scene arrival. After this operational period, it is expected that law enforcement and local or state highway agencies would be on-scene and have established compliant traffic control that fully meets at least the minimum standards for the extended incident.
It is recommended that any traffic control established by emergency responders is better than nothing in the early stages, even if it doesn’t completely comply with MUTCD. Fire departments should accept the responsibility for a minimum level of traffic control devices carried on each responding apparatus; apparatus chevron vertical panel markings, eight 28-inch cones, one retro-reflective fluorescent pink sign, and a supply of warning flares.

There are specially designed orange cones that fit over the end of a flashlight to improve their usefulness for traffic control. Manufacturers today also have created flashlights where the orange cone not only glows but has small LED lights inside of it that flash on and off.

STOP/SLOW PADDLES

The MUTCD includes several guidelines covering use of the stop/slow traffic paddle. Typically used by flaggers at highway work sites, the 18-by-18-inch paddle is easily recognizable by approaching traffic. In fact, the DOT considers the paddle as the primary and preferred temporary traffic control signaling device because it gives upstream traffic positive guidance. Newer paddle designs now incorporate one or two flashing lights to draw attention of the signaling during low-light conditions.

Experienced responders have used the stop/slow paddle tool for many years for traffic direction. This simple tool is much better than waving your arms!

FLAGS

The DOT recognizes specially designed flags as approved traffic signaling devices. The flags consist of a minimum of 24 by 24 inches of retro-reflectorized red material, weighted along the bottom edge and secured to a 36-inch pole. These simple tools work extremely well for first responders by providing effective advance warning to the approaching motorist.

TASK: Upon study of this material, a responder shall be able to demonstrate proper donning of PPE and use of highway safety equipment and signaling devices.


Ron Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com “MembersZone” and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.