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  1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Are we stressing quick response to much??

    I am posting a question that I am sure will draw responses from both sides. I have been in the fire service for 5 years, and throughout that time, I continue to hear veteran members, as well as rookies, preaching to everyone a much needed quick response time. What startles me is that the 2nd leading cause of Firefighter deaths, is vehicle accidents.
    Some communities allow their firefighters to run blue (courtesy) lights, other allow red lights and sirens, yet even other do not allow any sort of lighting device, on those vehicles that are not considered "Emergency Vehicles".
    When I am traveling out of town, or even sometimes on my off days, I will see an Ambulance, Fire Truck, or Police Cruiser flying down the road, much in excess of the speed limit. Is this really what we want to be preaching to our fellow Brothers and Sisters? Or should we be more focused on a rapid, yet safe, response.
    I leave the decision up to you.

    --Stay Safe & Remember our fallen Brothers & Sisters; John

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    If you step "outside the box", and look at the entire picture, you will find that most responses today, are not TRUE emergencies. Indeed, not worth the risk to you, or your families, to respond with warning lights and sirens.

    Typically, for the average U.S. fire dept. in any given year, 98% of total property loss can be attributed to only 2% of the total call volume. Were these properties already total losses when the fire dept. was summoned? And red light and siren response probably did not positively affect the final outcome. Other issues need to be addressed for the reduction of property loss.

    The use of lights and sirens for EMS calls can rarely be proven to have been of benefit to the final outcome of the situation. ALS services typically do not transport patients red light and siren, as they usually provide the treatment that can be provided at a medical facility.

    The only good that red light and siren use has for an organization, is that it is a good recruitment tool. It glamorizes the service and attracts people.

    Lights and sirens on POV's makes no sense at all. Why confuse motorists with all sorts of different vehicles displaying a variety of different warning devices?

    Again, emotions run high on this subject! It is more tradition than anything!

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In our department, we say, and live by the fact that one more minute is not going to change anything in a fully involved house fire, or something similar. I think that this is the best thing that the chief and D/C have ever said.

    What do you think?


    If you sent us to HELL, WE'D PUT IT OUT!!

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Well lights and sirens were part of the atraction when I first became a volunteer fire fighter, I thought this was cool and now I see the other side, they are over used alot of the time, I personally feel dumb in an ambulance running Code 3 to a stomach ache or vomiting when they can drive themselves to the hospital or like everyone else and take some Pepto and stay in bed for a little while, but this has shown me this what I want to do with the rest of my life and don't even use the lights on my POV all the time because I know the call is BS and only puts me and others at risk. The dispatcher has a good idea of what is going on so I listin to what they say and how they say it on if it is a get there as fast as I can or take my time and drive Code 1. But Code 3 is still fun for us all

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Are red lights over rated? Sure they are. Is it cool to blow down the street at a hundred miles an hour. Oh ya! Nothing like it. There we are out in the public eye doing our thing helping out. They say, "wow, they are going to help someone, hope they are o.k." Then the tragic accident occurs. What are the families saying now? Why must you go so fast to such an unimportant call.
    People by nature want us to come as fast as we can to there emergency. This I understand. On the other hand it is our primary goal at the end of the day to go home to our families. I dont believe that we should stop using red lights in our emergency equipment but, we should use careful judgement when using them in our POV's and when we are on the scene. It can be a distraction at times for some people. Most of the medical calls that we recieve today are BLS. We could drive up in a car say hop in and away we go. But they need that ambulance ride.
    The best option I can come up with is be careful when responding in your POV. That light is not going to get you there any faster. In the engine or ambulance, make eye contact with each driver and wait for them to either pull over or come to a complete stop. Safety is our main objective.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We aren't allowed any warning/red lights on our PV's. We are also PROHIBITED from breaking the speed limit under any circumstance so i personally wouldnt know about the 100mph :-) I find it interesting with different drivers, the majority responding in our Emergency Rigs drive the speed limit, a few don't. I believe that warning lights can be adventageous, but DEFINITELY put inteligence, awareness, and common sense above any emergency. No need to create a second call by causing a MVA.

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In Ky we run red lights and sirens. The state says that if you use one you must use the other and that the red light must be seen 360 degrees. Our dept s.o.g.s says that we cannot go over ten miles per hour above the posted limit and that we must stop for stop signs or lights. I do not understand why anyone would think that by going 100 mph you could possibly do anything more than I could by getting there, safely at a slower speed and if you live in an area like mine you would only arrive at the scene a couple of seconds ahead of me and is John Q. Publics safety worth that. That sounds like a hard statement and it is but is another life worth loosing trying to get a scene where someone may or may not be trapped inside a structure.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Here, we prioritze calls. Most calls we respond are Priority one lights and sirens. The other small percent of calls are run with no lights/sirens. I dont support running a red light or stop sign in a POV, but in the apparatus its acceptable. Just look both ways and make sure its clear. We're only allowed to go 10 miles per hour over the speed limit which allows for a faster but still safe response. The reason why most respond so fast is because of two major factors. One is that any call has the potential to be "the big one" and secondly any call really gets the adrenalin going, so add two and two together and you get the answer for why ff's respond fast, sometimes to fast. If responding with lights on our POV's we must obey all traffic laws, including speed limits. Hope this helps.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Just a little question... Why the hell are you running code to a stomach ache? Around here, the dispatcher is permitted to decide 'code or no code' based on the information she is presented. The responding units always have the options of running code, if they so choose (not that a dispatcher could stop us. )

    If it's someone have a resp. difficulty, hit the gas and lean on the horn. If it's someone's stubbed toe (and I have been on this call), go with the flow. Yeesh. Use yer brains.

  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I once had an old timer tell me "Drive as safe and curtious as possible during normal driving, cause when your running code; everyone will say your driving too fast, till it's their house, and then your driving too slow" I agree with not running lights when the need is not there. The average speed of an emergency vehicle responding to a call is 30 MPH, and you only save less than a minute by running code. Try it som time. Drive to an area of your district that has a high call volume. Due this a couple of times at differnt times of the day. Then compare this with the known response time to those areas at those hours.

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Response time in the fire service is a huge thing and can have a big impact to the incident you are responding to. Has anyone ever heard MAKE THE TIME UP GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE NOT ON THE STREET. This means that if you are at the firehouse and have a crew and a call comes in and you are waching TV, RUN to get your gear, RUN to the apparatus,jump on, get out the door, and get dressed going down the road. IT'S FUN!!!! And your probably out the door 30 seconds to a minute and a half sooner than if you walked. That amount of time that you made up getting out because you ran instead of walked increased your response time without any being unsafe on the road. At my company when a box alarm comes in we run and we're out the door in about 15 seconds. Where at some other companies it takes them 30 seconds to a minute. That small amout of time difference means I'm on the street and 2 to 4 blocks down the road when the other company is just getting out the door. And they wonder why we beat them in.

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I'll let you decide. At one of my stations an Engine and a tender roll on all fire calls. The engine runs full lights siren and anything else available. The tender runs no lights or sirens and obeys all traffic laws. The average difference in responce time is 28 seconds. I have the records to prove it. You tell me is it really worth the extra risk

  13. #13
    Firehouse.com Guest


    First, I'm an 18 year veteran of a fully paid fire department, so the following opinion is born from first hand experience. And, hey, I love to "get there first" as much as anyone, but not at the expense of killing or seriously injuring someone. Also, my experience is with fire trucks, not POV's. Responding in a POV with a little blinking red light on the dash seems to me to be an extremely dangerous situation.

    I'd have to come down on the side of reducing the number of times that we run lights and siren, as well as slowing down when we must use lights and siren. I've seen firsthand other drivers completely freeze up, not sure what to do or where to go as we continue blowing the siren and air horn at them, often "pushing" them to pull out into intersections against the light. What good is causing an accident that could be much more serious than the call we're responding on???

    Another comment, meant in the spirit of protecting our firefighters....I strongly disagree with "getting dressed" on the way to a call. In my humble opinion, standing up, off balance, putting on turnout pants and/or coat is dangerous stuff in the event of a vehicular accident involving the apparatus.

    In the interest of firefighter safety....

    [This message has been edited by dgrant (edited 06-25-2001).]

  14. #14
    Forum Member raricciuti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228


    I have to side with dgrant on these subjects - EVERYONE in a moving vehicle (read: fire apparatus) should be sitting in a seat WITH A SEATBELT FASTENED - no exceptions. Look back at fire apparatus accidents - a large number of the serious injuries and fatalities were due to firefighters falling off apparatus, being ejected, or striking the inside of the cabs. Above all, don't drive like an idiot - there are enough people doing that already (which is probably the prime reason we have so many MVA calls).

    I will concur that response time is important, but we must temper our haste to get there with a good amount of safety. oz10engine, I hope your entire engine bay and everything it it is padded - one slip-and-fall injury could cost more than the total amount of fire loss in your department for a year. Not to mention end your career or service as a volunteer. LODD can happen in the station just as easily as on the street. In PA a FF died after falling off a stepladder while working on a garage door opener. Not exactly the way most of us would like to leave this Earth. If you plan on doing this (firefighting) for any length of time, walk to the apparatus, get dressed either before the vehicle moves or after it has stopped, never jump onto or off of a vehicle, and watch your backside when getting off apparatus or operating in traffic. You'll be around a lot longer to enjoy it.

    On the subject of reducing lights and sirens responses, yes again. My department runs a lot of calls code-2, such as accidents with unknown injuries, CO calls without symptoms, unknown type downed wires, etc. Unless you have VERY long runs, the difference in response times is quite small (many studies have been done to prove this). We are also installing a preemption system on our traffic lights, which will reduce our response time more than any amount of lights and sirens ever could.

    As far as POV's go, if FF's are expected to respond in their POV's to emergencies, then their vehicles should be designated and be equipped as such. In PA, off duty / volunteer FF's are relegated to no audible warning, blue "courtesy" lights, and a very restricted amount of lights at that. Why have some states taken the position that responding FF's in POV's are somehow less important than responding FF's in apparatus? In PA, 96% of FD's are volunteer - why does the state fail to recognize that for the big red thing with lights, sirens, hose, water, and all the tools on it to arrive at the fire, the people who staff it and drive it have to get to the station first? Makes no sense, but it seems to be more of the same short-sighted, short-end-of-the-stick mentality shown by government toward the fire service. Anyone want to discuss the F.I.R.E. act???

    Sorry for the lengthy reply, but the discussions kinda stirred my interest. To sum up my position in relation to the original question "Are we stressing quick response to much??" - no; we're probably not stressing SAFE QUICK RESPONSE enough.

    [ 07-13-2001: Message edited by: raricciuti ]
    R.A. Ricciuti
    Mt. Lebanon Fire Department

  15. #15
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Canton, Ga


    I am a member of a department that has 2 stations(soon to be 3),covers a area of about 75 square miles and runs about 1000 calls per year.
    We have an SOP that states: If you are within 4 miles(Driving not as the crow flies)you can respond your POV emergency and then only if it is a structure fire,MVA,or a cardiac emergency. It also states that in bad weather no lights or sirens are to be used unless told to by an officer.
    We are lucky to have 55 volunteers of wich at least one or more live within about two miles of anywhere in our district.
    So once a member gets on scene and gives a size up the rest of us will know if we have to step it up or a non-emergency respose will be efective.

    I have been running lights and siren for about 1 1/2 years now and have run about 700 calls in my POV. out of those 700 I think I have ran emergency 100 times.

    I use my lights more when I show up on a scene and have to block the road for saftey.

    Remember If you don't make it to the fire safely then you can't help to put it out.
    George Phillips FF318
    Hickory Flat Volunteer Fire Dept.
    Cherokee County
    Company 3

  16. #16
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2001


    My Reply is this in my area where you have stop lights that take 5 to 6 mins. to change
    that can be a big time differance going to the otherside of town. But, you have to drive responsibly. We are allowed to run a blue light, but only if the rigs are running lights and sirens. We do not have sirens on our P.V. and that is fine. My opinion is there is no need to go direct in your P.V.
    Especially to a fire what are you going to do if you are first besides stand there and have everyone stare and whisper why isn't he/she doing anything.

    Time can play a big role in Extrication or Medical, or even a small structure, but fully involved its gone anyway, and what are the chances for survival for people trapped in that.

    Just my opinion maybe I'm wrong.
    Proud to be IACOJ Illinois Chapter--Deemed "Crustworthy" Jan, 2003

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber jsdobson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Anchorage, AK


    One of my instructors in my first Engineer's class some years ago emphasised, "The Pro is Slow." He had statistics showing an apparatus had to drive at least 3 miles at 60 mph (red lights/siren) to save 1 minute of travel time versus driving to the scene at 30 mph.

    I don't know the source of those figures but I know they are pretty accurate. Prior to my fire service career, I drove as fast as 75 mph on packed snow and ice to reach a sick relative. On the return trip I never exceeded 45 mph. Time difference ? Only 6 minutes for a trip of 80 miles.

    As others have said, if you don't get there, what good are you ?
    Before Everything, Stop And First Evaluate

  18. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Ewing, NJ


    NFPA 1710 and 1720 mandate response and initial operation in a certain amount of time. With standards like that, speeding will become a must???
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

  19. #19
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 1999
    Berks County, PA


    The biggest mistake that people make in this whole lights/sirens/response times business is that they assume that:

    significantly greater speed =
    significantly better response time

    This simply isn't true, and it's the thing that gets people hurt or killed and the thing that causes all the debate.

    The main response advantage to "emergency vehicle" status is the ability to disregard (with due caution) traffic regulations (stop lights, stop signs, lane restrictions, etc.). You make up your time not in going faster than everybody else, but in not having to wait for lights to change, not having to wait at the end of long lines of traffic, etc. This can make a big difference, especially in congested areas. Minutes (not seconds) can be saved, even at 15-25 miles an hour if you have the capability and freedom to cautiously wind you way through traffic without impedance from stoplights and such.

    So the answer is: We need to be concerned about response time, but weneed to find effective ways of lowering it, not just "put the hammer down" and fly down the road like idiots.

  20. #20
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    missoula, montana


    All of you make good points. It has made me think back over as many calls as I can remember to believe you are all correct. The only times I recall code 3 being beneficial is going through a long traffic stop going to another call. Using code at a reasonably slow speed only as a warning to parked motorists. The other would be arrival on a scene that is large, long, or highly complex. Again it becomes an arrival warning since we end up using opposite lanes. We are constantly pushed to complete the extrication of patients for transport in the first hour of the accident. We are rural and als sometimes is a long while, pushing 30 minutes or more during rotton weather. In our haste to reduce extrication time, we think speeding to the scene is going to help. Not so, sometimes we are our own worst enemy, or at least providing bad advise.

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