Dealing with NJ State Police
Yesterday (4-19-05) we had a call on Rt 295. It was a dump truck fire. I drove the second due engine and arrived within minutes behind the fire due engine. NJ State Police told the first due where to place the engine. I pulled my truck over to the shoulder of the roadway so that our crew could join the first due crew in the fire fight. The dump truck that was on fire was located within 50 yards of the on ramp and up hill from our location. The State Trooper had two lanes blocked some 75 yards from the rear of the dump truck. Our first due engine was told by the State Trooper to park in the area near the exit of the on ramp. The driver of this vehicle did this. His vehicle now was now down hill of the fire vehicle. All of the water that was being used now runs under the fire truck. When this engine got low on water we started to pull a section of 3 inch from the rear of the engine and hook it up so that we could dump the tank from the second due engine. All of this time the on ramp was shut down by our local police department so no traffic moved on to Rt. 295. The State Trooper came over to me while I was preparing our engine for the transfer and began to holler at me saying he did not want the engine at this location and he did not want hose layed where it was being layed. All of this time I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. He then told me to put the engine infront of the position of the engine fighting the fire. I did this. We then hooked up for the transfer. In the mean time the State Trooper opened the on ramp. Now this put our firefighters in harms way on the right side of our engines. The traffic flowing on RT 295 now began to swing pass the road block and back into the middle lane. Now we have put our firefighters in harms way on the left side of the engines. There were some drivers who came into the right lane and even gave us the bird because they had to slow down. This Trooper did not respect our chain of command nor did he care about the safety of our firefighters. When the Trooper went back to where our Captain was standing he told the Captain that it was a good thing I did not say anything because if I had he was going to handcuff me and put me in the Trooper Car.
Has any one else ever run into this type of Trooper? We have encounted them on the NJ Turnpike and the Chief in Charge to us to pack up and get ready to leave. The Trooper there left the scene and we finished the fire fight. In our State we have a law that saids the Fire Chief has complete control of a fire scene once we arrive. In my opinion this Trooper did away with this law, opened the door to putting our firefighters in harms way, and place our engines in a very dangerous position.
If any one has a solution to this problem which seems to be growing in NJ please let me know.
It's called COMMUNICATION!
As was posted above already, communicate your needs to the SP/PD/SO on scene. If the arrangements are not to your comfort level, and a conclusion cannot be reached, simply get on your big red truck and drive away! The scene is NOT safe! I think you may be able to get the LEO's attention that way. Don't let egos get in the way of a safe working environment. Above all, communicate and cooperate.
Talk to each other people!
That "Quick Clear" link should be made compulsory reading for everyone in emergency services working on roadways. Just as I have asked people in another thread to see the NJSP point of view in other circumstances this one it seems reasonably clear the trooper is in the wrong.
Police don't direct Firefighting operations. They outline to the Officer in Charge any operating limitations, or preferences or priorities and the Fire Service OIC has a duty to try to accomodate these. Likewise if the Fire Officer can't work within the Police limitations safely they need to talk and achieve a solution that works for both of them. If this solution can't be found the Fire Officer needs to remove Firefighters from danger, even if it means moving off the roadway completely until things change. No yelling, no guns drawn, just a considered and deliberate application of sound management principles.
The best time to resolve issues like this is with a good mutually agreed SOP worked out beforehand and with regular meetings to review the plan and keep the informal contact going.
With mutual goodwil any plan will work well, and without it any plan is doomed to failure.