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View Poll Results: How do you feel?

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  • Unless multiple reports or confirmed fire nobody should use lights and sirens

    7 4.61%
  • No Lights / Sirens on daytime AFA calls

    3 1.97%
  • Closest / First Due should go Lights / Sirens balance showed go at normal speed without L/S

    61 40.13%
  • Are you nuts? We always go lights and sirens!

    81 53.29%
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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber batchief99's Avatar
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    Default No Lights---No Sirens ...Yes > No > Maybe

    There has been some discussion about safer responses. This comes about especially with the stand down training in regards to vehicle operation.

    We were discussing about hearing of No Light, No Sirens responses on some calls. No one could pin down where we heard it or what departments were involved.

    Does anyone have a standard toned down for automatic fire alarms that occur during normal hours when a place is occupied? This would be a dialer call or box alarm without telephone backup reporting a fire. Master box, street box etc.

    The response might be the closest / first due company WOULD go with an emergency response and all other due units would proceed in normal traffic until confirmed to kick it up.

    What brought this up was of all the times we go screaming down the road to AFAís endangering ourselves and the public only to find dust from the carpenter, system malfunction etc was the cause.

    The poll attached is to check if you feel we need to readdress the times we go loud and flashing.


    I know, we spend all that money for the bells and whistles and we want to use them. Maybe we should all get "opticom systems" and just control all the traffic lights.

    There must be some balance in here somewhere.


  2. #2
    Forum Member FDNY101TRUCK's Avatar
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    Default

    One of the things I disagree with in your poll is to go lights and sirens if there are multple calls sayings it bad or whatever. But there are times where callers will say its only a minor car accident and you get there and its a head on with 3 pt all need extrication and need to be flown to the nearest trauma center and there might be dead bodies too...and on the flip side callers will also say how there is a 34 car pile up on the EB side on a highway and MM33 when its a minor fender bender on the WB side near MM 2...and another thing there have been times here when we (the FD) were called out to a elementary school and we go there numerous times throughout the year for AFA and the one time we get cancelled by patrol and listen to them and not respond so quick that they call us back and tell us to get there because there is actually a fire inside when everyone thought it was just another AFA.
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  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Default

    We have recently changed our protocol to option 3 above for most runs (First-Due Hot, others with-traffic). We run a lot of alarms to the local resort hotels, and felt the change was warranted both for safety, and the disturbance levels of multiple engines with sirens.

    Unless there is confirmation of smoke/fire, injuries, entrapment, etc., our second due run with traffic. The Officer always has the option to change the response (up or down) at any time if he decides to.

    We'll see how it works for a while, but our expectation is no change in response effectiveness.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    Default

    We treat the first AFA activation at any location as an emergency response. The first arriving engine calls for other units to slow to non-emergency response if there is no obvious sign of fire. Additional activations at the same location get a non-emergency response.

    We use non-emergency response for other types of incidents as well, and the OIC always has the option of upgrading or downgrading as the situation warrants.
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  5. #5
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    Default

    I have felt for many years that automatic fire alarms, as well as many other types of "emergency" calls, including MVAs, trash fires, brush fires and the like should be handled differently with the all or the majority of the apparatus (and POVs) running cold. This is truly an area which we as firefighters can control our own destiny in terms of safety.

    I'll use the town I volunteered in Vermont for 14 years as an example when discussing fire alarms. We were a town of about 16,000 (24,000 in the summer) and our department covered about 75% of it. Towards the end of my time there we were averaging about 250-275 fire alarm trips per year, primarily in multi-level college buildings and dorms, several large multi-level hotels, 3-4 floor office buildings, warehouse/light manf. facilities and nursing/medical rehab facilities.

    A study that I conducted for that department showed that over a 10-year period, slightly over 94% of the alarm trips were false. Of the remaining 5.5%, over 90% of those were small fires that were either self-extingushed or extingushed by sprinklers or occupants prior to FD arrival. That left less than 1%, or about 1-2 AFA calls per year, that required fire department extinguishment. Of those, over the 10 year period, only 2 did significant damage or completly destroyed the structure (one the alarm was not hooked up to a monitering service, and was heard by a passing cop at 2AM, so technically, that one should not even count). So using the average of 200 AFA's per year, we found a fire that required fire department personnal to extingush occured about 1% of the time (using an average of 2 per year) and a fire we expereinced as a result of an AFA activation that heavily damaged or destroyed a building occured about .001% of the time. Both of these numbers are statistically insignificant. During the that time we also experienced only 3-4 minor injuries connected with fires in buildings that had AFA trips where a fire occured.

    If one was to do a risk assessment, one would have to honestly say that the risk, at least in that community, of a major fire causing either heavy damage or fatalities, was very, very small. Compare that to the risks of code 3 driving to the station for vollies as well as the code 3 driving for all the apparatus to the scene, and one would have to say that code 3 risks to AFA's certainly outweigh the benefits. In an era where we are striving to make the job safer, we have to start thinking with numbers and statistics rather than tradition and emotion. I challenge anyone who still defends the position that AFAs should be a Code response for all the apparatus to do a similiar study of thier fire alarms over a 10-year period in thier community. For most areas, I will not be surprised if your results are similiar to those in my former town. Unfortunatly, the numbers did not sway the powers that be, which was unfortunate.

    This is one area that we can truly put our safety first. And yes, it is time!
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 07-02-2006 at 05:37 PM. Reason: typos

  6. #6
    Forum Member gunnyv's Avatar
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    Default

    We probably respond normal traffic as often as with sirens now. We have not had a problem with it, and have been doing it for years. I believe St Louis was the first dept to start this and actually tell everyone they were doing it.

    For automatic fire alarms through an alarm co., the first due will go lights and sirens, rest of the assignment normal traffic. The second or third time an alarm comes in for the same building within a shift will probably result in a reduced assignment and normal traffic response. All companies will respond with lights and sirens if the alarm is a flow alarm. Dumpsters, trash, and grass fires will be dispatched to respond normal traffic unless the caller reports an exposure problem. MVAs reported as unknown for injuries are responded to normal traffic as well.

    Company officers have latitude to change this based on their knowledge of the area and info received. Ie, an "unknown accident" on the freeway at rush hour will often prompt the CO to hit the lights, due to the long delay due to traffic, and the likelihood of injury at freeway speeds. Many of the COs are also turning off the lights for minor medicals-" elderly male c/o weakness for 3 days", "possible broken foot", etc.

    The funniest part of it is there are often 3 different agencies, with 3 varied policies, responding on a call. Quite often we will be going normal traffic, and a cop or the ambulance will fly by us with lights. More often, we will pass the ambulance with our lights on and theirs off. Makes for interesting comparisons of dispatch information on scene.

  7. #7
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    Our FD changed its policy a while ago. On AFAs, only the first due units respond lights and sirens. All of the units from a particular station respond similarly to avoid confusion from one company running lights and sirens and the others not. If the AFA comes in with any report of odor, smoke, or water flow then all of the units respond lights and sirens. We also run normal to CO checks, natural gas leaks if it is reported that the construction company has already pinched off the line, lift assists, and requests from PD for assistance unless they specifically request a speedy response.

    At first, there was a big uproar about how horrible our fires were going to be, the safety of the initial companies, etc. Some kept track of how many times we responded inappropriately and it contributed to a greater problem. There were less than 10 runs, out of a few thousand, that we would have all run lights and sirens if there had been more information, but none resulted in additional damage or unsafe operations because they were insigficant incidents.

  8. #8
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Well..........

    Here's where we are:
    Reported Fire -All units start with Lights and sirens, a unit on the scene may tell other incoming units to discontinue lights and sirens, but continue in.
    Reported Accident with injuries - Same
    AFAs - Single unit Emergency response.
    C0 Alarms - with reported sick people: Emergency response
    C0 Alarms - without sick people: Nonemergency response
    Electric Wires, Transformers, etc. Nonemergency response

    We cut our exposure to accidents by downgrading response assignments on non Fire incidents, such as going from 2 Engines and a Truck or Squad to a single Engine on a AFA.
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  9. #9
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyv
    We probably respond normal traffic as often as with sirens now. We have not had a problem with it, and have been doing it for years. I believe St Louis was the first dept to start this and actually tell everyone they were doing it.
    St.Louis was the first to get national press for it. My county had been doing it for several years before I read about St.Louis's "new policy".


    Structure fires are everyone emergency.

    AFAs here get first due emergency, all others with traffic. We have also reduced our response to AFAs, unless its a target hazard (hospital, school, etc), to 1 engine, 1 truck and a DC. Water flow alarms still get a full response, all units emergency. And of course if an AFA is folowed up with a phone report of smoke/fire, the call is "upgraded".

    We also respond to many other calls what we call "downgraded" (with traffic). Invests, elevator rescues with no medical distress, public assists. Wires down is still an emergency response, we dont want the public playing with live wires (lol).

    Gas leaks are emergrency as well. Another department in our county had a gas leak light off (civilian with a cigarette) a couple years ago. NOT a pretty site. Im actually surprised to see other places treat these as non-emergencies. I guess it will only take once...

    All company officers and DCs have the option to upgrade/downgrade any response, or request additional or wave off other units, at anytime.

    Our EMS responses are governed by EMD, which lists calls by priority. Id say about 1/3 of our EMS call are downgraded.

    And BTW, our response policy, as well as reduced unit assignments, has the blessing of ISO (if anyone really cares ).

    I think we could be doing it more. Things like dumpsters/trash, grass/brush and power transformers (on the pole, not on the ground), unless there is an exposure, should be downgraded.
    Last edited by Dave1983; 07-01-2006 at 02:33 PM.
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  10. #10
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    While I agree on the enhanced safety that can come from responding to a call w/o lights and sirens under certain circumstances, and while I certainly agree that late arriving units can, in the absence of a significant emergency, drive at a 'non-emergency' pace, I think the liability and PR issues inherent in emergency response should be considered. There are two basic issues at hand:
    1. If you show up at a call w/o lights, the caller is going to at the very least perceive that you were not responding promptly. This can present a very significant PR issue. This problem is greatly exacerbated if someone at the scene is seriously injured or, even worse, someone dies as a result of whatever incident you are responding to.
    2. If you are responding to a call and are involved in an accident, from a practical 'juror perspective' standpoint, I believe you face greater potential liability. Jurors will have a hard time understanding that you were doing a non-emergency response...they're used to TV and the movies where every call is lights and sirens. If the jury hears you were responding to a call, they will assume that you were driving rapidly. If they next hear that you weren't running any lights or sirens, I think you're setting yourself up for a problem.

    Again, I certainly support safe driving, and cautious use of the lights and sirens...but I would be hesitant to tell one of the departments that I work with to refrain from running at least some lights when responding to any but the most mundane 911 calls.

  11. #11
    Forum Member gunnyv's Avatar
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    LawFires,

    While I understand where you're coming from, your points have been proven irrelevant after years of responding in this manner. For starters, the overwhelming majority of the calls that are responded to normal traffic turn out to be non-emergencies. We will get criticized much more in the press and by jurors for killing a family of 6 while responding to an automatic alarm that has been a malfunction 17 times in the past than we will for taking an extra minute to arrive. In fact, at most of the AFAs and trash fires, people ask why we responded so quickly or with so much apparatus. We also are quick to point out that we are responding appropriately based on the information-or lack thereof-given to the 911 dispatcher by the reporting party.

  12. #12
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    There's no reason why a "hot" response cannot be just as safe and sane as a "cold" response. A code 3 response does not necessarily mean that we are driving like idiots.

  13. #13
    Forum Member nyckftbl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MEAN15
    There's no reason why a "hot" response cannot be just as safe and sane as a "cold" response. A code 3 response does not necessarily mean that we are driving like idiots.

    EXACTLY! Your response should not be any different with lights and sirens then without. The same safety measures should be taken, traffic rules still must be obeyed, etc. Responding "hot" or whatever you want to call it should put you and the crew in no more danger then responding with traffic.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl
    EXACTLY! Your response should not be any different with lights and sirens then without. The same safety measures should be taken, traffic rules still must be obeyed, etc. Responding "hot" or whatever you want to call it should put you and the crew in no more danger then responding with traffic.
    Here Here...

    I'm not sure why everyone thinks that responding with the lights and such is unavoidably dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If responding with lights and sirens is tremendously unsafe in relation to non-emergency runs...perhaps one should look to retrain their chauffuers and officers on what a safe response is...so many of you guys won't leave the house without everyones seat belt on but some of you apparently drive like *********s getting to the box because you almost expect to hit a civilian on the road.

    Unless you have a crystal ball that tells you what is happening on the other side of that fire alarm or report of an odor of smoke...you better respond and act like it is an emergency and while being prudent and cautious..get there as fast as one can...and in most cities I know of that requires right of way and the only way to get it is to use lights and sirens.

    FTM-PTB

  15. #15
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    Gunny ....

    How have my points been proven irrelevent? The statistics in my former community speak for themselves. The fact is, at least in my community, and I suspect many communties, AFAs requiring rapid fire department intervention occurred a statictically insignificant amount of the time. Add to the fact is that if there is a fire, there is a strong likilhood that there will be followup calls indicating that, and the remainder of the assignemt can be upgraded to code 3. Since the first due has been running hot, this policy does not change thier response (unless you choose to limit volunteers headed to the sation to Code 1, which I support as well). I stand by my statement that all units responding on an AFA Code 3 is foolish and endangers the lives of firefighters and the public on the highways unnessicarilly. The numbers in my former community prove that. I challenge you to do a comprehensive study in your community. They may not work out that way, but I suspect in most communties they will. Certainly the chief can defend this policy to the public utilizing the examples of firefighter and civilians hurt or killed elsewhere in apparatus accidents.

    Mean and NYC ...

    Sorry, but I disagree. The apparatus driver's approach and attitude changes in a Code 3 response changes, not matter how experienced. There are changes in heart rate and stress increases. The public's reaction to the apparatus changes dramatically and they act far more unpredictably. The numbers of vehicles involved in accidents proves that. There are few firefighters killed in Code 1 driving. Most are killed during Code 3 driving.

    I stand by my statement that if we are serious about reducing firefighter deaths, this is one area that needs to be changed.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Gunny ....

    Mean and NYC ...

    Sorry, but I disagree. The apparatus driver's approach and attitude changes in a Code 3 response changes, not matter how experienced. There are changes in heart rate and stress increases. The public's reaction to the apparatus changes dramatically and they act far more unpredictably. The numbers of vehicles involved in accidents proves that. There are few firefighters killed in Code 1 driving. Most are killed during Code 3 driving.

    I stand by my statement that if we are serious about reducing firefighter deaths, this is one area that needs to be changed.
    What changes in attitudes? It is all ones mindset and training...if you are a bunch of volly buffs who get a thrill from driving like clowns then yes you probably shouldn't be responding emergency....or even at all. Probably need a different chauffeur. They proceed through a red light they need to make sure all other lanes are accounted for...to me I can't understand how that endangers the company that much that it makes that much difference. If your bosses and Chauffeurs have some pressure put on them to respond faster...perhaps your culture needs a change. Besides...what happens when the first due shows up and sees fire and reports such on the radio? Now these guys who you claim could barely handle the pressure before are now racing to make up for lost time while the first due companies are operating without proper support companies as they were taking their sweet azz time.

    I've read the stats on driving and even listened to a talk from a certain FD vehicle reponse expert and my impression from those sources is that those deaths that occur with "code 3" responses as you stated don't happen with urban or even suburban Engines and Ladders on responses to AFAs they happen to vollies in rual BFE racing a Tanker down a curvy county highway or rough gravel road with ditches in lieu of curbs and storm drains to a grass fire or a full envolved barn fire that would be impossible to put out in most cases anyhow....they roll the damn thing or the brakes aren't up to snuff...etc.

    If you have an emergency repsonse to an AFA that is reckless and endangers the public...you need to look for a different line of work or recind your chauffeur status forthwith.

    FTM-PTB

  17. #17
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl
    EXACTLY! Your response should not be any different with lights and sirens then without. The same safety measures should be taken, traffic rules still must be obeyed, etc. Responding "hot" or whatever you want to call it should put you and the crew in no more danger then responding with traffic.
    Our laws regarding emergency response must be very different then yours. Here, lights and sirens alow us to exceed the posted speed limit (allowing for road conditions, weather and visibility), to proceede through red traffic lights (after a complete stop) and drive in the opposite direction of a one-way street (lower then the posted speed limit).

    None of these actions are permitted unless you have your lights and sirens on, so it is quite different then responding "with traffic". And these actions all carry a certain risk, no matter how well trained your engineer may be or how safe he/she operates the rig.

    IMHO, its not our engineers that are a concern. Its John Q and the really stupid things they do when they see flashing lights and hear sirens. Thats where the real risk exsists.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Gunny ....

    Add to the fact is that if there is a fire, there is a strong likilhood that there will be followup calls indicating that, and the remainder of the assignemt can be upgraded to code 3.
    We've already had more than one fire this year that came in as an AFA, one of them being in an occupied residential highrise at night. No follow up calls were made. If all of our companies weren't running code 3, the first due company would've really been behind the eight ball (not to mention the residents would've been in bad shape too).

    The reason why I think people don't follow up all the time is because they know the fire alarm activation has already notified the FD. That's the way the system was designed. Relying on additional information to guess whether you have a real fire may be more risky than running all of your rigs code 3. Auto fire alarms indicate a fire until proven otherwise.

  19. #19
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    For most calls we respond with lights and siren. For assist an invalid or water leaks in houses, we respond with no lights. For AFA's our department policy is for the 1st due eng (unless they are out of place, at which time they will notify the next due of this) to respond lights and siren and the rest of the run card responds with no lights. Like Fred and others have said you should drive the same with or without lights, now we all know that that doesn't always happen. We have found with our department that typically the time differences in responds are very minor. At the same time we don't have the traffic issues that say NYC or Chicago do that would require them to respond to everything including move ups with lights and siren. Something else that needs to be mentioned, and if it has then forgive me, but you can't make up lost time on the road. The only way you can make up for lost time is to get out of the house quicker.
    Last edited by GFDLT1; 07-01-2006 at 06:26 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Light and Sirens

    Our Chief has been looking into this debate and talking with area Chief's, and a Dispatcher who is also a P.O.C. on our department. We decided to go 1st out Engine in the district of the alarm goes emergency and all others go non-emergency. Our P.O.C. dispatcher informed us that 97% of alarms are false. Now if we get report of smoke or smell of smoke all units go emergency until 1st arriving engine slows them down. P.I. accidents are similar with the exception of P.O.C. responds non-emergency and full time go emergency. Now our department may be slightly different because we respond a Engine out of 1 station and a squad out of another. That limits the P.O.C.'s duties, many don't even show up anymore because they don't want to stand-by and just wash a truck, and they don't get to run lights and sirens. Now is that a good reson to get upset, what does that show the Chief. Put a excited firefighter driving way to fast to begin with, turning a corner lights and sirens as a squad is turning the opposite direction. How confusing is that to the general public, not to mention the safety factor for everyone on the road. Studies have shown lights and sirens don't save that much time. If you don't have to run them don't. The local ALS units run priority 2 medicals like priority 3 medicals, we run priorty 2 like priority 1 medicals. We can always upgrade them if we have to.

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