Thread: Road flares

  1. #1
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    Default Road flares

    What is everyones take on the use of road flares at vehicle accidents? I am not a big fan of them, but I know they are essential at times. I have talked to my guys about a different route and using flares that are high intensity light sticks that come with a stand so they can sit upright. We have used them a few times with success, but wanted to see what everyone else thought. We use the ones from ameriglo. They can be seen at www.ameriglo.net Has anyone else used these, any success...or downfalls?

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    We use flares if we use anything. The sheriff's department got these plastic light things that are supposed to be strong enough to run over with an engine... we quickly showed them that was NOT the case! haha

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    We use them, we dont direct traffic with them in fact we try to keep them outta traffic because if a car runs over them a ground flare can become an aerial flare. I have seen staties throw them at cars before that almost hit them hahahaha I almost got ran over by an idiot during a snow storm and the car continued to fly through the scene and the trooper nailed the car with the flare, it had to leave a mark. Also by directing traffic i mean that we dont lay them out to close lanes or guide people, we will pretty much put a few down spread out so people will at least see something. Reflective cones are nice but cones take up a buttload of room.

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    We don't use flares often.

    They're handy in certain situations, which for us is normally if a unit is blocking the road for a detour...but is around a corner or over a hilltop so there's a limited sight line for oncoming traffic.

    My preference is for that "around the corner" to be something like our mini-pumper or even POV with a blue light. But if that's not possible, the road flares can give early warning.

    Cones setup in the center line do a pretty good job getting people's attention, too.

    My concern after a quick look at the glowstick sight are they work better in warm temperatures, and they *don't* put out heat.

    Which means they'd kinda suck on a slushy wintery day when they don't glow as bright, and snow, ice, and road grime would build up on them reducing the effectiveness even more. Not that accidents ever occur in the snow

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    Talking We Use Them.............

    We use a LOT of them. We routinely shut the road down for an accident or Fire and we use vehicles for blocking, but, flares are the best means for setting up advance warning, or setting up a lane for traffic to pass at a VERY reduced speed. My wife is a regular on Traffic details, and she is NOT someone to mess with. She has extinguished a lit flare on the hood of a BMW when the idiot aiming (not driving) the car thought he could ignore her. He also got a very hefty ticket from a nearby State Trooper who was kind enough to write it in a manner that forced the idiot to come to court. Many moons ago, I was working a 3 car crash when a drunk drove through the accident scene, nearly striking a Police Officer. Someone, nobody knows who, threw a lit flare, which landed in the back seat. Couple of miles down the road, the cops found the guy on the side of the road watching his car burn.
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    The fire police in my company use a lot of flares. I do not blame them. If it is going to keep them safe, so be it. It is easier to purchase or acquire a box of flares than replace a vehicle or someone else.

    We also run a portion of the PA turnpike. The state troopers are big flare users.

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    We've gone to using strictly 28" cones with reflective bands. Don't have to worry about the inherent risks of flares, like lighting fuel or grass on fire. I can't remember what road flares are going for these days, but I'm sure we've paid for the cones by now in money saved on flares and fuel fighting grass fires.

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    We do use them on a limited basis, or as needed, Our big issue with them is our commisioners dont like to spend money to replace them, and if we dont get them replaced by the PD when on scene it might be awhile till we get our stock replenished. What we do use is Obviously road cones with reflective bands on top, also a product called visi-flares, there are more or less a pulsing strobe light that has a base or fits in the top of the cone. These have been pretty efective for us, except for when the punk kids stole some from us a couple years ago.

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    There are pros and cons to both. My personal opinion is the only real drawback to flares is the continued cost of a disposable item over a reuseable one like cones.

    We place our members in the most danger at the time we have them place safety markers, flares or cones, behind the scene. These members should be teamed together, one to watch for oncoming danger and the other to place the markers. Even teamed up, they are exposed to fast moving traffic.

    Now if we consider the fact that having these members walk behind the scene to place markers is dangerous, why double that danger by sending them back to retrieve reuseable markers?

    Once flares are placed, leave them there and exit the roadway upon completion of your operation.

    The next question is usually how far away from the scene to place your furthest marker? Our rule of thumb is a simple equation:

    Speed x first digit of speed + 90

    For example, if the traffic is moving at 55 the equation would be:

    55x5=275+90=365 feet

    At 70 mph:
    70x7=490+90=580 feet


    Place the first marker at the shoulder and the place 8 more, equidistance back to the scene each being a foot or two further into the roadway.

    This being done, one apparatus should be placed diagonally between operating members and traffic. If it is an engine, the pump panel should face the scene, not oncoming traffic.

    The idea that flares pose a danger to operating members or igniting a spill, should be eliminated by placing the closest flare well away from the operation.

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    Post Just a thought...

    E229Lt, Nice formula, but I can barely add ;-) Excellent point with retrieving the reusable markers. Here's another thought along those lines. When first arriving at a scene, park the apparatus far enough back where you want the flareline set up. Using a diagonal parking technique to block traffic, deploy manpower on foot in FRONT (downstream) of the apparatus to set the flare line. Then, get the FF's back on the apparatus and move it down the road so it is parked within the flareline. That way, the troops are protected when they set it up, and people have some warning when you are at the scene.

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    I like the forumla too. Although I never really considered speed etc, I know that we always put flares out a lleh of a long way out so as to not interfere with what was going on during the event - fuel etc. Also being that we only ever used them on the highway, the more advance notice in the dark the better for most people, especially under rain conditions.

    We also deployed traffic control near the end of each line of flares and cones, (yes, we deployed both ) to wave traffic down or redirect it as required. Pfire has an interesting story about stuff like that - I was not on the call that she might make reference to.

    We kinda looked at alternate means, particularly with electric flares, but after the cops put a couple out, we found that they did not offer as much illumination as was advertised. Actually, pretty darn weak would about sum it up.
    Last edited by MalahatTwo7; 07-10-2006 at 01:49 PM.
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    My vollie department carries our traffic control stuff in our brush truck. That way the brush truck can either block, or serve as an attention getter for the guys picking up or placing the cones. At the same time, we don't have to worry about walking long distance to drop the cones, we've got a truck that's not dedicated to the scene.

    One other thing I've become a huge fan of is the big pink "emergency scene ahead" signs. My vollie FD's been using them for several years and we've notice quite a difference in how traffic behaves. We've had highway patrol and civilians impressed as hell, especially truck drivers who say it's nice to be forwarned and have plenty of time to slow down instead of popping a hill and being right on top of an incident.

    My career FD just started using them after I taught a traffic control class there. On a scene on the interstate the other day you could tell when the bat chief put the sign out down the road, traffic slowed by 10-15 mph (some by even more) and everyone was in the far lane by the time they reached our scene.

    Only complaint I've heard is a couple of EMS crews that slowed way down thinking the scene was on the other side of a hill/bend when we were still a mile away.

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    we use a combination of flares, signage, and cones.
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    Wow, great info. thanks for the posts. We do use cones and vehicles, but i like the security of a non flamable light stick on scene.

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    Attack6:

    Disclaimer: Here is my take as a vendor and career FF

    Many departments in NW Illinois have started using a combination of the pink signs, collapsible cones, and e-flares (www.eflare.com). These departments have said they drop the sign well in advance and on both sides of the accident and use the e-flares and cones to supplement the signs. The e-flares work nice because they are intrinsically safe and use can also use them as a landing zone kit.

    My career department uses none of the above, but many departments around our store use the aforementioned combination on the highway and interstate and really rave about how traffic slows before vehicles reach the scene. Again, I can't tell you from personal experience, but the local departments seem happy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods
    Many moons ago, I was working a 3 car crash when a drunk drove through the accident scene, nearly striking a Police Officer. Someone, nobody knows who, threw a lit flare, which landed in the back seat. Couple of miles down the road, the cops found the guy on the side of the road watching his car burn.
    Who says there's no justice in this world?

    We use flares and the sheriff's department is nice enough to provide them for us since they typically don't have the staff to cover traffic incidents for a prolonged period of time.

    As far as the math goes, if you convert E229lt's formula into yards it might be easier. 3 ft=1 yard. If you are avid golfer or football fan you should be able to walk that out with no problem
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    Another thing we utilize is ANSI Class III (the old class III, not the newer version with the sleeves). It's a little easier to see the bright orange or green and the reflective striping on those than it is to see our nasty, dirty bunker gear with limited striping. Makes the guys a LOT more visible when operating in traffic.

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    Arrow No flares here.

    In Arkansas, I've never seen road flares used on an accident scene. If you get any sort of marker, it's going to be in the form of a traffic cone.

    Also, as much as I like the idea of the "accident ahead" signs... I don't see how you guys have the manpower to deploy them. On a typical accident here, the three-man engine company is committed to the scene. And if we page volunteers, we can usually only expect two or three with all but one of them usually being a delayed response.

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    We enjoy the luxury of operating entirely within our city limits, therefore we only have a couple of roadways which pose any kind of traffis speed problems. In those areas we will drop flares where needed and set traffic cones on the approach of the lane involved in the incident.
    The city PD are always on scene and, with a couple of Fire Police, we are able to control the flow of traffic past the incident or divert it around, as the case may require.
    A river runs right through the center of the city and it seems like it floods every year at some point, causing the closing of many streets and even entire sections of the community. These types of situations have caused us problems, scrambling to get barricades, closure signs and the like. After the flood last month, we approached the department and city administration, telling them our hose company was working to put a Fire Patrol unit into service. It would be used spacifically by our Fire Police and be equiped with ample traffic control and road closure tools to handle any situations like this in the future. The Chief loves the idea and is completely behind our effords.
    Last edited by Driver76; 07-16-2006 at 02:57 PM.

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    Road flares are protocol...the first thing that is done by the two individuals that are assigned to traffic control is to get off the truck, grab 2 flares and go deploy them...

    We have tried the battery-powered flashing beacons, similar to the ones we use for LZ's, and were not impressed AT ALL. Not bright and went through batteries WAY too fast.

    Flares are deployed around the first turn or any hill or whatever land feature may obstruct the view of the person doing traffic control, or at about 300 ft from them if the road is level and strait. Also, a flare is deployed about 100 ft directly in front of where a person is standing for traffic control. If it's daylight it depends...we also have stop/slow signs to use like you would see road crews with. Flares are not much of an attention grabber in the daylight...nothing much is.

    That all works well for us, though there is always the ocasional idiot...which is why I am pushing for no more traffic control...only takes one idiot to ruin your day, but most people seem to think it is an acceptable risk when the alternative may ben having a highway shut down for an extended period of time...not in my book...
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    Default speaking of road flare "accidents"

    The story goes something like this......(story told to me a while ago from the source, so it may be just a tad off). I heard a story about how someone thought that it was their god given right to drive directly through an accident scene with extrication in progress and a medevac bird on the ground. By the time he got extrememly close to the scene he stops for the road is now completely blocked. A firefighter walks up to the side of his car and tells the man he has to back up now and that he will have to wait etc. The man is arguing for about 5-7 min before he complies. During this time the said firefighter happened to be holding a road flare conviently pointed in the direction of the said vehicle. When he finally pulled away, much of the left side of the car had been burnt.
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    30 Min. Flares... The battery powered ones have a habit of getting ran over, the snap sticks can fail-or can't be seen by every driver during the day...

    Pro: The flares are free, Penna. State Police give them to us by the gross.

    Con: Roll off the road, leave a mess, burns from the tip "exploding" while striking the cap, the odor can kill your sense of smell for a month, et al.

    Still.. It's free, and if the person lighting it isn't an idiot, they are pretty safe.
    Last edited by EMT257; 07-17-2006 at 04:32 PM.

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    we use a combination of flares, cones, and positioning of extra apparatus if available

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    Thumbs up One More Point.............

    We Set up "Traffic Control" in MOST cases by putting some flares out some distance either side of an Emergency incident, followed by blocking the road completely. In Maryland, state law is VERY specific, "No person shall operate a motor vehicle closer than 500 feet to any Emergency Scene where Fire, Police, Rescue, or other Emergency Vehicles are operating". AND "No person shall cross any Fire Hose laid on or across any roadway, at any time, for any reason, unless directed to do so by an authorized representative of the Fire Department". Our Cops will write tickets for us at any time, so we aren't too worried about traffic. Also, BIG Point. We Never allow an Ambulance to go out on a Highway alone. Even if a call is just for a sick person in a car, on the shoulder, Another unit (Engine, Heavy Rescue, or something Big) also responds, and takes a position behind the Ambulance to protect the Crew and patient. We have had Apparatus damaged by passing traffic, which kind of proves our point. As I post this, there is a News Item on the FH Home Page about two FDNY brothers being struck by a Taxi as they boarded their rig. This is the stuff that we are trying to stop, and we will succeed. Our thoughts and Prayers go out to those injured in NY, best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22
    We've gone to using strictly 28" cones with reflective bands. Don't have to worry about the inherent risks of flares, like lighting fuel or grass on fire. I can't remember what road flares are going for these days, but I'm sure we've paid for the cones by now in money saved on flares and fuel fighting grass fires.
    Same here. We use apparatus to block lanes, then put out cones. More times then not we just shut down the road so we dont have to worry about it.
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