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  1. #1
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    Question Risk and liability of responding in POV

    In the small town I live in, it seems our roads have not kept up with the population growth. I proudly volunteer for one of the county fire departments whose district starts a couple of miles from my house. The dept runs around 300 calls a year. Between my residence and the districts main response area are many dangerous intersections, some with traffic lights, some without, and packed three and five lane roads. I have driven ambulances, fire trucks and sheriff's patrol cars in the past and have been trained how to properly respond. With the increasing liability of lawsuits, I find myself not using any lights or sirens when responding in my POV (even though I have them), although it is extremely frustrating to respond to an incident and wait for a traffic light to change. At the most, I lose 3-4 minutes in responding but it can seem like an eternity, but I know it is safer and smarter. Does anyone else have the same issues as I, would be curious to hear any replies.


  2. #2
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    I had the lights/siren when I first got on the department, but since then I've taken them off and likely will never have another set. In my situation, I can arrive on scene or at the station just as fast without them, and a helluva lot safer.

    As a department, we allow it with restrictions (EVOC, inspections by chief, cannot exceed speed limit, etc). Most guys don't have them, and those who did, don't anymore.

    Just a few weeks ago, we had an incident nearby where a deputy was killed when he was hit by a vollie FF responding to his station. Apparently the FF busted an intersection and hit the deputy broadside. This is a situation that scares me to death in a firetruck, let alone a POV.

    The saving grace of a fire truck is it's got a helluva lot more lights and the sirens and air horns (I have yet to see these on a POV) aren't hid behind the grill or somewhere else that will muffle them. When I'm teaching an EVOC I always point out the fact that you can "outrun" your siren and use police cruisers as an example of that and what placing the siren low and behind the grill will do to the sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    I had the lights/siren when I first got on the department, but since then I've taken them off and likely will never have another set.
    Same here. To me, it's just not worth it to run the risk of getting into an accident. A lot of times, even with lights and sirens, people still won't get out of the way.

  4. #4
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    I run with lights and siren on my POV, but it is not a license to drive like a idiot with your blinders on. Going blindly through an intersection is stupid.

    Our department SOP for POV mandates only go 10 over the speed limit and stop at ALL intersections no mater if you have the green or not. You're right some people won't stop for you. There are days when I wish I had an air horn on my truck, but then the whacker gene goes back dormant. That's easliy taken care off after the run. You give PD the plate/vehicle info and let them go write the $150 dollar fine ,plus court cost, plus 2 point tickets.

  5. #5
    makes good girls go bad BLSboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianB35 View Post
    Our department SOP for POV mandates only go 10 over the speed limit and stop at ALL intersections no mater if you have the green or not.
    You have GOT to be on the same dept as LAfireedumacator
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  6. #6
    makes good girls go bad BLSboy's Avatar
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    Glen, to answer your original question, the problems the POV responses face are multi faceted. We buy cheap *** lights, think that they are well seen, then, drive like asshats.
    Get a GOOD setup, look at an unmarked PD cruiser for ideas, and then, if your state allows it, a GOOD siren and speaker system.
    However, none of that should even bet attempted until you have EVOC, some time supervised responding in a dept vehicle, and then all the necessary permits.

    I personally, do not use my lights on late night AFA calls, I stop at all RED lights, stop signs, and if I am given the right of way from the other drivers, I slowly proceed through.
    Stopping at green lights is ASKING for trouble.
    Ask your insurance company about that, and while you are at it, your local PD who would be found at fault if you stop at a green light.
    AJ, MICP, FireMedic
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    As a chief officer in PA, I have the same emergency vehicle privledges when operating my POV during an emergency response that I have when operating fire apparatus during an emergency response. That also means I have the same restrictions and the same liability either way. So, I follow the same principles of safe emergency vehicle response in my POV that I do when I'm operating fire apparatus. That said, I certainly take into account the fact that my POV, even with red lights and siren, is less visible and less recognizable to other motorists than our big, slime lime fire trucks, and so I act accordingly.

    Does exercising my EV privledges have a big effect on response time? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. But as long as those privledges are used responsibly and within the boundaries of both the law and good common sense, I see no problem in doing so.
    Last edited by bobsnyder; 11-13-2007 at 05:10 PM.

  8. #8
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    Virginia is a courtesy-light state, meaning the your lights don't grant you any EV rights at all, and you sure as hell better not have a siren!

    Due to the layout of our response district, we do have POV response to the scene and the station. VERY few (less than 5? out of 40-some members) even have warning lights, and even those few people use them when they feel it's of the utmost importanance.

    I hate POV response with lights, and I hate the liability that it brings on the members. Just one FC's opinion, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BLSboy View Post
    Stopping at green lights is ASKING for trouble.
    Ask your insurance company about that, and while you are at it, your local PD who would be found at fault if you stop at a green light.
    Like many other things, there are situations where this is very prudent. When you are using opposing lanes to overtake vehicles in the lanes dedicated to your direction of travel, for instance. Anytime I'm passing traffic on a green light I'll slow, and at times stop, at a green light intersection to ensure everyone (even those to the right of my truck and those in the right turn lanes to my 2 o'clock) see me.

    It all depends on the situation. Who do you think is going to be liable if I go through an intersection in oncoming lanes of traffic and merge over into a car that's going through in his lane of traffic? (rhetorical question) I don't care what color the light is, I'm not going to go into the intersection until I feel it's safe to do so, especially a signalized intersection, even moreso when confronting one with an Opticon or other similar system.

    Now, back to the original topic....

    Another thing I've noticed about POVs is that most only have a dash laser in the front window. I'm definitely against and have reinforced to my guys that for me to approve it, there must be 360-degree visibility.

  10. #10
    makes good girls go bad BLSboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    Like many other things, there are situations where this is very prudent. When you are using opposing lanes to overtake vehicles in the lanes dedicated to your direction of travel, for instance. Anytime I'm passing traffic on a green light I'll slow, and at times stop, at a green light intersection to ensure everyone (even those to the right of my truck and those in the right turn lanes to my 2 o'clock) see me.

    It all depends on the situation. Who do you think is going to be liable if I go through an intersection in oncoming lanes of traffic and merge over into a car that's going through in his lane of traffic? (rhetorical question) I don't care what color the light is, I'm not going to go into the intersection until I feel it's safe to do so, especially a signalized intersection, even more so when confronting one with an Opticon or other similar system.
    OK, if the light recently changed to green, I can see, and concede to you there.

    I am talking a light that has been green for a while, traffic behind you, and to your side, and you up and STOP at a GREEN light.
    AJ, MICP, FireMedic
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  11. #11
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    Lol, since I don't know him the answer would be no.


    Quote Originally Posted by BLSboy View Post
    You have GOT to be on the same dept as LAfireedumacator

  12. #12
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    We stop because someone else might be responding on the other street and a MVA between two POV's is not something I want to do.



    Quote Originally Posted by BLSboy View Post
    OK, if the light recently changed to green, I can see, and concede to you there.

    I am talking a light that has been green for a while, traffic behind you, and to your side, and you up and STOP at a GREEN light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187
    Virginia is a courtesy-light state, meaning the your lights don't grant you any EV rights at all, and you sure as hell better not have a siren!...I hate POV response with lights, and I hate the liability that it brings on the members.
    Don't get me wrong...PA has essentially the same idiotic "courtesy light" laws as Virginia does for firefighters. Courtesy lights (blue lights in PA) are simply pointless and dangerous and I would not use them. There is no more moronic law than the one that allows people to put bright, flashy lights on their vehicles and use them when responding to an emergency even though said lights grant them not one iota of privledge. It's a law that couldn't be more effectively designed to confuse civilians and endanger everybody, even if somebody was trying to design a law that endangered and confused everybody.

    Courtesy lights should be outlawed everywhere, outright. EV privledges are another matter entirely.

  14. #14
    Forum Member wcfpd2601's Avatar
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    Default Our district polivy for POV

    First our district does not allow the use of blue lights, wig wags, regular vehicle flashers, etc (the state does not allow the use of sirens). Also you are not allowed to POV to a scene unless you are certified FFII and have been authorized to do so by your station officers. Also district SOPs state that if you receive a ticket while responding to a call you are automatically suspended for 30 days...pretty much a no questions asked if it is due to speeding etc.

    Second-I have been on depts before that have been able to use blue lights. I have seen good and bad with using them. With some FFs more bad than good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsnyder View Post
    Courtesy lights should be outlawed everywhere, outright. EV privledges are another matter entirely.
    In Michigan we are granted EV priveledges. We must have 360 degrees of visibility, roof mounted, red light, visible at 500 feet, and a siren that can be heard at 500 feet.

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    Well here in the Ozarks, most first responders have mini-bar lights and a lot of them have sirens as well. A 360 degree light and siren makes you a emergency vehicle. But here in hill country, we use our own vehicles for a lot of what we do. I use my vehicle for traffic control at accident scenes, to few cops here to do that. And to respond to medic calls. And I think that may be the difference in if you use lights or not. If your dept expects everyone to go to the station, then lights are not needed. If your vehicle is used instead of a dept vehicle, then a light and siren are necessary. All depends on your situation.

  17. #17
    Forum Member wcfpd2601's Avatar
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    There are definitely times that I wish we were able to use lights. Sometimes though if it is really congested it makes it worse. Most POC or vollie departments around here allow you to use them. However like I mentioned earlier, the State of IL does not allow the use of sirens for POV's. It actually went to the House and failed to pass a few years back.
    The success of a fire department depends on the willingness of its members to put aside their differences and work for the benefit of the dept/community.

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    In my town I can easily get to the station at night pretty quick (or just go direct). During the day however, it takes about twice as long due to a busy downtown. Do I have a redlight? yes. Do I use it? Usually not. If I was headed to a major incident (ie building fire) I'd use it if traffic was heavy enough to significantly slow me down. For a fire alarm, wires call, or MVC? Not at all. We have a hospital based, paid EMS service so there's EMS getting there quick.

    The big caveat here is that people should mind their training. I've been operating emergency vehicles for 16 years, have advanced EVOC and have spent 11 of those years working full-time in EMS and fire. A young member of the dept. who has only had their license for a couple of years and never driven anything bigger than a pickup truck should act accordingly. I feel comfortable pushing the envelope a tad (I don't drive like an asshat though) but lots of vol./POC folks should mind their skills and experience.

    That said, if laws/policies allow 360 degree lighting and sirens (our state allows neither except for chief officers) then people should be mandated to be EVOC certified and have some code 3 driving experience before being allowed to use such warning devices. Then they should be granted some emergency vehicle rights. And as always, driving like an asshat should be strictly dealt with. The cops in my town will cut some of us a bit of slack. The chiefs have full EV rights and warning devices, but there are a few of us who the cops know are either other cops, career FD guys or full-time EMS. They trust us more and we don't screw that up.

    The bottom line is that unless you are classified as an emergency vehicle, you face the same liability as any other motorist, at least in my state.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtngael View Post
    The bottom line is that unless you are classified as an emergency vehicle, you face the same liability as any other motorist, at least in my state.
    Even then I think we would end up for the worse if there was an accident while responding POV. As soon as the other side's lawyer hears it was a POV response to a call it is going to open the flood gate of litigation. We may be technically right, and driving completely safe but the perception will be that because it was a POV response speed and aggressive driving were a direct contributor to the accident.

    I have a light in my truck and I used it all the time for the first few years, now I hardly use it. We usually have in-house duty crews most times so there is rarely a need to rush to the station. Only time I use it is when there is no Duty Crew _and_ the nature of the call or initial report suggests an expedited response.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BLSboy View Post


    Stopping at green lights is ASKING for trouble.
    Ask your insurance company about that, and while you are at it, your local PD who would be found at fault if you stop at a green light.

    Around here (MI), you have to be careful. LE does not always stop for red lights, so you have to watch the green lights too (we frequently run to the same calls). Right-on-red makes this situation worse. I have even seen people run a red light to clear the way for apparatus behind them!

    I would rather explain to LE why I was rear ended than be hit in one of the above scenarios. If it's clear, proceed through; but if you can't see both ways best be careful!

    I use lights and siren selectively and only when the gain outweighs the risk. Honestly, that is probably 15% of the time. Luckily people in my area generally move over and behave predictably but I'm always ready for the one that doesn't.

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