1. #1
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    Default Highway Safety Vests @Car Fires?

    Received several questions from readers after reading the February University of Extrication article on "Safe Parking". One question, asked by several readers, was about how we can comply with the new federal law 23 CFR Part 634 that requires us to wear high-visibility vests when working in or near moving traffic when the incident we are responding to is a vehicle on fire.

    Here is an example of just such a question...

    "I was wondering if there is any consideration regarding fire resistance
    properties for the high visibility vests that are to be worn by
    firefighters. Would not the wearing of vests made from regular synthetic materials (eg. polyester, nylon) automatically compromise a firefighter's compliance with NFPA 1851 for "Selection...of Protective Ensemble" in the event of a car fire for example?"

    There is no official response to this issue as of yet from the federal highway people who wrote the original federal law. My take on this is the best I have to offer at this point in time.

    23 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), Part 634 takes effect in November of 2008. It requires all personnel at incidents that interrupt the normal flow of traffic to wear high visibility vests; PD, FD, EMS, Tow operators, etc. These incidents would be crashes, vehicle fires, pedestrian struck incidents, broken down vehicle needing a tow truck, etc.

    The vests would have to be compliant with the ANSI 107 or the Public Safety 207 version of the vest standard. The wearer would have to have on a Level II vest.

    At this time, firefighters can encounter two situations where a vest will be an actual 'hazard'; 1) in the presence of heat or 2) in the presence of chemicals.

    So, when firefighting or doing hazmat work, the assumption is that these activities take place in an area protected by 'safe parking'. As long as those in SCBA who are fighting a car fire for example are actually doing that and are in the protected area, not wearing a vest would be reasonable; just the firefighting PPE. Everyone else around them should be 'vested'. When they take their SCBA and coat off after the fire is out, then the vest goes on by department SOP.

    If wearing a vest while doing actual extrication tasks is something that your department considers not a good idea, then it could be a similar guideline. Turnout while ripping and tearing; vest afterwards. The most compliant solution for extrication crews is to have the high-visibility vest already donned over the turnout coat at the fire station. Put on the fire coat and automatically put on the vest. If there is a fire, it is easier to take the vest off than it is to try to put on the coat and then put on the vest separately.

    The new federal law, Part 634 doesn't say this, but that is how I believe it will be interpreted by legal people when or if something goes wrong at a scene.
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator
    www.universityofextrication.com

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    While researching this, I cam across a document explaining it in great detail. In it was this line:

    Pursuant to Section 1402 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA–LU).....

    Clearly a government operation.
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    Put on the fire coat and automatically put on the vest. If there is a fire, it is easier to take the vest off than it is to try to put on the coat and then put on the vest separately.
    If I have to lolly-dick around to do all this, who is doing the patient removal and extinguishment?
    Somehow a simple government solution is always more complicated that the original issue.
    Instead of telling us how to dress, why don't the eliminate the arrogant attitude of some law enforcement agencies and individuals and allow the fire department to control the scene? With out any back lash or the threat of getting arrested.
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    Does the reflective striping already in place on our turnout gear meet this standard? Or is the Level II vest requirement more stringent?

    Maybe the solution is to incorporate the Level II visibility requirements into new turnout gear specs. Then we can look like our European counterparts, with bright day-glo turnouts and three times as much striping....
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
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    Quote Originally Posted by SPFDRum View Post
    If I have to lolly-dick around to do all this, who is doing the patient removal and extinguishment?
    Somehow a simple government solution is always more complicated that the original issue.
    Instead of telling us how to dress, why don't the eliminate the arrogant attitude of some law enforcement agencies and individuals and allow the fire department to control the scene? With out any back lash or the threat of getting arrested.
    Since it takes so long to throw a vest on, the person will die in that 10 seconds.
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    NFPA-compliant turnout coats do NOT comply with the ANSI vest standard that Part 634 requires. The turnout coats have enough reflective trim; they just don't have the high-visibility colors that are also a part of the ANSI 107 or 207 vest standard.

    Heard from one PPE manufacturer that our coats will not be capable of performing in fire situations as required by NFPA and being high-visibility green and red/orange. Sounds like vests over coats will become a long-range solution.
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by SPFDRum View Post
    Instead of telling us how to dress, why don't the eliminate the arrogant attitude of some law enforcement agencies and individuals and allow the fire department to control the scene? With out any back lash or the threat of getting arrested.
    As far as the getting arrested part goes, I would not worry about it. It's a fed. law and therefore can not be enforced by local or state law enforcement agencies (it is not part of the criminal code). I would say that the only time that someone would have to worry about this law, would be if there was a accident and a firefighter was injuired because he was not wearing his/her vest. Then it would come into play.
    I mean it would clearly be the FF's fault that he/she got hit by the car, because they did not have their vest on. The fact that the driver was speeding, talking on cell phone, or just a class "A" dumbass has nothing to do with it. This new law is nothing but a knee jerk reaction, with little or no thought for the needs of FFs. Think about it, if you get hit by a passing vehicle while at the scene of a MVA, all the vest is going to do is help the other FF's locate your body, and that is it. If people cant see the *** end of a fire truck with all its lights going, they are not going to see you in your traffic vest. And don't think for one minute that the Fed. Government will use any logic when it comes to if you have to wear your vest while fighting a car fire. If you get hit, its your ***! "You did not have your vest on, as the law clearly states!" All this new law has done is to increase the civil liability of Fire Depts. across the country. But what can you do, the Safety Nazis have struck again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmoore View Post
    NFPA-compliant turnout coats do NOT comply with the ANSI vest standard that Part 634 requires. The turnout coats have enough reflective trim; they just don't have the high-visibility colors that are also a part of the ANSI 107 or 207 vest standard.

    Heard from one PPE manufacturer that our coats will not be capable of performing in fire situations as required by NFPA and being high-visibility green and red/orange. Sounds like vests over coats will become a long-range solution.
    The most compliant solution for extrication crews is to have the high-visibility vest already donned over the turnout coat at the fire station. Put on the fire coat and automatically put on the vest. If there is a fire, it is easier to take the vest off than it is to try to put on the coat and then put on the vest separately.
    Sounds to me, then, like the solution is a fire-rated vest that you could leave on your coat and not have to worry about taking it off for fires. Business opportunity, anyone?
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    I realize the Turnouts don't meet the requirements, but currently we allow them for the fire/rescue guys and the fire police will where the high-vis lime, reflective vests, coats, etc while protecting us. Once the hazard has been removed(fire extinguished, patient extricated, etc) the vests go on while picking up. Either over the turnout coat in the cold or in the summer the coats are dropped and just the vest is worn.

    I realize we can't get there overnight budget wise, but it would be nice if there was a way to either make the turnout gear compliant so we only worry about 1 PPE for all hazards(traffic, fire, rescue) Hazmat will always be in its own category.

    If this applies to all folks operating on a highway I can't wait to see my troopers comply. I don't see it going with the uniform. Half the time they don't put rain coats on in the rain because you have to get it out of the trunk.

    Another consideration.... what about our RMA's and a crash. Should they be provided a compliant vest while awaiting removal from the highway? Are they not our responsibility??? Just thinking out loud.

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    Somewhat along the same lines, we carry lime-green traffic cones in our rigs for scenes. The cones are about two-thirds the size of regulation orange traffic cones. We like them because the smaller size makes it easy to carry more of them and they fit inside the side compartments of our trucks. Sounds like a good deal, huh?
    Well the state DOT wants us to get rid of them because they don't match the DOT cones and therfore their safety standards. So now we have to trash our cones and get DOT spec cones instead. The problem is they don't fit in the compartments and we will have to find somewhere to stow them on the rigs.
    IMHO, I like the green cones because I think they are more visible as well as being easier to deploy and we will have more of them available due to the smaller size. Somedays you just can't win.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lifeguard911 View Post
    Somewhat along the same lines, we carry lime-green traffic cones in our rigs for scenes. The cones are about two-thirds the size of regulation orange traffic cones. We like them because the smaller size makes it easy to carry more of them and they fit inside the side compartments of our trucks. Sounds like a good deal, huh?
    Well the state DOT wants us to get rid of them because they don't match the DOT cones and therfore their safety standards. So now we have to trash our cones and get DOT spec cones instead. The problem is they don't fit in the compartments and we will have to find somewhere to stow them on the rigs.
    IMHO, I like the green cones because I think they are more visible as well as being easier to deploy and we will have more of them available due to the smaller size. Somedays you just can't win.
    Ahh the solutions abound for this one. Check these out http://www.safetythink.com/Landing+-...LED+Light.html. Collpasible cones that take up almost no room and are the right size.
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    Our SOP is to wear our vest at all times while on the highway, in fact we don them before getting into the truck on all MVA calls. If we get into a vehicle fire situation we do not remove, the theory being that:
    A) We're not in a high temp atmosphere where the vest might self ignite
    B) Car fires are usually fought at relatively long range (stay away from those tires, struts, and bumpers) so the risk of radiation is low
    C) If we do get exposed to direct flame, it would be in a rescue, it would be quick, and the hose or the ABC (both get pulled on all extrications) should be able to quickly put the burning vest out during/after the exposure.

    After one extremely close call the decision was made: better safe than sorry.

    BTW, we have the pop up cones, love them, work great and don't take up much space.
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    Ok so regarding the cones - what is the "standard" that is to be met? We have heard that the 28" cones with reflective is the new approved standard equipment. Is this true? What color of cone is approved? Orange or Lime Green? We are in Lycoming County, PA. Where can we find these answers in writing? Thanks for help in advance.

    Also, hello Mr. Moore. Interested in coming to Lyco to do a class??

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    In order to be used at night, cones are required by the MUTCD to be orange, 28" in height, and have both the 4" and 6" reflective collars.
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    I think the vests are overkill. No, they can't hurt. But honestly, if someone is so distracted or impaired that they're not able to recognize the scene, a vest probably isn't going to save the day.

    Block traffic with big heavy trucks far enough upstream. Team members and vehicles should not be allowed outside the shadow of the blocking apparatus.

    But whatever, it seems to be popular with OSHA/BLS now. So be it. I've been standing next to a cruiser that's been taken out by a drunk... passed on roadblocks by drowsy drivers... the vest makes you visible to the awake, sober, and concentrating drivers.

    They aren't the ones I'm worried about.
    Last edited by Resq14; 03-14-2008 at 05:13 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fire304 View Post
    Our SOP is to wear our vest at all times while on the highway, in fact we don them before getting into the truck on all MVA calls. If we get into a vehicle fire situation we do not remove, the theory being that:
    A) We're not in a high temp atmosphere where the vest might self ignite
    B) Car fires are usually fought at relatively long range (stay away from those tires, struts, and bumpers) so the risk of radiation is low
    C) If we do get exposed to direct flame, it would be in a rescue, it would be quick, and the hose or the ABC (both get pulled on all extrications) should be able to quickly put the burning vest out during/after the exposure.

    After one extremely close call the decision was made: better safe than sorry.

    BTW, we have the pop up cones, love them, work great and don't take up much space.
    Although I agree that ultimately the vests will do very little to provide any real benefit, the issue with the vests and car fires to me is not so much that I am worried about the vest catching fire or melting but the fact that the SCBA over the vests renders it USELESS, so why have it on.

    It makes only slightly more sense than wearing it under my turnout coat so it doesn't get so dirty.
    Last edited by MemphisE34a; 03-14-2008 at 04:57 PM.
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    In addition to the fact that wearing a flammable vest while fighting a car fire just isn't common sense, I think we should look at the differences in the situations.

    The accident scene may have limited traffic flow ( to be determined by the responding units ) but how many times have you allowed traffic through the scene with a vehicle actively burning? I would think that a burning vehicle would automatically call for a full shutdown of the road, no matter what.

    No sense having folks driving past the BURNING vehicle.

    Now, after the fire has been extinguished and cleanup has begun the SCBA comes off and the vest can go on, if that meets with the needs of the situation.

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    Make no mistake, the vest are much more visible than just the turnouts:

    Resq14 you're right about blocking and drunks, I think where the vest helps is the rubber necker who's looking at the scene rather than the road ahead, that flash of color might get him to look up as you walk backwards out of the protective zone (loading the Pt., getting a tools etc.,). Lets face it, the colors of most turnouts are not very smart for road work. Tan is camo during the day, black is stealth at night, and our reflectors take a real beating over the years so they are not very bright.

    MemphisE34a, you still get about 300 degrees of color/reflective with the SCBA's on, I don't have a pic of that, but I've wondered that myself. And you're right DFDMAXX, we shut down the road where there's a workign fire, but how often that happen? I don't know about your neck of the woods, but when I'm jumping out of the cab for a "car fire" its usually a steaming radiator that's over heated, and even when its not, eventually the road is reopened and with the suppresion crew is still packed up with a line ready until the car is taken away. The boss would rather have us wearing it and not need it, than not wearing, as a result SOP is turn-outs on, vest on, then get in the truck before rolling out.
    Last edited by Fire304; 03-15-2008 at 07:50 AM. Reason: Spelling with a 6mo old in arms corrections ;)
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    When our area starts to assign tower/ladder companies on collisions, I'll believe they're taking this seriously. Throwing some yellow mesh and scotchlite at the problem is feel-good, imho. There's still the "oh what if the truck get's scratched/damaged/hit... it's our only one" mentality.

    NIGHT: I think a well-lit scene and good traffic blocking do more for safety than jogging vests.

    And by well-lit, I mean scene lighting that illuminates the scene, not oncoming traffic... and reasonable amounts of non-blinding/non-seizure inducing warning lights.

    DAY: Unless you are directing traffic or walking in and out of traffic (which we shouldn't be doing on high speed/limited access highways), the jogging vests are of little value.

    On lower speed/local roads, I'd rather have the one person that looks like a neon hi-liter be the person directing traffic, if needed. 20 people in fluorescenent green/yellow/orange is a little confusing.

    As a cop, I wear my ANSI vest If I'm "standing in a roadway directing traffic" (per our contract). Why? Because if we "unreasonably neglected to wear safety equipment provided the employee, when available," we could end up with reduced benefits if injured. But do I think the ANSI vest will save me someday? No, not based on the reality of such crashes.

    I like big heavy red trucks. I like big heavy DOT trucks with crash attenuators. I like DOT-style arrow boards. I like electronic variable message boards, stationary and mobile, to give drivers information.

    Around these, I like the pink signs, cones, barrels, barricades, amber flashing lights, and flares. I like light towers and tripod lights to illuminate scenes. I like closing lanes; I like closing roads even more. I LOVE writing tickets for improper passing of emergency vehicle violations.
    Last edited by Resq14; 03-18-2008 at 07:05 AM.
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    When our area starts to assign tower/ladder companies on collisions, I'll believe they're taking this seriously.
    When I brought this up with an officer I was told, straight faced, that the ladder was too expensive to bring out onto the highway. I guess the truck is worth more than we are...

    No safety vest would have helped on this one...

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