Response guidelines for private vehicles (2023)

When I travel across the country, firefighters often ask me for recommendations on procedures and protocols that a particular department might have. On the other hand, when I traveled across the country, I observed a variety of ways to complete a given task. To that end, I offer a set of general guidelines for using firefighting vehicles when responding to a fire station or the scene of a fire or other emergency.

Response guidelines for private vehicles (1)
Photo de Michael Wilbur
One of the more unusual examples of a volunteer firefighter's personal vehicle. Whether responding to fire stations or directly on job sites, operators must be aware of their responsibilities.

Several current events make this an important topic. In New Jersey, a firefighter tending to a school box train in his private vehicle killed two civilians. This response turned out to be a false alarm. In Maryland, a firefighter arriving in his private vehicle crossed a double yellow line at an estimated speed of 80 miles per hour and collided head-on with a pickup truck, killing one civilian and seriously injuring another.

It is not uncommon for you to receive reports of firefighters running red lights and stop signs in private vehicles. Yes, I even got a complaint about a fireman who walked around a parked school bus with its red lights flashing. We hope these general guidelines will be a starting point for your department to develop a policy statement related to this driving issue.

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Some of the information used here can be found in a brochureI live when I arrive, distributed by the US Fire Administration. The author of the brochure is Bill Troupe, who has done an excellent job helping to improve passenger vehicle safety. The brochure is available free of charge by calling Bill at 800-238-3358. The additional information used can be found in theNational Manual for Emergency Vehicles.

Standard Operating Guidelines - Non-Emergency Use in Your Private Vehicle

When operating at the station or on site with a private vehicle, all applicable traffic laws must be strictly observed. Non-emergency private vehicles do not receive any exemption from traffic rules applicable to registered emergency vehicles. PRIVATE VEHICLES ARE NOT EMERGENCY VEHICLES AND THEREFORE ARE NOT SUBJECT TO ANY EXCEPTIONS OR SPECIAL PRIVILEGES UNDER STATE LAW.

Due to the stress of responding in a timely manner, you must make extra conscious efforts to operate your vehicle safely. You must pay special attention to the following:

  1. speed limits and road conditions, weather and light.
  2. Crossroads with and without drivers.
  3. pass and turn

If you are permitted a specific type and color of identification light (for example, a blue or green light in the state of New York), you must comply with your state's traffic and vehicle laws, as well as related rules and regulations. to the size, type and power of the lit candle.

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Remember, when you respond with a colored light on your vehicle, you are representing your emergency organization and drawing attention. (Note: In some states, a properly equipped and operated private vehicle may be considered a legal emergency vehicle; check your state's traffic and vehicle laws.)

You can be held criminally and civilly liable if an accident occurs during your assignment as a first responder. The agency you work for may also be sued if it is determined that you received incorrect or inadequate information or if your response failed to make an effort to control an unsafe or reckless operation.

When parking on site, keep the vehicle as far away as possible and in a safe position; Try to keep vehicles to the side of the road and out of the way if possible.

Did you know that over the past two decades, over 270 firefighters and first responders have been killed in accidents involving their vehicles? In 1995, 18 firefighters died on duty; Nine of those firefighters died in their own cars. Twenty-five percent of annual firefighter deaths occur during alert response and return. Those numbers don't include the many first responders and people they've sworn to protect who are injured in car accidents each year.


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  1. Drive with due care. Drive a vehicle as if everyone in your vehicle and on the road around you is family.
  2. Slower means safer. Never exceed the posted speed limit. Drive even slower on roads with poor condition and/or poor visibility.
  3. At an unguarded level crossing, or when your vision is obscured at a level crossing, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends opening your vehicle window, letting the engine idle, and turning off all radios, fans, and wipers. windshield to approach. oncoming trains hear.
  4. Never assume another vehicle is aware of your presence. Today's vehicles have noise protection, powerful radios and air conditioning. The same goes for dark windows with colored lights. Also, some colored lights can be difficult to see in daylight.
  5. Always leave a window ajar to listen in and stay away from emergency vehicles.
  6. Park safely. Park your vehicle away from hazardous areas such as falling debris, downed power lines, fire stations, exhibits, open flames, toxic gases and smoke. If you park in a lane, make sure oncoming traffic can see your vehicle.
  7. Park wisely. Park on the same side of the street as the fire department, at least 60 meters away. Do not block the road under any circumstances. The roadblock could prevent the deployment of teams and a water transport operation, as well as delay necessary medical attention at the fire site.
  8. Do not move your vehicle unless you and all passengers are safely seated and belted.
  9. Make sure your vehicle is completely stopped before you or anyone else gets out.
  10. Never operate any vehicle or equipment when tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  11. You are responsible for the safe operation of your vehicle and the safety of all persons in and around your vehicle.
  12. Always stop at all intersections. If you are stuck at a red light, turn off the colored light. By turning off the colored traffic light, you avoid confusing drivers with the green light, who may stop to give you the right of way, not knowing that the law does not give you the right of way or allow you to pass. a red light
  13. Members are responsible for having their emergency vehicles inspected annually and maintained in good condition.

General Requirements for Personal Emergency Vehicle Operators

  • A vehicle inspection is performed annually for each firefighter until their 21st birthday. After the firefighter's 21st birthday, vehicle inspections must be performed at least every three years. This report, driver extract, is obtained by submitting a motor vehicle form to each firefighter who requires the extract. This report must reflect no more than two Class B violations and NO Class A violations in any three year period. (See Appendix A at the end of this column.)
  • A mandatory three-hour course on Fundamentals of Fire Technique and Response Safety must be successfully completed before personnel can respond in their private emergency vehicles. Records must be kept.
  • Firefighters must successfully complete a defensive driving course within their first year of membership. Records must be kept.
  • All new firefighters must have regular medical exams, including drug tests. The purpose of the physical assessment is to determine whether the new member has the physical ability to adequately perform firefighting duties. Drug testing is done to reduce Board of Directors liability.
  • Due to the general lack of driving experience and given the amount of training and activities involved for a young member of an emergency services organization, under no circumstances should any member under the age of 18 be licensed to drive emergency vehicles. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Emergency Vehicle Driver Trainees can become members between the ages of 18 and 21 who have demonstrated exceptional skills through personal training. The person remains on this list of graduates until they turn 21. During this period, candidates complete the requirements of a training program established by the local emergency services organization.

The training program shall include, but is not limited to: Fire Fighting Basics, First Response I and II, Pump Operator and/or Ladder Company Operations, Hazmat First Responders, Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, and a state-approved defensive driving course.

Medical requirements for vehicle operators

  • Comply with all requirements above this policy.
  • A licensed physician must perform a physical examination certifying that the driver is physically fit to drive safely in an emergency situation. A signed copy of the complete physical examination must be kept in the member's file. The physical exam should include, but is not limited to:
  1. No impairment of use of foot, leg, hand, arm or fingertip, or other structural defects or limitations that may affect safe driving.
  2. You do not have diabetes mellitus to a degree that currently requires the use of insulin for its control.
  3. You don't have a heart condition that could result in unconsciousness or sudden death.
  4. You do not have any respiratory illness that could affect safe driving.
  5. You have no arthritic, rheumatic, muscular or vascular diseases that affect your ability to drive.
  6. You do not have epilepsy or any other condition that could cause sudden loss of consciousness or loss of ability to control a vehicle.
  7. You do not have mental, nervous, organic or functional illnesses or psychiatric conditions that could affect safe driving.
  8. You must meet the following minimum vision requirements: At least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye and both eyes together, with or without glasses; at least 70 degrees of lateral vision in each eye; the ability to distinguish red, green and yellow (or amber).
  9. Meet hearing requirements by hearing a forced whisper from 5 feet away with your best ear, or meet specific requirements measured by a test device, with or without a hearing aid.
  10. Evaluate the medication (if ingested) to determine if it would cause chemical deterioration and affect your ability to drive an emergency vehicle.
  11. You must not be diagnosed as an alcoholic.
  • A copy of this medical certificate will be sent to the Governing Body's insurance company.

APPENDIX A: Department of Motor Vehicles History Requirements

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A person who has committed a Class A violation within the past three years will normally receive a license suspension from the Department of Motor Vehicles that issued the license. The insurance industry's position with these individuals would also be to participate in an approved driver improvement program or equivalent training and be recertified to operate emergency vehicles.

The designation of Type A and Type B offenses is based on an examination of government scoring systems. Violations with the highest scores are classified as Type A.

Type A Violations:

Driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs. Negligent homicide while using a motor vehicle (gross negligence). Operation during a period of suspension or withdrawal. Use of a motor vehicle to commit a crime. Serious bodily injury with a motor vehicle. Driving a motor vehicle without the owner's permission. Allowing an unauthorized person to drive. Reckless driving. Hit and run driving. Type B Violations: All movement violations not listed as Type A Violations. (Exceeding the posted speed limit is an example of a Type B Violation.) Michael Wilbur will speak about deploying emergency vehicles at the Firehouse Emergency Services Expo '98 July 16-19 in Baltimore. Michael Wilbur, publisher of Firehouse®, is an FDNY lieutenant at Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx and a firefighter with the Howells, NY Fire Department. He is an adjunct professor at the New York State Academy of Fire Sciences and the Orange County Fire Training Center. Wilbur developed and delivered emergency vehicle deployment training across the country and provided consultation on various firefighting topics.


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