Had a question for all of you that respond to calls on the Interstate or other busy highways. What is you SOP's on positioning your vehicle at the scene and at what point do you shut down a highway, either partially or completely?

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Our department operates a Special Hazards to the scene close to the vehical (for extrication) angle parked to provide converage and an Engine backing up the hazards also angle parked to provide protection. Both have arrow sticks for higher visability and we place accident signs well in advance of the accident for more info for motorists. We shut down the highway to clean up the debris, or if it is in a location that doesnt offer enough safety for responders. We also have been known to shut her down for a LZ or 2
Our dept. doesn't have any SOP's on interstate calls but we usually shut down the lane that the accident is in or if the accident is off the road we shut down the closest lane to it and place our apparatus to deflect other vehicles away if something would go wrong. For any extrication we completely shut down the interstate in one direction or both for the pure fact of safety. It may upset civillians but we feel better safe than sorry. I hope this helps your question.

Lt. Smith
Thats a great policy. Most people misinterpret some of the police departments intentions on the fire scene. As well they want the lanes of travel cleared ASAP, 90% of the time if you have the ability to communicate in a non agressive manner in strenuating you are doing it for safety reasons, they will work with you. Another major contributor to the PD's concerns is shutting a road/highway down for an extended period of time beyond what is necessary for our job to be accomplished. We can avoid this by simply getting the extrication complete, the victims loaded, and removing the hazards from the roadway in a quick fashion to help the roadway return back to its normal state.
We get one lane as a minimum. We try very hard to keep traffic moving. We may stop it if traffic is heavy when the ambulance is leaving or the tow truck is about to make a snatch.
But if we are working an MVA, we get one lane and our cops know that. They KNOW that they are not going to get both lanes until we are done.
If you don't take one lane, then sure as hell, someone is going to step out from behind the apparatus without looking and get biffed. Not worth it. Practice like a NASCAR pit crew on your extrications. Get good at it and it won't take long. When the cops know that your crew can extricate, package and load most of the time in 20 - 30 minutes average, they aren't going to get upset. They also understand that for more complicated rescues, they may have to set up detours. In our part of the country, if we are going to be more than one hour on scene, the DOT has to be notified and the scene must be set up like a construction zone. We try to avoid that, but have done it.
The top, number one, most important consideration is the safety of on scene personnel. No exceptions.
Hope this helps.
Two out of three expressway accidents are secondary accidents, quite often as a result of an original minor accident, broken down vehicle or car off the roadway.

Blocking off the entire roadway does not necessarily minimize your risk, it may actually increase it. Furthermore, you may actually delay emergency response due to the traffic congestion you've created.

The initial heavy apparatus (engine or rescue) on scene should block the accident so as to create a shadow, providing initial protection for the vehicles and victims already involved. Then set up advance warning devices upstream of the accident to provide ample notice to approaching motorists.

Additional heavy apparatus (second engine, ladder truck, etc.) should be positioned as an upstream block to provide your first line of defense should a vehicle intrude in your work zone. Smaller EMS, police and fire vehicles should be placed downstream of the accident and the shadow vehicle.

Block only as many lanes as are absolutely necessary. If you can work safely on or off the shoulder - then do so and keep all lanes moving. If the victims are out of the vehicle and the vehicles are drivable - get them and their vehicles off the roadway into a parking lot, driveway or other suitable and safer location. Minimize your exposure.

Keeping traffic moving, however slowly, is better than stopping it all together for several reasons. Improving response times of inbound resources, reducing the risk of secondary accidents and keeping commerce moving are just a few good ones.

I team-teach a Highway Safety Awareness course for NITTEC with a NYS Trooper, a NYS DOT Emergency Manager, a NYS Thruway Authority Assistant Traffic Supervisor and the Regional Transportation Operations Center Director. I also chair their Incident Management Team. Click the web site to learn more about our approach to roadway safety.

I'd be more than happy to share ideas and info with you or anyone else is interested. Thanks for reminding me of an important blog topic.
Thanks Tom -

Actually, we use a slide in our presentation that shows how Chicago FD uses their ladder trucks as blocking vehicles.

Great method. Just like anything else, it needs to be applied properly for the conditions and situation.

You guys do great work out there. Met one of your BCs recently and I was impressed by your operations.

In fact, I lived in the Norridge/Harwood Heights area for about 2.5 years, but that was in my younger days.

Stay safe. Train often.
Here in my area or sheriff department does not care how long it takes the highway scene is for the protection of pt and responders the only group that get's upset is the state police because they have to hear the calls that come in fire calls on highway the road is shut down until all fire crews are in a safe area. off the highway and without smoke coming onto the highway. Medical scenes ambulances park in front of scene and the fire trucks if we get any are placed so that the scene is protected the best it can be from the other drives. but we also get atleast 1 lane most of the time 2 lanes are best but it rarely does.
Thanks for all of the input guys. All of the training I have ever received said to angle a vehicle behind the scene for protection, even if it meant shutting down traffic and you all have reinterated that. We run the Interstate a good bit but we have not been practicing what we know. My biggest fear is a rubber necker rear ending us and seriously injuring an emergency worker. I have made a decision not to run the calls on the intersate until I can change our departments views on this. Again, thanks for your responses and stay safe.
I think that much of the fire service needs to change its attitude towards highway safety 180 degrees.

Instead of relegating the more senior members of our crew to providing fire police duties (aka - putting them out to pasture) we need to instill proper traffic control methods into every member, starting with new recruits.

It's the first course we encourage out new recruits to take, giving them initial training before they can get into a highly competitive Firefighter 1 course.

Instead of a fire police course being the last course you take in your career, we make it the first. It gives the new recruits effective training that they can apply immediately. That gets them involved early, allows them to perform a critical task and frees up experienced responders to do their jobs. It also makes them feel as if they're a contributing member of the team sooner, because they are.

I can't stress enough that unless the situation truly warrants it, shutting down an entire roadway should be a last resort.

Standby for a forthcoming blog on this subject, including our Traffic Incident Responder Check List for you to download.

Stay safe. Train often.
Traffic control is huge, as is communication with Law enforcement. Unless we just had to, we never completely shut down a 4-lane.
Apparatus positioning depended on the situation, but we always tried to park just past the MVA, if not possible, then COMPLETELY off the road. Our heaviest unit (engine or tanker) on scene was used to block the affected lane(s). All this of course depends on what kind of apparatus your dept has & how u utilize it on a scene.
Cops r not completely ignorant of ur operation, but they have their own to conduct, communication & cooperation is key here for safety of all concerned. We always tried to train regularly with law enforcement. We got to know each other well enough to know how the other needed to operate onscene.
Anybody not involved in rescue/extrication was assigned to assist with traffic. Again, training & communication.
At least 1 police car (at times my cmd unit) would position well ahead (depending on line of sight/visibility) to begin slowing or moving traffic over.
Hell, there were even times when I would get a trucker to play roadblock for me. Check it out, u may find they can be very accomodating. Might even find an ex-FF, medic or cop driving one who knows what u need.
Bear in mind, I've been out of it since '96 so everything I just said may be antiquated.
I saw when I lived in the Maryland/D.C. Area that both MDOT and VDOT had specialized response units which were dispatched to Beltway/Parkway accidents and their role was to block the roadway for emergency crews. They were big, yellow vehicles with Arrow/Message boards, a large foam bumper and a boat-load of cones and barrels for closing lanes and diverting traffic. When the scene was clear they picked up their cones, turned off the big arrows and were ready for the next scene; they could even leave cones in places and roll to another nearby accident if need be.

The responding Fire unit would still position their rig to block traffic, but there was a quarter-mile of cones behind it to merge traffic out of the lane.

Do other areas have highway response units like that and is it an idea that other areas would embrace?
Our SOP states that the first unit on scene pulls up in front of the accident to initialize command. Last unit shuts down the road. Its gotten so bad with all the rubber neckers that we always shut down the road to secure the scene for safety. Usually law enforcement helps us out alot with the traffic diversion.

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