Firefighters in Queens Won’t Rush to All Calls

A million times a year, fire trucks are driven into the streets of New York City, usually at breakneck speeds with lights and sirens blaring. The rush is often critical: Firefighters converge on fires, douse the flames and save lives. The same response applies in less serious situations — calls that are not life-threatening, which are expected to reach around 230,000 this year after steadily rising from 41,054 in 1969. But with 35-ton rigs barreling through red lights and forcing traffic off the roads or through busy intersections, accidents occur, sometimes with deadly consequences. Nearly 700 times last year, the city’s fire trucks collided with other vehicles and, occasionally, with one another. Now, for the first time, the Fire Department is re-engineering its approach: Its plan, set to begin on Monday as a three-month pilot program in Queens, is meant to slow firefighters’ responses to certain calls by having them turn off their lights and sirens and follow the usual traffic rules.

(Read the entire New York Times story...)


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Wow....Guess I was wrong...there IS some intelligent life in New York City...Maybe there is hope for Washington DC yet........Naw...was only joking....

"35-ton rigs barreling through red lights and forcing traffic off the roads or through busy intersections"


With the two key words in this sentence highlighted, I am amazed that the accident rate isn't higher. However, I also recognize that the news media utilizes such words or phrases to make the story appear bigger than it actually may be. Similar policies have been used all over the country (including my department) which call for a non-emergency response to certain incidents. In the majority of cases, the risk to the public and department equipment or personnel, (and reputation) just does not meet the criteria of "emergency". 


Certainly better training can be a great preventative measure. But who needs the training?  Granted, there is a wide variety of training and experience requirements, which vary from state to state and department to department. But I believe the majority of departments in this country (both paid or unpaid) understand the importance of training, and only a minority do not consider it much of an issue. I also believe that while apparatus crashes account for a large number of injuries every year, there is a much overlooked group which shares the majority of the responsibility. That is John Q Public. In the "couple" of years I have been in this business, the public is the bigger contributor to a high percentage of crashes. How dare we interrupt their travels, and interfere with them getting to where they are going just because an emergency vehicle approaches. Why should they yield the right of way, or stop? After all, they have to get where they are going, and they are the majority. 


Since training is a good thing, and since apparently the public didn't have the proper training or have forgotten what actions to take concerning emergency vehicles, perhaps there needs to be a "continuing education" program for civilian drivers. Those who cannot document their CE's, looses their driving privileges. If firefighters and medics fail to keep up with CE's, we can lose our license/certification. A little refresher training every couple of years on moving to the right, and yielding the right of way for an emergency vehicle, along with paying attention instead of talking on a phone, messing with the stereo, applying make-up, and countless other distractions. Perhaps the incidence of collisions with emergency vehicles could be further reduced.


But then again, how dare someone suggest the public would be in any way at fault.


I agree with what you have to say. In my department we may not respond 15 to 20 times a day but...It can be 15 to 20 times a week sometimes. We dont always go code three. Lift assits in wich the pt is in no real danger (according to them) is not a oh sh#$ we have to get there now. Now a 5 month old laying in the floor and is turinng blue, unless its a smurf baby, is a OH SH#$ GO. But we still drive with all due reguard. Yes we may run Flash Flash Whoo Whoo more times than not. But in twenty years we have had no MVAs. ( I am sorry if my spelling is not great.)

My issue with this that we really never know what we have until we get there. We've had several FA's that turned into working alarms and multi alarm fires. A child locked in an auto can go from bad to wrose very quickly.

As a person who drove for years my thoughts were "its already on fire and will go out eventually so I might as well get there safely. I would slow down enough to be able to stop quickly going through red lights or major intersections. I had to be able to see at least 100 feet either way before going into an intersection. ONly had one close call and it was I was going too fast to slow down and the old lady didn't pull to the side.


One thing that drives me crazy is the officer that sits with the siren going full blast 4 in the morning and theres nothing on the road for miles.

The top pic isnt of FDNY is it? It says South Jamaica on the front windows. Or is that some where in New York. Im from Georgia. Aint Never Been That Fer North lol

Craig...been there done that....I have actually been a "bad boy"  I even offerred to pull over and let him (officer) drive once when he couldn't keep his paws off the siren and air horn.....Kind of got "spoken to" by the Chief after this one......But then at the next meeting the word was given to cut down on the lights and sirens on calls...I think the term used was "Use your heads"

I have a CDL and in my opinion it adds nothing to making me a better driver.  The only thing the CDL is useful for in my opinion is the air brake info and I make my guys understand that anyway.  The  CDL written test I have seen is 90% unrelated to what we do in the fire service

We have a tiered system where we don't always run code 3, it is all based on dispatch information, and we try to limit the use of lights and especially sirens at night when traffic is not an issue. I realize that "Big Cities" are a different story when it comes to traffic and response times, so if they need the warning devices, whatever, it doesn't have to mean you're hualing ass.



Yes very good point!  There were some studies a while back, ok, a lot while back, I am not sure by whom, but it showed that when emergency services drivers use the SIREN, the natural tendancy of the driver, is to try and keep up with the rhythm, thus increasing speed. After I read that study, I tried it myself with another driver, and sure enough, as soon as I turned on the siren, the heavier the foot of the driver got. 

I am unsure if that study was including the all mighty Q, (which in my opinion.. is the greatest siren on the planet, and every FIRE APPARATUS should have them.... sets the difference between EMS, Police and FIRE,,which has nothing to do with this discussion..just my opinion)  but at that time the electronic wail/yelp was the issue.

There are those here on this site that will argue that speed has to be reduced, and there are others who are hell bent on keeping the "tradition" of screaming trucks alive.  I suspect that most of the guys and gals that have the need for speed are the younger ones, and the older farts that have experienced the bad over the years will see the light...ooops.. not the apparatus lights either.


Sometimes, shit just happens.

We had a near miss recently where we were responding code, traveling east bound and approaching a major 4-way intersection (traffic signal controlled).  The east bound lane the engine was in had 2 left turn lanes, 1 straight through and 1 straight/right turn lane.  At the time the 2 left lanes had cars stopped and only the far right turn lane had a car, the straight through lane was empty.


Intersection was approached (Opticon was working), engine crossed the yellow line to pass the waiting cars on the left (per protocol), paused at the light to ensure control of the intersection and then turned right (southbound), going around and in front of the cars in the 2 left hand turn lanes.  As the cab was clearing  the intersection there was the sound of squealing brakes.  A vehicle had come barreling down the one open lane and at the last second, as the engine was passing in front of that lane, they had to lock up their brakes in a panic stop.  They hadn't seen the engine until that last second.  They didn't hit the engine or anyone else but I'm sure the driver's seats had a damp spot.


Everything had been done correctly but, had the car not been able to stop in time, the engine would have been t-boned  (and yes, everyone had their seatbelt on).  The moral to the story; sometimes even when doing everything right, shit can happen. 

its a section in Queens.
WOW!! Thats how you feel about us from NYC??

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