Recent policy changes with the Austin FD concerning speed limits while running emergency with lights and sirens has me asking; why run lights and sirens at all?

But it did get me to looking at my departments responses and how many of them are true "emergencies".

Even though we do not have a written policy, fire alarms are generally treated as a non emergency response especially if it is a "general fire alarm" and no exact location in the building, or the "I've fallen and I can't get up" calls, will get a non response. But yet we run a vehicle fire on a remote county road at 3 am as an emergency.

Another local department runs "trash fires",or a check for fire, etc as a non emergency call.

Does your department differentiate between emergency or non, or do all calls get an emergency response?

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I am still surprised to see people asking about running lights and sirens, not running lights and sirens, etc... Nothing against asking the question, I'm just surprised to see it.

The county where I live has a "priority" dispatch system. We, as a FD have no discretion (until an officer is on scene) on whether or not we run lights or sirens. When dispatched, we recieve a "priority" along with the call info. The dispatcher assigns the priority based on the type of call. For instance, a working structure fire comes in as priority 1, meaning all responding vehicles run lights and sirens. On the other side, a lift-assist recieves a priority 4, meaning all responding vehicles do not run lights and sirens.

Now your asking, is there a priority 2 and 3? YES, there is!!! lol

It gets a little more complicated in these situations and they do not usually arise but just to clarify a priority 2 call means that only the first due apparatus responds with lights and sirens, all others respond without. Priority 3 means that the apparatus closest to the scene responds with lights and sirens, all others do not. Ex. We run BLS non-transport medic assists to the local ambulance shack. They are considered the 1st due apparatus so they would run lights and sirens for priority 2. However, they are much farther out of town then are station so if the call is in town and priority 3, we would run lights and sirens while they would not...... Sounds complicated but it really does work out good!
This is a system I am familiar with, having been an Explorer in Southern California.

the dispatcher used a set of protocols to determine what the priority for the call was and it was part of the dispatch; the old code 1, Code 2 or Code 3 system.

"why don't your volunteers take ''on call'' time and be stationed at the station for possible responses"?

This is one thing we have done. Provide an incentive stipend to man the station at night. It really has cut down on response times, and most fires being able to be tapped out with the first due only. Plus it does decrease the amount of POV's responding LABOH.

But I acknowledge that a lot of rural departments probably do not have the housing and or funding for a program like this.
my department, does differentiate between emergency and non, but just like John Crabbe said, it should only be to clear traffic and for no other purpose. i guess one thing about running lights and sirens is that the person that is running them has to be as mature as the conciquences could be for running them out of personal control. Great add by the way really gets people thinking.
Here it's kind of a catch 22,We usually run "Hot"(lights and sirens),unless otherwise advised,or until a chief or first unit on location says otherwise.Then everyone else runs "Cold",or stays on "Stand-By" at the hall.
Usually any fire not within 50 ft. of an exposure is COLD.
To clear things up here is a list of terms we use: HOT-Lights and Sirens
COLD-No Lights and Sirens
RESPOND WITH CAUTION-Hazardous Condition On Scene
or En-Route to Scene.
STAND-BY-Stage at predetermined area or in hall.
We do have Volunteers around the Station in the Evenings, especially around Dinnertime since most kitchen/cooking fires and a lot of medical calls come in around that time, but that doesn't eliminate the need for our volunteers to have to respond from home or work. That is the thing about Volunteers is that they cannot just hang around the station all the time. Although we train hard and dedicate as much time as we can to the Department, we do still have to spend time with our families, work, lead Scout Troops, and all of the other things the career Firefighters do on their days-off. It also doesn't solve the problem of 0230 dispatches.

Our station has exactly two beds; one for each of the career Firefighters on duty. So stationing more there overnight is not a option at this time; perhaps after the new station is built in 2012.

In the state of Georgia, a POV with a Red Light permit is legally an emergency vehicle, with all of the same obligations and responsibilities and latitudes (not the best word, but basically I mean proceed on Red at intersections, move around stopped traffic, the "Move-over Law" applies, etc...) as other emergency vehicles.

Whether it's a courtesy light, or an emergency light, it serves the same function: it alerts the other drivers on the road that you are not just another driver, but that you are operating in the public interest and that many of your driving decisions will be different than those of regular motorists. The only real difference between a courtesy light and an emergency light is the legal teeth the Police have if someone fails to yield, fails to "move-over" for you, etc...

From a purely apparatus view, ours are out the door in under two minutes 99% of the time, so anyone not already at the station when the tones drop will not be on them.

Personally I am used to this type of system from a prior department I was with, which was a Depratment of Public Safety, so all of the Career Employees were both Cops and Firefighters, and rotated through the Schedule. When it was their turn to pull Firefighter Duty,there wore a red polo shirt instead of a blue one, and stood-by at the station, performing the Fire Department duties for the week. When the tones dropped the on-duty FFs drove the apparatus (Engine, Tower or Rescue as appropriate) to the scene and all of the on-duty Patrol Officers would respond to the scene in the cruisers with their turn-outs in the trunk. When they checked-in with the IC, they also turned-in guns so they wouldn't accidentally take them into the fire.

Like you said, everyone's situation is different.


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