Oh boy. I was at the firehouse with some of the other guys today and we were discussing our tanker and the use of red lights and sirens when responding to the scene. Some of us think its okay, some just say no. I'm not sure which states, but some states have it that any new tanker built cannot have red lights or sirens.

What's your opinion on this?

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We do respond with lights/siren on our tanker unless ordered not to. Our tanker is a first-due piece of apparatus along with the brush truck on all brush/woods fires, and it can function as a pumper as well.

I believe they should have lights and siren.  In rural areas where water isn't available in the form of a hydrant, that tanker is vital to my success in stopping a fire.  Especially if you're from a volunteer company OR even just WAITING for a volunteer company to respond.  Their response time is already slowed by the fact that they may or may not be at their station, driving from home or from work, then waiting on a crew.  I know they say that an emergency response only gains you about 2-3 minutes for the on scene time, but to me, that's 2-3 minutes less I'm having to wait for water. Again just my opinion.

We recently revised our SOP on using lights and siren when responding in the tanker. We still use lights and siren any time we are in our city or approaching any controlled intersection on an emergency response. That's for the same reason Jeff mentioned. Many areas we serve do not have hydrants. As long as there might be an urgent need for water we do not want to delay the tanker's response. Out on the open road, however, when we are clear of the city and not approaching a controlled intersection (4 lane, divided US highway) we move to the right and shut off the lights and siren. Since we can only run 55 to 60 mph in the tanker (3,500 gallons) we'd rather not become a "rolling traffic jam."

We run lights and sirens unless were told not to. We have a tanker (3000 gallon) and a pumper/tanker (1500 gallon). There are no hydrants in our district so they go with us on everything. Depending on the department and the call one or the other will run on mutual aide runs as well. I would think not being able to run lights and sirens on a tanker would be a major to risk to firefighters. Even though you cannot go very fast in a tanker the lights help out if you are filling or pulling on to the highway. I was on the call the other day where we had to flip the lights on to get out on to the highway to go fill. As I said no hydrants in our district so if we have a major fire we need to ge the water coming in right behind the engine.

I'm not sure what State's have this as a law. But in New York if we are responding to a "Emergence" We better have lights and sirens on. If we hit someone God forbid for some stupid reason and we don't have lights and sirens going. We will not stand a snowballs chance in hell when we get pulled into court. Do we run sirens all the time. No, we don't hardly at all. We leave this up to the driver to use his or her discretion on the siren. If it is a emergence vehicle then I have to say there should be lights and sirens on it.

I would have to agree.  We run lights all the time but don't always use sirens, usually reserving them for intersections and when we need right of way.  I think however a tender should stay as close to the speed limit as possible regardless of whether the siren is blaring or not.  The handling characteristics of pretty much everything we drive in my dept. is sluggish at best.  Even our brush rigs carry 500 gallons, they look like a pickup but handle like a truck.  Having the lights activated seems not to make the driver as aggressive as having the siren going all the time as well which is why I like to use the siren sparingly.  We are not very urban in our area and have to travel the open roads a lot, so I can see why a more urban area would use the siren more.  No facts to back it up, just my observations.     

When one looks back on LODDs with an apparatus, tanker crashes, rollovers, etc tend to be towards the top. There are several reasons, unbaffeled tanks (such as converted old milk trucks, etc), inexperience of a driver, speed, etc. Sometimes it is the "opportunity" for someone to drive fast with lights and sirens. As such, there have been areas and depts that have replaced red lights with amber like those in municipal trucks, and removed the sirens. With those devices off, it tends to take the urge out of driving faster or driver more reckless. In many cases depts have mutual aid or automatic aid already established for a water shuttle response, thus reducing the "need" to respond lights and sirens.


Now, for me, having amber flashers for a water shuttle response makes sense. A dept shouldn't be relying upon a sole tanker for a water shuttle. Driving with Due Regard and not having the urge or sense to speed to save a couple minutes makes sense. Not getting to the scene is more detremental than a couple minute delay.


However, it is up to a dept as to how such operations are done and I could see a point to respond initially with a dept response lights and sirens, but as the operation goes, and more shuttles start responding, there is no reason to operate lights and sirens. A year and half ago, there was a significant fire in a downtown of a small city with a volunteer dept. While they had hydrants where they were, the water in the tower was getting too low and they switched to tanker operations. There were tankers waiting upwards of 15 to 20 minutes to dump and then go for more water. Some of those tanker operators had to be told to shut their lights and sirens off after they dumped, because there was no reason for such a response.

I believe the first due rigs should run red lights AND siren.  In Wisconsin the law is VERY clear that if you are in motion and the red lights are on the siren must be operating too.


BUT, I also believe that once the water shuttle is established and the water supply is secured that there is no need for tankers to run red lights and siren to get to the water supply point and then back to the scene only to sit in line waiting to dump.  Drive the speed limit, stop at all controlled intersections, and there is no need for red lights or sirens.  If the situation becomes water supply critical again you can always use the red lights and siren again.

John makes a very good point.

Tankers and tenders make up the highest per capita apparatus type involved in serious crashes. Baffles or no baffles they roll over much more easily than other apparatus, often with catastrophic results.

Common sense is our most valuable tool when driving. Seat belts are a very close second.

YES, they should have.

I would think that any apparatus that is in operation relating to an emergency response or operation must have lights and siren active. The main purpose of lights and siren use is not to gain a time advantage but to warn other drivers that this vehicle may be travelling at a speed that is different than what is posted. Often times, this is under the speed limit when looking for an address (when there aren't any numbers), or maybe a hydrant buried in the snow or a brush pile, even when trying to figure out (by smell - sniffing the air) where the smoke is coming from. I think of the lights and siren (when in motion) assisting in warning others of our erratic (justifiably so) driving. We will sometimes drive within that allowable limit over what is posted, try to smooth out the bumps, slow down in the middle of the block, turn around in the middle of the street, or we even stop quickly when we see someone come running toward us (though they usually want to see where something is happening). As far as a Tanker/Tender is concerned, I believe the latter part of my examples apply the most to these monsters. We need to be slow and careful with them and give fair warning to all that are around. If we find ourselves depending on the emergency response of a Tanker/Tender then it may be time to call an additional alarm (or mutual aid company), or simply change our fireground tactics and go defensive. It is like you were always told in the academy, "Never run on the scene!" Why? Because you will trip. The bigger you are, the harder you will fall. All the Tanker/Tenders I know are pretty big.

Are they emegency vehicles or not?

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