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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My point was, and remains, once you have tenders lined up waiting to dump, and I have been at fires with 4 or more tenders waiting inline to dump, there is no longer a water supply emergency and thus no need to run tankers red lights and siren to the fill site and back. 

Tenders are involved in a hugely disproportionate amount of accidents and running non-emergency may be a way to cut those back.  Frankly, in your departments you can do what you want.  But I am preaching this to anyone in my area that will listen and hopefully I can get both of my POC FDs to adopt this later this year.

Robert, this is a serious question.  How does running red lights and sirens on your tender make it safer for them and other motorists than just driving the speed limit and following the rules of the road without red lights? 

Good point Don.

Why do you want to take warning lights off? Are your operators not adhering to current rules, laws, procedures and crashing fire trucks? Do we need to blame the fire vehicles when they crash?  

Keep the lights and sirens. Train your operators. Take responsibility for your actions.


If this is directed to me I never said to take the lights and sirens off.  I said CLEARLY that there are times when there is absolutely no need to use them and all we are doing by running them is creating more of a hazard than it is eliminating. 

While Responding to the scene  Lights are warranted (even if speed isn't)  The siren should be used as needed for traffic and intersections (siren should be slowing,decreasing at the intersection to be able to hear other sirens)  Once the shuttle is going just lights as a warning to traffic and remain on while waiting to dump unless completely off the road.

I don't think anyone is saying to get rid of your lights or siren. I believe there is a time for them and times they don't need to be on. Tankers sitting in line waiting to dump water do not need anything more then there 4-ways on or a amber light going. Just my opinion.

Bill, you are in direct violation of Wisconsin State Law if you run emergency vehicles lights only on the roadway while operating emergency.  Any time you are in motion operating red lights during an emergency response the siren must also be operating.


Frankly, the way your department runs red lights and sirens sounds dangerous and confusing for motorists.


Please explain why running red lights, even if you aren't running hot, is safer than driving the speed limit, following all traffic laws, including stopping at all stop signs and red lights.  If shuttling water is no longer emergent then running them does nthing but create an unnecessary hazardous condition.

First we are in Maine  Maine does not require the siren any time lights on.  We are very rural and not much traffic but lots of curves and hills.  Just because Lights are on does not mean speed limits and traffic signs are not obeyed.  They just requesting right of way.  While at scene the lights are for warning traffic and are off if the tanker is completely off the roadway

Again, I AM in Wisconsin and I was stating the law in MY state.

Frankly, I don't give a damn what you do but to say that you need to use red lights when driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic signs is just plain silly.  Do you use red lights when you go to get fuel?  Or drive the truck for training?  Why not? You drive the speed limit then and obey traffic signs...Further, if you have lots of hills and curves you propably shouldn't be operating a tender anywhere near the posted speed in the first place. 


My points are clearly this:

1)  Tenders make up a small number of the total fire department vehicle types but are involved in a disproportionate amount of vehicle accidents and firefighter deaths.

2)  If you are shuttling water, and there are tenders in line waiting to dump water there is no longer a need to run emergent when returning to the water supply point or back to the scene.  Obviously there is enough water because tenders are waiting to dump.

3)  If water becomes an issue again the tenders can easily revert to operating emergent and use their lights and sirens.

4)  I personally think this has less to do with looking at the reality of the situation and more about I am in a fire truck going to a call so I have to have my lights on.  SAFETY dictates the type of response, not tradition or looking cool.

In  75% of our distict our pumpers would have to depend on their tank water until the tender arrived. If I remember my basic firefighting classes, a fire can double in size ever minute. Therefore the fire could be more than 2-4 times larger when the tender arrives. I live in Kentucky and our state statues REQUIRE, that when responding to an emergency, all emergency vehicles operate BOTH warning lights and siren. I believe that getting water to the scene of a fire qualifies as an emergency. Most tanker/tender accidents that I am aware of involve rollover or leaving the highway type of accident. How does your departments SOG address responding and training in this type of apparatus? 

None of what you said addresses what I am talking about.  OF COURSE on the initial alarm the tenders should run emergent, and until water supply is no longer an issue they should run emergent.  My point is simply this, if there are tneders waiting inline to dump water supply is no longer an emergency part of the incident.  It is and always will be safer to drive vehicles at the posted speed or less and to obey all traffic signs and rules of the road than running red lights and sirens when not absolutely necessary.


Nice try at a shot at our training but I would bet our driver training exceeds yours.  Anyone that wishes to drive must successfully complete the State of Wisconsin Fire Apparatus Driver Operator course, and a few of our FFs have gone on to complete the certified driver operator course.  We run inhouse training with drivers to keep their skills sharp and an emphasis on safe driving is pushed and pushed hard.


As I have said previously to others, do what you wish.  But think about this.  Suppose you have multiple tankers lined up waiting to dump and your driver is returning red lights and siren and loses control of the tender on a curve.  Not only does he flip the truck and kill himself and severely injure the other firefighter in the tender, he rolls over a mini-van and kills mom, dad, and the 2 kids.  How do you jusitify that?  How do you justify running emergency when water supply was no longer an emergency?  Good luck and I hope your department has great insurance.    

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