Fire trucks are big and visible because of their flashing lights. Everyone sees them, right? Even with their size and lights, there are still times during emergency situations that may not be the case.
According to information from the Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Study, over the past decade, numerous law enforcement officers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers were injured or killed along roadways throughout the United States.
Studies conducted in the United States and elsewhere suggest that increasing emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity holds promise for enhancing first responders’ safety when exposed to traffic both inside and outside their response vehicles (e.g., patrol cars, motorcycles, fire apparatus and ambulances).
In 2008, as with the prior 10 years, more law enforcement officers died in traffic-related incidents than from any other cause; National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM, 2008). Over the past 12 years, an average of one officer per month was struck and killed by a vehicle in the United States. (FBI, 2007).
Preliminary firefighter fatality statistics for 2008 reflect 29 of 114 firefighters killed on duty perished in motor vehicle crashes, (USFA, 2009a) similar to figures posted in previous years. According to a 2002 study (Maguire, et al.) that aggregated data from several independent sources, at least 67 EMS providers were killed in ground transportation-related events over the 6 years from 1992 to 1997.
According to the study, the sobering facts clearly demonstrate the importance of addressing vehicle characteristics and human factors for reducing the morbidity and mortality of public safety personnel operating along the Nation’s highways and byways.
The Metropolis Fire Department, with the recent financial assistance from State Farm Insurance and owner John Foster, the Metropolis Fire Department was able to help make the vehicles in the department’s fleet more visible. That increased visibility has come from reflective material that was added to the back of the fire trucks.
Metropolis Fire Department Captain Micah Tolbert said during situations when there are vehicle accidents, the department tries to place emergency vehicles in locations where they are visible to the public, but he observes that sometimes the public may see the vehicles but may tend to “tune them out.”
Tolbert said there has not been any accidents locally where firefighters or the fire trucks were hit while operating at the scene of an emergency, but, “There have been some close calls where distracted drivers came through too fast,” said Tolbert.
“It is our hope that by having our fire trucks displaying the reflective striping as is now required by the National Fire Protections Association, on all new fire trucks that it will help keep our firefighters, police officers and EMS workers safe, as well as limit the occurrence of secondary collisions at emergency scenes,” said Tolbert.
According to Tolbert, with the funds donated from State Farm, the department was able to have Sign O Rama in Paducah to put reflective material on the back of the fire trucks, which the department hopes will help the public take more notice of emergency vehicles and personnel during vehicle accidents, fires or other emergency situations.
Tolbert notes the reflective material will be seen better at night and is bright enough that it will also provide better visibility during daylight hours as well.
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