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Why does the fire department send fire trucks to Emergency Medical Calls?

This question is asked by many people and even sometimes the people that called 911. On several occasions the emergency callers will tell the crews I need an ambulance not a fire truck? It is important to know that all of your firefighters are trained at a minimum as Emergency Medical Technician and carry appropriate medical equipment. It is the fire departments goal to get properly trained personnel and equipment to your emergency call as quickly as possible.

Fire trucks are often the closest emergency apparatus available therefore they will be sent to provide Emergency Medical help while another crew is bringing a medic unit (ambulance). It also works in reverse where the medic unit may arrive first, but more personnel are needed to help with the patient care. In this case a second arriving emergency vehicle may be a fire truck.

Each call is carefully planned out to get the quickest response with the right people and equipment to you when you call 911.

Why does the fire department send so many people when I call for an ambulance?

With our advanced level of Emergency Medical service (ALS or Paramedic care) there are more on scene procedures that our personnel can perform. These procedures quite often require assistance in many areas, which requires more personnel. In addition, today’s EMS guidelines require that people be handled and stabilize to certain standards to prevent further harm.

For most EMS calls we will send five firefighters in at least two different apparatus. When the care and stabalization are completed the medic unit can transport with less firefighters than were needed to provide the initial care. The other fire firefighters and apparatus are placed back in service ready to respond to other calls.

Why do fire trucks and medic units pass us with lights and sirens and then shut off the lights and sirens and turn down a side street?

This can be for many reasons but the most common reason for this is that the fire department units were cancelled by radio. Quite often other fire department units will arrive on the scene and radio to the other units responding they are not needed. The fire units will then shut down there code response (term used for lights and sirens) and return to their assigned station or duty. In other cases the units are still needed at the scene but not urgently. In this case the first unit at the scene will tell the other units to continue non-code and once again they turn off the siren and lights but continue to the emergency scene with the flow of traffic.

With our heavy traffic and inadequate roads we know that driving a fire apparatus code creates a significant public hazard. You can not drive at increased speed and through traffic lights without creating an increased rick and hazard. Our personnel have been trained to cancel or slow down other incoming apparatus when we find an incident that does not require further immediate firefighter need. By doing this we hope to prevent other accidents that can occur when you drive heavy fire apparatus in a code mode.

What do I do when a emergency vehicle approaches me from behind me or in oncoming traffic?

The law is pretty clear in that you are supposed to move to the right and stop. In some cases you can not move to the right. It is important that you do not panic and pull your vehicle to the right with care and caution. In some cases there might be a pedestrian or another vehicle, object or ditch. When possible you should signal that you are moving to the right and change lanes or pull the shoulder and stop. Traffic does not always allow you to change lanes and / or there is no shoulder to pull too. In this case it is important that you pull as far right as safely possible and bring your car to a stop. You should NEVER pull to the left lane or turn lane. Emergency apparatus will most always attempt to pass on the left side, even if it is into oncoming traffic. For this reason even if you are driving in the opposite direction (oncoming) you also need to pull to the right and stop. This will give a clear lane of travel for the emergency vehicle. In some cases traffic may need to move ahead to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. It is our goal to arrive quickly but safely.

How far can I park from a fire hydrant? What if the sidewalk is not painted red or yellow by the hydrant?

Believe it or not this is one of the most missed questions on the drivers test. A vehicle is not allowed to park within 20 feet of a fire hydrant. By following this rule and allowing 20 feet on each side of the hydrant a fire truck has 40 feet of clearance to get to a fire hydrant. The rule applies whether the sidewalk is painted or not.

Updated 1/20/11 16:31
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