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Emergency response vehicles: the need to stay safe en route

It's always a fine line when first responders are headed for an emergency scene. On the one hand, there is an urgent need to arrive quickly. But on the other hand, it makes no sense for a police car, fire truck or ambulance to drive so fast that the risk of causing an accident on the way is excessively elevated.

Last week in San Antonio, there was a reminder of the type of risks involved in emergency response.

A San Antonio fire truck was responding to an accident. It was going through an intersection with its sirens and lights on.

But there was another car in the intersection. The fire truck ended up clipping the back of that car. 

The driver of the car later told police officers that the light was still yellow when the fire truck clipped his vehicle.

Fortunately no injuries occurred. But obviously the vehicle accident could have been a lot worse.

It is not difficult to find examples of accidents with serious or catastrophic injuries or even death involving first responders. Last May in Minneapolis, for example, a motorcyclist was killed in a collision with a police vehicle that was responding to a shooting scene.

Sometimes it is the first responders themselves who are killed or injured in traffic accidents en route to the scene to which they have been called to assist.

Agencies that respond to distress calls must think through their policies carefully regarding how aggressively to drive when responding to a call. Even when time is of the essence, first responders must exercise due care.

Source: FireEngineering, "TX Fire Truck Collides With Car En Route to Accident," July 3, 2013

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