Traffic Hazards to Fire Fighters While Working Along Roadways

The number of fire fighters struck and killed by motor vehicles has dramatically increased within recent years. During the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, 17 fire fighters were struck and killed by motorists. This represents an 89% increase in the number of line-of-duty deaths over the previous 5-year period (between 1990 and 1994), when 9 fire fighters were struck and killed by motor vehicles. Under the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, NIOSH investigated two separate incidents involving fire fighters who were struck and killed while providing emergency services along roadways during 1999, and devised recommendations for both fire departments and firefighters operating at these incidents.

Any fire fighter working along any type of roadway runs the risk of being struck by a motorist. To prevent such incidents, NIOSH recommends that fire departments and fire fighters take the following actions:

Fire departments:

* Develop, implement, and enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding emergency operations for roadway incidents.

* Implement an incident management system to manage all emergency incidents.

* Establish a unified command for incidents that occur where multiple agencies have jurisdiction.

* Ensure that a separate incident safety officer (independent of the incident commander) is appointed.

* Develop pre-incident plans for areas that have a high rate of motor vehicle crashes.

* Establish pre-incident agreements with law enforcement and other agencies such as the highway department.

* Ensure that fire fighters are trained in safe procedures for operating in or near moving traffic.

* Ensure that fire fighters wear suitable high-visibility apparel such as a strong yellow-green or orange reflecting flagger vest when operating at an emergency scene.

Fire fighters:

* Ensure that the fire apparatus is positioned to take advantage of topography and weather conditions (uphill and upwind) and to protect fire fighters from traffic.

* Park or stage unneeded vehicles off the roadway whenever possible.

* If police have not yet arrived at a scene involving a highway incident or fire, first control the oncoming vehicles before safely turning your attention to the emergency.

* Position yourself and any victim(s) in a secure area that maximizes your visibility to motorists when it is impossible to protect the incident scene from immediate danger.

* Use a traffic control device that maximizes your visibility to motorists when controlling traffic.

For more information, visit the NIOSH Web site at

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