EMERGENCY RESPONDER SAFETY INSTITUTE REPORT
FIREFIGHTER FATALITIES AND ROADWAY RESPONDER DEATHS
INDUSTRY REPORT HIGHLIGHTS ADOPTION OF EMERGENCY LIGHTING IN RESPONSE TO INCREASING FIREFIGHTER FATALITIES AND ROADWAY RESPONDER DEATHS
In the first two weeks of 2020, seven roadway responders were struck and killed by vehicles. That’s seven lives in 14 days with three of those lives belonging to tow truck drivers. More than three years later, the fatalities continue to accumulate. In 2022, another 51 roadway responders were killed. In 2023, another 46 died.
In an era of distracted drivers, departments are adopting new emergency lighting and vehicle conspicuity practices to better alert drivers and divert oncoming traffic away from the scene. The Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) released its yearly report showing that struck-by-fatality deaths of U.S. roadway responders remains high despite gradually decreasing, from 51 in 2022 to 46 in 2023, after peaking at 65 in 2021. Of these, 23 deaths were documented in 2022 by ERSI relating to non-emergency responders - half of the yearly total since the inclusion of mobile mechanics and tow truck drivers among first responders.
Additionally, the ERSI has made its tracking of 2023 struck-by-vehicle deaths to date available to the public at www.respondersafety.com/FatalityReports. The organization also produces ResponderSafety.com and the ResponderSafety Learning Network (learning.respondersafety.com), which offer online training and traffic safety certification programs.
The ERSI’s 35-page report reviews mitigation strategies. Here are some of the findings:
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF APPARATUS TRAFFIC ADVISORS
- The ERSI documented a number of departments that have adopted traffic advisors, and amber/yellow LED arrow sticks that improve visibility and give clear directions to approaching motorists. Command Light manufactures a series of Traffic Flow Boards that can rotate up to 360 degrees, giving crews the ability to better position the advisor when the apparatus is blocking a scene.
- The report recommended multi-level or high-rise light systems above obstructing views and to create visibility farther away from the scene. While some advisors utilized directional pulsing light bars, the study found that large arrow boards were especially effective at diverting motorists away from the scene. Command Light offers four unique traffic advisor models with different traffic pattern variations, two of which combine arrow patterns and Command Light's newest model that provides up to two lines of programmed messaging in a 36" x 67" digital board.
- The ERSI also noted the use of traffic advisors on smaller vehicles, like patrol units and command vehicles, especially noting the NYPD Highway Patrol Unit’s use of elevated LED traffic light bars over the last several decades. For these small units, the Command Light Z-Lift elevates the emergency traffic advisor above the roofline 40” in 10 seconds and offers 90-degree left and right rotation to position the lights toward oncoming traffic.
THE INTRODUCTION OF DE-COMMISSIONED “BLOCKING” UNITS
- The ERSI also highlighted several departments that introduced and converted de-commissioned vehicles into large blocking units outfitted with emergency lighting, arrow boards and other conspicuity measures, like reflective chevrons. Among the vehicles: dump trucks and retired fire apparatus.
- The Irving Fire Department in Texas deployed the first of several repurposed fire apparatus as blocker units in October 2017, implementing the idea after experiencing nine struck-by-vehicle incidents during a five-year period. All of its blocking units are equipped with arrow devices.
- Similarly, the Grand Rapids Fire Department utilizes a blocking unit, “Utility 2,” a modified dump truck. The department placed the unit into service after three separate fire apparatus were struck by vehicles in a short period of time. The damages to those three trucks totaled $150,000 in repairs. An emergency traffic advisor typically costs between $6,000 and $11,000. With the increasing demand to protect roadside responders, lighting grants have become more readily available to help departments better equip their roadside vehicles.
THE USE OF LIGHT TOWERS FURTHER ENHANCE ROADSIDE SAFETY
- The report also addressed bright white lights, which cause glare and visibility problems for crews and motorists alike. With the advent of new, bright LEDs, the industry saw a problematic trend — departments that began mounting LEDs to the truck to eliminate the cost of spec’ing a light tower. However, reports like this strongly suggest using (and positioning) white light to only illuminate work areas, and light towers are one of the most effective ways to direct light thanks to continuous rotation, elevated lighting, backlight options and “streetlight” positioning. See how these features impact a scene.
To see the full tow industry catalog, visit commandlight.com/catalogs.
The ERSI has made its tracking of 2023 struck-by-vehicle deaths to date available to the public at www.respondersafety.com/FatalityReports.