Safe Emergency Vehicle Driving

Fire Department responses to and from emergency incidents as well as emergency operations on roadways present a high level of risk to fire fighter safety.
The DRIVER is responsible for the safe and prudent operations of the emergency vehicle and for the safety of all passengers in the vehicle.

Emergency Response

Emergency vehicles shall be operated in compliance with the State Emergency Motor Vehicle Code.  This code provides specific legal exceptions to regular traffic regulations that apply to Fire Department vehicles only when responding to an emergency incident or when transporting a patient to a medical facility in an emergency mode.

Emergency response does not absolve the driver or the company officer of any responsibility to drive with due caution.

Donít move your emergency vehicle until you and all passengers are seated safely and wearing seatbelts.

The driver of the emergency vehicle and its officer are responsible for its safe operation at all times.

The use of sirens and warning lights does not automatically give the right-of-way to the emergency vehicle.  These emergency devices are simply requesting the right-of-way from other drivers, based on their awareness of the emergency vehicle presence.

How far does the sound of a siren travel?

  • Less than 230 feet ahead.

Emergency vehicle drivers and company officers must make every possible effort to make their presence and intended actions known to other drivers, and must drive defensively to be prepared for the unexpected or inappropriate actions of others.

What does the say about emergency vehicles.

Never assume that another vehicle is aware of the presence of yours.  Todayís vehicles have noise insulation, powerful radios, and air conditioning that lessen the effectiveness of horns and sirens.

Dark tinted windows will make emergency lights difficult for drivers to see.  Additionally, some emergency lights may be difficult to see in the day light.

All intersections require prudent action by the emergency vehicle driver.  The following steps should be followed:

  • When approaching a negative right-of-way intersection (red light, stop sign or yield), the apparatus should not exceed 15 mph and shall be prepared to stop.
  • Do not rely on your warning devices to clear traffic.
  • Scan the intersection for possible hazards (right turns on red, pedestrians, vehicles traveling fast etc.).
  • Begin to slow down well before reaching the intersection and cover the brake pedal with your driving foot, continuing to scan in four directions (left, right, front, back).
  • Change the siren cadence not less than 200 feet from the intersection.
  • Scan the intersection for possible passing options (pass on left, wait, etc.) and avoid using the opposing lane of traffic if at all possible.
    • Passing on the right should be attempeted only as a last resort and only when all traffic is stopped.
  • If all visible traffic in all lanes cannot be accounted for, the driver should bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
  • If possible try to establish eye contact with other vehicle drivers.
  • Reconfirm all other vehicles are stopped.
  • Account for one lane of traffic at a time treating each lane of traffic as a separate intersection.

Railroad Intersections

At any time an emergency vehicle driver approaches an unguarded rail crossing he/she shall bring the apparatus or vehicle he/she is operating to a complete stop before entering the grade crossing.  In addition the emergency vehicle driver shall perform the following prior to proceeding:

  • Turn off all sirens and air horns.
  • Operate the motor at idle speed.
  • Turn off any other sound producing equipment or accessories.
  • Open your window and listen


  • Expect other drivers to act in one of two ways:
    • Do what is expected
    • Do the unexpected
  • The emergency vehicle driver will always anticipate the unexpected.
  • Never assume that the general public knows or will follow the rules of the road.
  • Reaction by other drivers.
  • Leave yourself an out if a motorist reacts unexpectedly.

* * * * * *    Never trust approaching traffic    * * * * * *

Fire Line

Maintaining control of your vehicle

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