According to official statistics by the National Fire Protection Association, over 67% of the 1,115,000 firefighters in the United States were volunteer firefighters, and 82% of the 29,705 fire departments were volunteering associations. At a glance, these statistics show the impressive effort of volunteer firefighters in creating a fire-safer nation.
Nonetheless, while volunteer firefighters play a vital role in protecting communities against fires, they often find themselves responding to emergencies without the training, tools, and support career firefighters normally receive. And yet, when a fire emergency is underway, these heroes don’t hesitate to respond - making it even more important to invest in protection and warning systems.
If you are a volunteer firefighter, tools such as emergency vehicle LED light bars can help you be more visible when traveling to the emergency site, reduce the chances of accidents and provide you with reliable emergency lights.
Discover all the benefits of a tailored light bar system for your private emergency vehicle in this guide by Extreme Tactical Dynamics.
Volunteer Firefighters Light Bars: A Background
According to a Firehouse study, over 100 firefighter fatalities happen each, most of them due to lack of resources, inadequate preparation, failure to comply with procedures, and sub-optimal readiness.
While it is true that the number of firefighter fatalities has followed a downward trend over the past 10 years, just in 2019, 61 firefighters lost their lives while on duty - and 34 of these were volunteers. What’s more is that most of these fatalities happen on the way to or returning from the emergency site!
Indeed, since 2003, over 50 fire emergency-service organizations (ESOs) volunteers have died in their privately operated vehicle (POV) that was used to respond to the emergency.
Unlike fire trucks driven by expert and certified emergency drivers, volunteer firefighters and home responders are often under stress, in sub-optimal vehicles, and without the tools and skills necessary for the task.
After the high number of fatalities that happened in 2003, the Fallen Firefighters Foundation hosted the first-ever Firefighter Life Safety Summit in May 2004, which introduced over 15 initiatives and established safety standards for home responders. These included:
- Suitable privately operated vehicles
- Ad hoc insurance policies
- The introduction of standardized training programs
- Regular skills refreshment training sessions
- The use of warning devices, including sirens and lights
Emergency lights - such as LED emergency light bars - are essential tools to increase the safety of volunteer firefighters when traveling with their POV to the emergency site.
However, there are a few aspects to consider before installing them on your vehicle:
- Emergency lights can either be fixed or removable, which can be stored in the vehicle you wish to use to respond to an emergency
- Not all municipalities allow volunteer firefighters to be responders or to install courtesy lights, make sure to check with your local authority
- You should undergo a training course to install and use your emergency lights. If installed incorrectly or they are brighter than local guidelines specify, they can be a danger for other motorists.
- Emergency lights should be used in combination with a suitable POV, which is adequate to respond to emergencies
Now, let’s look at the reasons why a light bar is an essential tool for your volunteer firefighter POV.
A Light Bar Can Increase the Visibility of Your POV When Traveling to an Emergency Site
Whether you are looking to install permanent or temporary emergency light bars, the main reason why you should do so is to increase the visibility of you and your vehicle when traveling to and from the emergency site.
When driving to an emergency in your POV, you will need to respect all traffic laws and road regulations. For example, you need to keep your vehicle’s speed within the posted speed limit, pay attention at crossroads, and respect road signs.
However, a colored warning light bar can help firefighters and emergency medical personnel request the right of way from other motorists.
When using your courtesy lights, you don’t have any special privilege, and you don’t benefit from exemptions from local and national traffic laws. And, it is also important to notice that other drivers are not required to offer the right of way and you should keep maximum focus when traveling with your courtesy lights on!
When used properly, visor or full-size light bars can help you expedite your journey, request the right of way, and increase your level of safety on the road.
On the Emergency Site, Light Bars Alert the Public and Illuminate the Scene
Once you have arrived at the emergency scene, you can still make use of your POV light bars:
- Light bars can help you alert and warn the public:
Whether you have been called to duty because of a fire or flood emergency, this can spread and affect the surrounding buildings and people. When waiting for the arrival of fire trucks and sworn firefighters, you can use your emergency lights to warn the public about the undergoing emergency. If needed, your lights can also help you direct an emergency evacuation and signal surrounding people to keep away from the affected area.
- Light bars can help volunteers illuminate the emergency site and operate at better safety levels in poorly lit areas:
Volunteer firefighters play a vital role in working towards a fire safer nation. However, these responders are even more important to the community in rural areas that don’t benefit from a fully-staffed career Fire Department.
However, when responding to emergencies in more rural areas, visibility of the emergency scene can be scarce. Thanks to the powerful light that LED light bars and strobe light bars emit, you can illuminate the entire area.
- Light bars can help you support the fire department operations:
A POV equipped with emergency lights can reach areas that are not prepared for large apparatus placements, such as rural areas and long driveways. When cooperating with the fire trucks, POVs can help tankers quickly maneuver, unload, and drive off.
Light Bars on POVs Can Be Used To Manage and Redirect the Traffic
Different types of emergency lights - including interior dash lights, traffic advisors, and visor lights - play an essential role in helping you manage the emergency site.
Indeed, most fires are residential and happen in urban areas. In turn, it isn’t unlikely for the emergency scene to be located directly on the road, or near public roadways.
When this happens, it is essential to secure the area and avoid additional incidents or fatalities. To do so, your light bar can help by:
- Redirecting the traffic to create an area where the firefighters can work
- Keeping the firefighters safe from traffic
- Halting the traffic to prevent the worsening of an emergency
- Keeping motorists safe and away from the site where a fire or flood emergency is taking place
In the case of severe emergencies, you are likely to be expecting help from the local traffic police forces and medical professionals. While waiting for them to arrive, diverting the traffic using your light bars might be all you need to save lives!
You Might Need Light Bars To Be Compliant With State Regulations
As we have seen above, following the first Firefighter Life Safety Summit in May 2004, a lot has changed for volunteer firefighters.
Many municipalities eliminated POV responses altogether to prevent accidents and fatalities. And, in the states where POV responses are still operating, they are strictly regulated and conducted by highly trained responders with suitable POVs.
In this directory by Extreme Tactical Dynamics, you can check each State’s statute and make sure your POV set-up is in line with the local requirements. Generally, US states that allowed POV responses are subdivided into:
- States where you might need warning devices to use your vehicle as an emergency vehicle
- States where you might be authorized to use warning devices, but your vehicle can’t be used as an emergency vehicle
If you live in a state that allows volunteer firefighters to respond to emergencies with their POV, you should check legal requirements concerning:
- Auxiliary lighting that includes fog lights, driving lights, and off-road lights
- The mounting area might be limited to prevent visibility issues and make your emergency lights safe for other motorists
- Candlepower limitations to prevent your vehicle from blinding other drivers
- Light color restrictions to distinguish your car from other emergency vehicles. You should also keep in mind general light colors specifics, which say that red is used for tail lights, amber for turn lights, and white for front lights.
- Features requirements and limitations - as some states might not allow flashing or spinning lights
Light Bars Can Help You Stay Focused, Aware, and Safe When Traveling to an Emergency Site
Lastly, it is important to remember that when responding to an emergency call, you will only be useful on the emergency site if you can get there safely. Nothing can replace your attention on the road, respect for traffic laws, and readiness, but LED light bars can add an extra layer of safety to your journey.
Indeed, emergency lights can better illuminate the road ahead of you, especially if driving at night or in conditions of poor visibility. Additionally, light bars act as a visual cue that can help other motorists be more aware of you and your vehicle.
Don’t underestimate the high levels of stress involved with getting to the emergency site as quickly as possible. While your emergency lights can help you clear the road ahead of you, it is important not to lose focus and keep up with all state training requirements.
Find a Customized Solution for Your Vehicle
Each emergency POV is different. Some home responders might opt to convert their family car or work vehicle. So, it isn’t unlikely for a responder to drive to an emergency site in a van, truck, or utility vehicle.
No matter what your vehicle looks like, Extreme Tactical Dynamics can help you find the light bar solution more suitable to your needs.