Sharing the Roads Safely with Firefighters

We have previously shared information on the importance of safe driving when hearing the emergency sirens.

The focus was on driving when we hear sirens from the ambulances of our paramedics responding to the scenes of road crashes.

We would however also like to share some insights on firefighting operations and the safety of all road users when fire fighters respond to emergencies.

What are the unique challenges they encounter daily and how can we assist in making the response swiftly and safely?

We decided to do a Q&A with Deon Esau, Emergency Management Services at the Berea Besafe Centre

What is the role of the Fire Fighters in rescue operations at road crash scenes or clearing the scene after hazardous chemicals have been spilt on the road?

Fire fighters are trained to deal with any type of emergency being it fire, medical treatment or hazardous incidents. In fact the fire departments should be the only organisation, having to deal with emergencies where person’s lives and property are at risk.

However we know that this is not possible because of the challenges that we experience every day therefore we appreciate the private medical companies that assist us and the communities in this regard. Our role at road accidents is to save lives by any means possible.

What is the role of the Fire Fighters In rescue operations?

All our fire engines are equipped with specialist equipment such as the Jaws of Life to assist people that are trapped in their car. The fire services have agreements with private hazmat companies that allow them to remove any hazardous waste at an incident involving hazardous materials.

Are there significant differences in the response to emergency calls from fire departments to that of ambulances? Are there any unique challenges?

YES AND NO. The fire departments will only respond to accidents where persons are injured and requires medical assistance. This applies to ambulances as well, as they have the means to transport the patients to hospital where the fire engine cannot transport patients.

The difference between the fire engine and ambulance is quite clear, fire engines are equipped with heavy rescue, firefighting equipment and ambulances are medical equipped to treat persons with medical emergency only.

What are the major factors delaying the response time of the stations?

What are the major factors delaying the response time of the stations?

  • It starts with the time it takes the dispatcher to take the call
  • The time it takes the crew to get on to the emergency vehicle
  • If any vehicles are available to respond from the station
  • Will the vehicle start because of mechanical problems
  • Being stuck in traffic on the way to a call

What emphasis is put on in training on safety first ahead of quickness of response?

The policy says Safety First.

All drivers are put on a driving course to evaluate and to find them competent to drive and operate an emergency vehicle. Before a vehicle turns out on a call the driver will put on all emergency lights and the officer will operate the emergency siren to warn road users to give way to an emergency vehicle.

It must also be noted that all emergency vehicles do not have the right to drive through red traffic lights or break any rules of the road. Emergency vehicles are only allowed to proceed when it is safe to do so.

Does the public have an understanding of how to drive when they hear the emergency sirens? Is it necessary to raise more awareness?

Does the public have an understanding of how to drive when they hear the emergency sirens?

Drivers are aware of this rule however more needs to be done to create awareness about the importance of giving right of way to emergency vehicles. Just remember that we may be responding to your family member in need of help.

 The golden hour applies (refers to the time period lasting for an hour, or less, following traumatic injury being sustained by a casualty  or medical emergency, during which there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death)

How can the public assist the fire department in ensuring fast and effective response – what are the do and don’ts?

Making the emergency call and provide info on the incident.

Give the exact address of the incident and ensure that you give your contact details so that we can get hold of you in case we cannot find where the incident occurred. (It is NOT for account purposes as some people suspect)

Rendering assistance/clearing the scene/not interfering at the scene

If you are medically trained you may give assistance as per your level of training if it’s a life and death situation deal with the incidents to the best of your ability e.g. if the car is burning try and save a life by extinguishing the fire and removing the patient. Learn how to do CPR as it saves lives.

Which aspects about emergency response not covered by the above questions would you like to bring to the attention of road user?

Which aspects about Emergency response not covered by the above questions would you like to bring to the attention of road user?

If possible complete a first aid course because you can render medical assistance when coming across an accident and carry a first aid kit in your car.

Do not text or speak on your cell phone when driving.

Do not stop at any accident were the emergency vehicles are in attendance - secondary accidents involving you occur in this manner.

Would you agree that there is often an erroneous understanding that the fire brigade only responds to fires? What is the correct description and what are the range of activities to which you respond?

Would you agree that there is often an erroneous understanding that the fire brigade only responds to fire?

Yes some areas there is still that understanding however over the last couple of years with extensive campaigns the community now calls the fire department for all kinds of emergencies which in itself creates another challenge.

The fire department responds to all kinds of emergency such as fires, medical assistance, drownings building collapse and high angle rescue.

Prepared by DF Esau

Public Information Education Officer

City of Johannesburg

Emergency Management Services

Some images of fire fighters responding to fire emergencies:

Also view:

Safe Driving when Hearing the Emergency Siren

Emergency Response Time and Road Safety

Emergency Services Communications on the road to a Road Crash

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