Upon arrival at a two car MVA on the Mohawk Trail, I found the two vehicles involved squarely on the centerline of the highway just opposite an entrance to a business parking area. Knowing that, I had an ambulance and apparatus responding. I asked the police officer, “Do you have any preference as to which lane of travel we block? His answer “Put your vehicles in the parking area off the highway!” How would you respond to this directive?
I don't know about you, but I am extremely concerned about the safety of personnel on scenes like this. Granted the Mohawk Trail is not I-91, but it poses safety issue similar to those on the interstates. I am a firm believer of using an engine to block a lane of travel to protect our firefighters and EMS responders. I know our brothers in blue want to keep the traffic flowing, but, in my opinion, safety comes first. The big red truck can be repaired or replaced, firefighters and EMS personnel cannot.
Would you follow the direction of the officer? My answer, “I’m not having my personnel cross a lane of traffic to treat patients and provide for their safety. I'm shutting down the eastbound lane”. End of story. To my surprise (holding my breath), the decision was not challenged. The scene was secured, patients treated, scene cleaned up, and we all went home.
I am aware that this is not always the case. Many stories have documented situations where a fire officer or firefighter is arrested for not following a police officer’s command to move a vehicle. Yet, how many times do we pick up a newspaper or hear news reports of a public safety officer killed on one of our roadways. At some point, safety has to trump egos!
My feeling – you called us – we are going to work safely – if that means shutting down a highway then that is how it will be – don’t like it we're going home or don't call us in the first place.
What is your opinion on this subject? What is your department’s protocol for highway responses? Can it be improved?
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In 1972 Chief Terry Dun (Ret) joined the Hudson NH Volunteer Fire Department. After moving to Shelburne, MA in 1974, he joined the Shelburne Volunteer Department, retiring as Chief in 2011. Chief Dun serves as a Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Northwest Mass Incident Management Team and currently serves as the Team’s Deputy Leader. Chief Dun remains a member of the Western Mass Homeland Security Council’s Interoperable Communications committee and has actively pursued the development of a robust public safety communications capability in Western Mass.