HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - First responders have a duty to ensure public safety and save lives. No matter what the incident could be, minor or catastrophic, when sirens and lights are on, officials are in a hurry for a reason.
“Until you get there, you never know exactly what you're going to have,” Luke Fordham, Engineer with HFD said. “It could be somebody trapped in a house fire, when barely seconds count, or a medical call where, CPR will be in progress. You have to be there as quickly as you can, efficiently as you can, and safely as you can to help people out, to help try to save their lives.”
It is the public's responsibility to ensure they can safely navigate through traffic.
“When an emergency vehicle approaches your vehicle, there will be sirens and flashing lights letting you know we're heading to an emergency,” Deputy Brennon Chancellor with Jones County Sheriff's department said. “At that time, you need to slow down, and when you're able to in a safe manor, and pull to the right shoulder of the road. This allows us to safely get by, also if any other traffic is coming at us, to get by and get to where we're going in a safely and timely manner. You never know when it could be your family member we're going to, or someone you know friend or family that we're trying to get to help.”
The same applies with fire trucks. With average engine trucks weighing in at 35,000 pounds, it can be difficult to maneuver around passenger vehicles if they suddenly stop, or wait to pull over.
“It's a lot different driving a bigger truck; a fire truck,” said Fordham. “You get a call, you got your lights on, and people still aren't moving. Whether they be on a cell phone or texting, got the radio turned up, or what not. Just not paying attention, it'll get aggravating sometimes.”
Many times, drivers don't intent to block or hinder emergency vehicles, but simply get distracted by everyday things in and around them.
“Pay attention. Look in your rear view mirror and your side mirrors every once in a while to make sure you don't see an emergency vehicle coming up,” Fordham stated.
The argument can be made that if a middle lane is available, first responders could utilize it to get around groups of cars. Visibility, debris, and lane endings serve as just a few reasons for officials not using this method.
In some occasions, especially at busy intersections, officials will use turn lanes to navigate around large groups of traffic, but prefer to drive in a cleared left lane.
“In Law enforcement, we like to avoid the middle turn lane for several reasons. It has a lot of debris: glass, rocks, anything that could pop up and potentially hit a passenger vehicle or something going down the road and bust their windshield,” said Chancellor. “Also, say if you're in the area, in our county of 16th avenue in Laurel, it's very hilly and we cannot see what is on the other side of the hill if we're trying to respond to emergency situations. We even run the lights and sirens, but not everyone hears it.”
The general public may often wonder why a first responder may initially start with lights and sirens, only to turn them off later. With officers, if a suspect is still on scene, the lights will be killed so as not to alert them of police presence. In other scenarios, a scene that initially started as a major call may be downgraded when more details arrive.
“Whenever we are responding to an emergency scene, whether it be a wreck, some sort of disturbance in progress, or anything that warrants us to respond to an emergency situation, it's always best, and actually the law, if you pull to the right side of the road,” Chancellor said.