Can you see me now?

Have we all gone Hi-Vis insane?

Forget about a nanny culture or statistics about it making us safer.  Last I heard it was the flashing lights that attracted sleepy and inebriated drivers so turning me and my crew into passive crappy driver attractant is not my idea of a good time.

I wear my vest most times, really I do.  Mainly on account of my uniform is all navy blue and at night I disappear.  Perhaps the slight chance I get seen at the last minute is the point, but I have a big coat with reflective that could do the same thing.

“What the heck, Hap?  What got you all fired up?”

This photo from Ray Kemp at 911Imaging.

You saw this series on the cover of JEMS magazine a little while back.  The first thing that will catch your eye is the sea of reflective vests, running about $100 a piece on the rescuers, covering the reflective on their turnouts.  The ambulance folks have them on as well, well done, folks.

But look IN THE STREET!

In the one place those vests can actually be useful and you’ll see two fellows wearing what I wear, all dark colors.

Well, I wasn’t there so I can’t blah, blah, blah.  No, I’m jumping in here and pointing out that perhaps we have our priorities a bit out of whack.  We go racing to jump on the Hi-Vis bandwagon without looking at what our people already have and using it to our advantage.  Hidden in all the stories of people getting hit and killed in the streets are the facts adding up that vests don’t stop cars, trucks and SUVs from killing you.

If you stand in the road covered in day glow paint carrying flares you will still die.  If we trained our drivers to block the road with the giant reflective rigs, perhaps the vests could go to those who have no giant truck to protect them.

Better yet, where is the increased driver’s education to stop the poor drivers from trying to kill us in the first place?  Rhetorical for sure, but I can see at least $1000 in this photo that could go a long way.

My own service is not immune to the allure of the shiny, reflective vests.  We have some that say Incident Commander, others say Triage.  Mine on the engine says SFFD in black on a field of bright yellow and silver.

Here’s a picture from one of our new engines under construction (Thanks Crimson-Fire):

That is where the reflective belongs!  And while we’re at it, can we get some more warning on the sides of these giant road blocks?  How nifty if we could get an arrow stick on the sides AND the back, since if we park to block the scene the rear mounted one is hard to spot.

Some Departments deploy street signs out ahead of the scene, cones, flares, all those kinds of nifty, expensive street decorations aren’t stopping the drivers who are going to hit us anyway.

Even on a simple vehicle fire on the highway, we need to focus on parking and awareness rather than throwing money into reflective to cover up reflective just to check a box on a state form.

If you have a vest wear it, but use common sense first.  Use that giant thing that drove you there to protect the scene and stay out of traffic.  Leaving the scene unprotected and going in and out of moving cars will get you killed, no matter how much shiny suit we plaster on you.

Be safe people,

HM

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28 thoughts on “Can you see me now?”

  1. Happy,

    Every time I go overseas, I always seem to notice much less hi-viz than here in the UK, so we must have gone uber hi-viz mad here! Did you notice it on your trip over?

  2. The problem I normally experience is those gentlemen who aren’t wearing vests get all bent out of shape if I properly block a lane. Now I know it’s been beaten like a dead horse, but everything, sadly, is political rather than what’s best for scene safety. If I make them mad, then I get mad because their boss calls my boss and my boss yells at me. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s tough to make a difference being one of the few who have your viewpoint Happy.

  3. You can’t see me but I am bowing over and over to you right now (picture Wayne’s World) I’m not quite sure if it’s the same now, but growing up on Long Island it seemed to be protocol to block the road. Usually it is the police who do it. Even the LIE ! All four lanes! Now sometimes if the crash is in the far lane they may open one to let traffic crawl by but with a wall of vehicles between them and any emergency personnel. Does it cause people to be late? I’m sure but its in the culture there that its what is and needs to be done. I run in an area here in PA covering 4 fire districts. 3 of the 4 use their massive machines to block the roads for us but my hometown? Well they’ve actually gotten in my rig and moved it when I’ve blocked Main St with it God forbid. Oh and one more thing about those lovely vests I am sure glad they made it mandatory that they be breakaway in my area. Wouldn’t want to be dragged after being hit by a car that wasn’t supposed to hit you in the first place cause you were wearing the vest.

  4. Happy,

    Every time I go overseas, I always seem to notice much less hi-viz than here in the UK, so we must have gone uber hi-viz mad here! Did you notice it on your trip over?

  5. The problem I normally experience is those gentlemen who aren't wearing vests get all bent out of shape if I properly block a lane. Now I know it's been beaten like a dead horse, but everything, sadly, is political rather than what's best for scene safety. If I make them mad, then I get mad because their boss calls my boss and my boss yells at me. I wish it weren't the case, but it's tough to make a difference being one of the few who have your viewpoint Happy.

  6. You point out some great things in this post. So great that I think I’m going to make my comments into a post. I’ll come back and link to the post in the comments when I’m done.

  7. You can't see me but I am bowing over and over to you right now (picture Wayne's World) I'm not quite sure if it's the same now, but growing up on Long Island it seemed to be protocol to block the road. Usually it is the police who do it. Even the LIE ! All four lanes! Now sometimes if the crash is in the far lane they may open one to let traffic crawl by but with a wall of vehicles between them and any emergency personnel. Does it cause people to be late? I'm sure but its in the culture there that its what is and needs to be done. I run in an area here in PA covering 4 fire districts. 3 of the 4 use their massive machines to block the roads for us but my hometown? Well they've actually gotten in my rig and moved it when I've blocked Main St with it God forbid. Oh and one more thing about those lovely vests I am sure glad they made it mandatory that they be breakaway in my area. Wouldn't want to be dragged after being hit by a car that wasn't supposed to hit you in the first place cause you were wearing the vest.

  8. I’m a firm believer in shutting down the road. Use the apparatus to keep you safe. I started in a small department where our only LODD occurred on the interstate about 20 years ago, and they are still fanatical about responder safety on roads.

    I’d rather end up in a post on Statter911 for being in a conflict with the highway patrol about who gets to close down the road instead of having to tell a member’s spouse that they are not coming home.

  9. You point out some great things in this post. So great that I think I'm going to make my comments into a post. I'll come back and link to the post in the comments when I'm done.

  10. Another vote for apparatus blocking.

    When I’m working a wreck or fire, I have to dedicate 100% of my attention to what’s right in front of me, be it a door hinge I’m trying to pop or a hoseline to wrestle and direct. I rely on that 35-ton truck to deflect or stop the distracted idiot coming up the highway at 60.

  11. I'm a firm believer in shutting down the road. Use the apparatus to keep you safe. I started in a small department where our only LODD occurred on the interstate about 20 years ago, and they are still fanatical about responder safety on roads.

    I'd rather end up in a post on Statter911 for being in a conflict with the highway patrol about who gets to close down the road instead of having to tell a member's spouse that they are not coming home.

  12. Another vote for apparatus blocking.

    When I'm working a wreck or fire, I have to dedicate 100% of my attention to what's right in front of me, be it a door hinge I'm trying to pop or a hoseline to wrestle and direct. I rely on that 35-ton truck to deflect or stop the distracted idiot coming up the highway at 60.

  13. Couple of things – first of all $100 for a vest?! Holy crap – I can pick up basic ones for a few UKPounds here, or an expensive full-sleeve one for about 20 UKP.

    With regards to working on the roadside – sorry, even if I’m pulled over and nothing to do with an incident, I have my own jacket in the back of the car. It’s drummed into us in the UK that you don’t go NEAR the road without a hi-viz on. Moreover, the first vehicle on scene should park in a fend-off position some distance away from the actual incident. The police should normally (when they arrive) arrange road closures and will close as many lanes as necessary. There will NEVER be an island of workers with traffic going around on both sides.

    Check this out: http://www.hazchem.freeuk.com/acecard.htm

    One of the more recent edicts is that only the rearmost vehicle should have its warning lights on. Apparently research has shown that having all emergency vehicles lights’ turned on whilst on scene will increase the risk of a further incident in the opposite carriageway (rubberneckers), so the only ones that should remain lit are those vehicles that are closest to the oncoming traffic (in your carriageway). I’ll have to see if I can get a reference for that…

    Cheers,
    Aled.

  14. Couple of things – first of all $100 for a vest?! Holy crap – I can pick up basic ones for a few UKPounds here, or an expensive full-sleeve one for about 20 UKP.

    With regards to working on the roadside – sorry, even if I'm pulled over and nothing to do with an incident, I have my own jacket in the back of the car. It's drummed into us in the UK that you don't go NEAR the road without a hi-viz on. Moreover, the first vehicle on scene should park in a fend-off position some distance away from the actual incident. The police should normally (when they arrive) arrange road closures and will close as many lanes as necessary. There will NEVER be an island of workers with traffic going around on both sides.

    Check this out: http://www.hazchem.freeuk.com/acecard.htm

    One of the more recent edicts is that only the rearmost vehicle should have its warning lights on. Apparently research has shown that having all emergency vehicles lights' turned on whilst on scene will increase the risk of a further incident in the opposite carriageway (rubberneckers), so the only ones that should remain lit are those vehicles that are closest to the oncoming traffic (in your carriageway). I'll have to see if I can get a reference for that…

    Cheers,
    Aled.

  15. My first job as a responder was volunteer work at 2 local race tracks, working motorcycle races. Rule number 1 was to always be facing the on-coming riders – NEVER – face away. The advice stuck, and while it may not save me if some real s**t goes down, at least see what’s gonna hit me. And yes, you can direct care or directly provide care while maintaining this attitude. Especially since in my system I cannot rely on my co-responders establishing a safe work zone – LEO’s texting instead of whistle blowing and flashlight waving, BRT’s parking wherever. You can always carry a small but strong flashlight to distract drivers to STFD.

  16. My first job as a responder was volunteer work at 2 local race tracks, working motorcycle races. Rule number 1 was to always be facing the on-coming riders – NEVER – face away. The advice stuck, and while it may not save me if some real s**t goes down, at least see what's gonna hit me. And yes, you can direct care or directly provide care while maintaining this attitude. Especially since in my system I cannot rely on my co-responders establishing a safe work zone – LEO's texting instead of whistle blowing and flashlight waving, BRT's parking wherever. You can always carry a small but strong flashlight to distract drivers to STFD.

  17. I’m with Aled on this one.

    My vest, short sleeved but very good quality, was about 25GBP. The extra was because I needed a non-standard relective title front and rear, saying “Community First Responder”.

    If you’d like 2-3000, at 28GBP free on board, let me know! Currently the exchange rate is 1GBP = 1.54USD and I’d unfortunately need to charge carriage.

  18. I'm with Aled on this one.

    My vest, short sleeved but very good quality, was about 25GBP. The extra was because I needed a non-standard relective title front and rear, saying “Community First Responder”.

    If you'd like 2-3000, at 28GBP free on board, let me know! Currently the exchange rate is 1GBP = 1.54USD and I'd unfortunately need to charge carriage.

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