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.


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,


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