Emergency Vehicles in Work Areas

Originally published Aug. 12, 2015

Workers learn to direct traffic in work zones by participating in flagger training programs and consulting the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which extensively cover signs, signals and the proper techniques for starting and stopping traffic. But there is rarely a discussion on what to do if an emergency vehicle needs to pass through your work zone.

Emergencies occur when we least expect them, and emergency vehicles seem to appear out of nowhere – moving quickly with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The sense of urgency associated with emergency vehicles can undermine flagger or traffic control manager confidence, and can possibly cause them to react rather than think before responding. These unplanned actions can cause accidents or unnecessary delays for emergency responders.

Before work begins, learn the locations of hospitals, fire and police stations in the vicinity of your work zone. If your work zone is on a road with direct access to first responders, emergency vehicles will inevitably drive through it. Here are some steps you can take when emergency vehicles travel through your work zone:

  • If you have enough time when you first see or hear an approaching emergency vehicle, stop traffic in all directions, and create a clear and visible path.
  • The flagger should signal the “all clear” to the emergency vehicle, allowing it to navigate through the zone with full right of way.
  • When you have no advance warning of an approaching emergency vehicle, the safest response is to stop the emergency vehicle first and then stop all other traffic to create a clear travel path.
  • You may also need to stop or clear construction equipment before you allow the emergency vehicle to pass.
  • Make advance arrangements with local police if the work you are doing, such as blasting or excavating, makes the roadway impassable.

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