Valuing Life at a Moment’s Notice …. Thoughts on Community Safety by Chief of Department Bruce Lockwood, Town of Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department

By | September 15, 2020

ATTENTION ALL DRIVERS: Help Canton’s Volunteer Firefighters, EMTS, Fire Police & Cadets Avoid Line of Duty Deaths 

Dispatches:  July 12, 1987…. Canton’s volunteer fire, EMS and Fire Police crews were conducting a training drill that involved a ‘staged’ car accident on Rte. 44. Without warning a driver, impatient with the line of cars stopped in front of him, darted out into the roadway. The force with which he ran into 65-year old Art Vincent, pitched the veteran Fire Police Officer into the air, eventually landing his broken body back on the roadway, 50 feet away. Vincent died of his injuries later that evening.

August 18, 2020 …. The Canton Paramedic, and two Police Officers, had just finished working a medical call on Lawton Road, and were headed back to their vehicles. Without warning, an SUV came around the back of the parked ambulance, racing towards them at a high rate of speed, nearly running them over.

There have been many more close calls to first responders on Canton’s roadways, between 1987 and 2020, making the already challenging work of our volunteer firefighters, EMTs, Fire Police and Police Officers, needlessly more dangerous. But, these potential tragedies can be avoided.

In Response: The State of Connecticut is very specific as to the rights and responsibilities of Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department, (Department), apparatus operators. It is, however, equally clear on the obligations of and repercussions to drivers who fail to follow specific guidelines on yielding to emergency vehicles. Specifically:

When Responding to an Emergency Dispatch, Department Members May:

  1. Park apparatus in a manner that best serves the emergency scene, regardless of standard motor vehicle laws; 
  2. Except in cases involving a stopped school bus, go through red lights, stop signals/signs, while continuing to operate in a safe manner;
  3. Exceed speed limits, while not endangering life or property; and 
  4. Disregard regulations, laws or ordinances governing the direction of movement or when turning.

When Drivers Encounter Responding Emergency Apparatus, They Must: 

1. Drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the road, clear of any intersection; 

2. Stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed, unless directed to do otherwise by a member of the Fire Police, a Police Officer or a firefighter.

3. Stay a minimum of 100 feet behind an ambulance using a siren or displaying flashing lights.

4. Not obstruct responding apparatus, on the way to, at the scene of, or transporting patients from an emergency scene – on either private or public roads. A fine of up to $250.00 may be imposed on drivers who fail to do so. 

5. ‘Move over’ on roadways, with at least two lanes in each direction, when approaching emergency vehicles stopped or traveling at reduced speed, in the shoulder/breakdown lane. If a driver is in an adjacent lane to emergency apparatus, that driver must move over, one lane, unless doing so would create an unsafe environment. Failure to yield in this manner, that causes injury to an emergency driver, may result in significant fines:  Up to $2,500.00 for an injury, and up to $10,000.00 if the result is a Line of Duty Death. 

Source: State of Connecticut Emergency Vehicles Law 2017-R-0313.

Canton’s Volunteer Fire Police, EMTs and Firefighters are trained to put their lives on the line, and in the roadway, as they handle medical, fire, smoke, and hazardous emergencies. Prevention, however, is key to life safety in our community. That’s where you can help keep us, you and your family healthy and protected throughout the year.

Yours in safety, 

Bruce Lockwood, Chief of Department