When responding to an emergency, the fire department alerts the public through the use of lights and sirens – visual and audio notifications that stress someone is in need of help.
“Anytime that we are using red lights and sirens we are asking the public to please get out of the way because somebody has got a problem and we are trying to help them. We only have lights and sirens on in an emergency situation,” Fire Chief David Hudgins said.
“It may look curious to some people when a fire truck is blaring down the road with lights and sirens going and then all of a sudden (the fire truck) turns them off and keeps on driving,” Hudgins said. “What has occurred is, what started out as an emergency call has been downgraded to an non-emergency situation or all together been cancelled by our 911 dispatch center.”
When a call is downgraded or cancelled, two options can happen. The first is firefighters continue to the call in a non-emergency fashion. The second is firefighters turn around and return to the fire station.
“Firefighters have radios in the truck and once (dispatch) tells us that it is not an emergency any more we turn it off,” Hudgins said.
One of the misconceptions people can have when they see an engine turn off its lights and sirens is to think the firefighters were out “practicing” on the roads – or worse.
“I remember one occasion when this happened and our turnaround point was in the area of the Whataburger parking lot. A citizen witnessed this and called in saying that we must have been real hungry to run lights and sirens to the Whataburger,” Hudgins said. “Again, we will only use lights and sirens in an actual emergency.”
He cautions people to not only be aware of emergency vehicles running to an emergency call but also the traffic around them.
“Anytime when we run with lights and sirens it is a danger to the public because people may panic,” Hudgins said. “People may pull over and maybe they did not look over and see that there is somebody in that lane.”
He also points out that the department’s emergency vehicles are equipped with the Opticom system, which activates a flashing white light on top of each unit responding to an emergency. Through sensor capabilities, the flashing white light changes an approaching traffic signal to green to clear passage for the emergency vehicle going through. The Opticom system is only utilized in an emergency situation, said Hudgins, who, along with Assistant Chief Randall Potter, can be reached at the department at 972-937-1200. The central fire station is located at 407 Water St.
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