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Deploting Cones, Flares, Warning Signs, Etc...

Photo by Ron Moore
Required highway advance-warning signs must now be the special fluorescent pink color and constructed of retro-reflective material. NFPA-compliant wording ?EMERGENCY SCENE AHEAD? must be spelled out in black letters.

The newest version of NFPA?s Standard 1500 requires that a retro-reflective highway safety sign be deployed as advance warning anytime a fire department vehicle is used in a blocking mode at a highway incident (NFPA 1500, section 8.4.27). This fluorescent pink sign must contain the wording ?EMERGENCY SCENE AHEAD.? When appropriate, emergency responders may also deploy traffic cones, flares, or other devices to warn approaching traffic and direct them into a merging taper around the incident scene. The protocol for setting these devices is:

  • Obtain a partner, if available, to act upstream as your flagger, looking out for you and monitoring the approaching traffic Gather advance-warning signs, cones and flares Constantly scan for the movement and location of approaching traffic Deploy a fluorescent pink, retro-reflective sign upstream a distance equal to 12 times the posted speed limit in feet along the edge of the nearest travel lane to serve as the advance warning Deploy the first cone or flare device at the corner of the blocking vehicle where the least amount of buffer space exists between it and moving traffic Deploy additional cones or flares at appropriate intervals while moving upstream, tapering at an angle from the corner of the emergency vehicle
  • Deploy cones downstream from the blocking vehicle, parallel to the lanes of moving traffic, to identify a buffer area alongside the work area

FLAGGER MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS A flagger is the term officially given by federal and state transportation departments to a person who provides temporary traffic control. Because they are responsible for the safety of not only the emergency responders but the motoring public as well, flaggers must be trained and certified in these responsibilities. Section 6E.01 of the MUTCD guidelines specifically lists seven minimum qualifications for anyone who provides temporary traffic control. Fire department officials would be wise to review this list and consider if in fact all active members and fire police personnel who respond to highway incidents and direct traffic meet these minimums. If not, that member should be used in a different capacity by the department and not permitted to ?flag.? Flaggers should have the following minimum qualifications:

    A. Sense of responsibility for the safety of public and fellow workers
    B. Adequate training in safe temporary traffic-control practices
    C. Average intelligence
    D. Good physical condition, including sight, mobility and hearing
    E. Mental alertness and the ability to react in an emergency
    F. Courteous, but firm manner
    G. Neat appearance


Photo by Ron Moore
Deploying cones requires keeping an eye on approaching traffic at all times and always having an escape route should an inattentive driver plow through your traffic-control devices.

During actual road repair projects, transportation department flaggers use a device known as a ?paddle,? which is a red ?STOP? sign on one side and an orange ?SLOW? sign on the other, mounted on a pole. Under emergency circumstances, responders can and have used this same paddle signal device. More often than not, we use what we have with us ? our hands and arms. At night, flashlights with illuminated cone attachments provide increased visibility. To direct approaching vehicle, the emergency flagger should face traffic. The individual?s free arm should always be extended horizontally away from the body. This allows the arm and hand to be seen most effectively by motorists. To stop traffic, the hand is held steady with the arm extended out to the side, palm toward the traffic. If signaling traffic to slow down, but proceed, move the arm up and down with the palm down. To signal a lane change or merge, the free hand should motion in the desired direction with an exaggerated arc of movement in the direction required while again being held out, away from the body. FLAGGER UPSTREAM POSITION When signaling to approaching traffic at an incident scene, the flagger should stand on or near the shoulder of the roadway while remaining within the clear view of upstream motorists. Always have that guaranteed escape route; your survival area when things go wrong. If you are standing in front of an emergency vehicle and its headlights are still on, the approaching motorists may be totally blinded to you and your location. If you are standing in the shade on a bright sunny day, you may not be as visible to traffic as if you were in the sun. The flagger?s position should be upstream enough to warn fellow responders if an out-of-control vehicle is crashing through the traffic-control devices. The DOT recommends that the flagger be at least 170 feet upstream of the activity area when the posted speed limit is 40 mph and 485 feet away for a 65-mph highway. OUR HIGHWAY ?MAYDAY? SIGNAL We need the ultimate audible warning signal when working in or near moving traffic, just like we have at structural incidents. Besides a good air horn, a compressed-gas air horn similar to that used at sporting events can be heard even above the noise of highway traffic and would serve as a good Mayday signal for all to take cover. A good-quality whistle can also alert responders when something is going wrong. Make sure the necklace for the whistle has a Velcro break-away attachment allowing it to tear off the neck of a person if it gets snagged on an object or a moving vehicle. Relying on a Mayday-type radio call, as is done at structural incidents, may not be sufficient to be heard by all those present at the highway scene. The radio channel may be busy at that critical moment. In addition, not everyone on scene may have a radio and not everyone may be on the same channel. INTRODUCTION TO PART 5: HIGHWAY SAFETY EQUIPMENT Did you know that traffic cones have different requirements if they are used at night or on highways posted at 45 mph or higher? In Part 5 of this series, we?ll look at the special highway safety equipment needs such as this.

Our information will also address the new, nationally recognized standards for high-visibility garments that we must wear when working in or near moving traffic.

Ron Moore, a Firehouse.com contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at [email protected].

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