Public safety administrators, including police and fire chiefs, as well as EMS directors, bear no greater burden than the safety of their own. Yet year after year, more first responders are killed in vehicle accidents than by any other means. In the last ten years, 73 U.S. law enforcement officers were struck and killed by a vehicle in roadside incidents while outside of their cruisers.1 During that same period, 32 U.S. firefighters and emergency medical personnel were also struck and killed in roadside incidents.2 Sadly, these numbers don’t even reflect the hundreds more first responders who are involved in roadside accidents who survive, but are severely injured or incapacitated.
These tragic and unfortunate accidents are often avoidable. Major campaigns such as “Below 100” and the “Move Over” highway safety laws, now enacted in 45 states, have slowed the fatality rates, but it is not enough. Traditional tools such as vests, flares, flashlights, and reflectors may have been an improvement in their time, but their effectiveness is now suspect. This begs the question: What effective alternatives do we have?
Studies have revealed that high visibility personal protective equipment significantly improves the visibility of emergency responders working on the roadways and can be a major factor in first responder safety. First responders cannot be safe if they cannot be seen. This concept goes beyond traffic safety. We need to be able to easily find and identify our first responders in a crowd or when environmental conditions make it difficult to spot them.
Today’s first responders need an effective choice to help keep them safe and let them focus on the other more inherent dangers of their work. They need a tool that transforms them into a visible beacon visible from great distances. To be effective, it must be lightweight, bright, rugged, long-lasting, and easily adaptable. It also needs to easily identify them as a first responder. But most importantly, it must help keep them safe.
As public safety agencies sort through mountains of new modern technologies year after year, searching for the best options, we suggest an alternative. This paper gives an answer to the all-important question of what safety administrators can do to help their men and woman return safely home to their families at the end of each day.