u.s. flag An official website of the United States government Here's how you know Here's how you know

Emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety

Twelve percent of on-duty firefighter fatalities occur each year while responding to or returning from incidents, with the majority of fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes. Vehicle collision is the second leading cause of firefighter fatalities.

We are committed to reducing firefighter fatalities and injuries by helping to create a safer operational environment for emergency responders. The resources below contain best practices and recommendations for safer emergency vehicle and roadway incident response.

New Project

Emergency vehicle warning light systems

This project will continue our research on the effect of emergency vehicle warning lights on motorists and how to mitigate driver disorientation. We'll look at day and night use of warning lights, including color and overall emergency vehicle visibility/conspicuity.

Improved warning light technology may reduce on-duty emergency responder deaths, as well as improve the safety of the public when approached by, or diving past, emergency vehicles. Estimated release date: December 2021

Slow Down, Move Over social outreach

Share this card on your social media accounts to make motorists aware that they need to move over for emergency responders.

motorists: move over and slow down

Facebook Twitter

Ten practical tips for responding and operating on roadway and highway incidents

  • Dispatch the appropriate apparatus.
  • Train for on-scene positioning (blocking, safe positioning).
  • Conduct on-scene size-up report.
  • Set up lights for scene safety.
  • Follow protocols for temporary traffic controls (TTC).
  • Wear appropriate PPE upon arrival.
  • Establish Incident Command and/or Unified Command.
  • Monitor and adjust TTC.
  • Manage non-involved personnel.
  • Incident scene demobilization.

View tips with descriptions

Free publication Alive on Arrival: Tips for Safe Emergency Vehicle Operations

This flyer provides information on the basics of emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety, including the roles of drivers, passengers and the officer in charge.

Download PDF 705 KB

Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014)

A study of public safety emergency vehicle and roadway operations

Since the release of our publication “Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2004),” we have worked with many fire service organizations and the law enforcement community to increase emergency responder safety in this area.

Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014)

“Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014)” provides best practices and recommendations for safer emergency vehicle and roadway incident response.

Download "Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014)"

PDF 7.5 MB EPUB 2 MB

Topics covered include:

  • Common crash causes and crash prevention.
  • The impact of vehicle design and maintenance on safety.
  • Internal and external factors for improving response-related safety.
  • Regulating emergency vehicle response and roadway scene safety.
  • Roadway incident scene safety.
Project sponsors: U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, International Fire Service Training Association, U.S. Fire Administration

See also:

Safe Operation of Fire Tankers PDF 2.1 MB. Examines the various causal factors identified as problematic for tankers and their drivers. Tankers account for the largest number of firefighter crash deaths of all types of fire department vehicles.

Traffic Incident Management Systems PDF 5 MB. Describes the latest technologies, training, and operational practices for effective traffic incident management.

Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Study PDF 2.2 MB. Examines the use of retroreflective striping and chevrons, high-visibility paint, built-in passive light, and other reflectors for law enforcement patrol vehicles, fire apparatus, motorcycles, and ambulances and other EMS vehicles.

Learn more on the Web

Featured resource

Respondersafety.com has free resources to help protect emergency responders at roadway incidents available in the following topic areas:

  • Advance warning
  • Blocking / Safe positioning
  • High visibility personal protective clothing
  • High visibility vehicle markings
  • Highway lane designations
  • Incident Command System and National Incident Management System
  • Line of duty deaths
  • National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management
  • Professional qualifications / Performance standards
  • Public education
  • Safety education materials
  • “Slow Down, Move Over” laws
  • Standard operating procedures and guidelines
  • “Struck By” incidents
  • Traffic incident management
  • Training

Respondersafety.com is managed by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, in partnership with the USFA and U.S. Department of Justice.