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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Roadway Responder Safety: “Communication, Coordination, Cooperation”

Apple Valley responders work at a crash scene.
Minnesota’s first responders have made progress in the area of increased safety while working at crash scenes on the roadways. Vehicle crashes scenes are complicated, as they bring together a variety of responders—it is often a combination of local police, county deputies, state troopers, local fire departments, local EMS, ambulances, medical transport units or even a medical transport helicopter that respond to the scene. MnDOT, county highway departments, and private towing companies are also part of this “dance” of equipment and people. The scenes are dynamic in that units arrive one at a time, crews deploy to complete their tasks, some units leave before others, and all of this is occurring on roadways and highways that are often open to traffic.

Recently Judy Thill, chief of the Inver Grove Fire Department, said “great steps” have been made to improve crash scene safety and noted that it’s “communication, coordination, and cooperation” that makes these scenes safe. Chief Thill and MnDOT Freeway Supervisor John McClellan have trained hundreds of first responders in how to do this in the Roadway Responder Safety training. Whether watching the news or driving our highways, it is evident that the training has taken hold and is being implemented. It is becoming rare to see emergency scenes that are not protected by the proper positioning of squad cars or fire rescue apparatus, or to see a responder not wearing a high visibility garment.

During a recent snowstorm, I came upon a crash on I-94. The road information sign on I-94 advised the line of slow-moving cars that there was a crash ahead. I spotted a State Patrol car protecting the scene, and I could not miss the trooper wearing his high-visibility jacket.
The Avon Fire Department arrives at the scene of a crash.

Weeks later, I was stopped during the evening rush hour traffic on MN-13 due to a multi-car crash that had wrecked cars and injured drivers in both the eastbound and westbound lanes.  What a mess. The responding Savage police officers used their cars to protect the scenes, and their high-visibility vests were put on in one motion as the officers stepped out of their cars and began caring for the injured.

I also spotted media photos of the Apple Valley Fire Department working at the scene of a crash. In this scene, the roadway was closed and every responder had their vest on!

And during a recent meeting with fire chiefs and trainers in Stearns County, I complimented the Avon Fire Department on the high-visibility chevron striping on the back of their trucks. They told me their last truck had just received the stripes and showed me photos of a recent crash scene on the freeway.  Again, vests were on, and the scene was protected by their trucks.

If you would like to know more about the Roadway Responder Safety training, you can contact either:

Chief Judy Thill at (651) 450-2495 or
John McClellan (651) 234-7025 or


                                                  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…”PATROL Course on the Ethical Use of Data Bases Will Be Available Statewide—And At No Charge”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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