MCFRS News Release

Media Safety Guidelines

Photographers Asked to Use Safety Vests on and around Fire and Rescue Emergency Scenes in Montgomery County

As a member of the working media, you may be present at various incident scenes to report on the emergency and non-emergency activities of career and volunteer personnel associated with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS). Dangers may be exist and, in fact are most often present, on the scene of an on-going emergency.  In addition to the emergency scenes being wet and muddy, they are potentially very dangerous for many other reasons. Walls can fall, power lines can come down, explosions may occur and passing motorists may be distracted and inattentive to your actions, as well as those of nearby firefighters and other emergency workers.

It is our responsibility to operate safely and each individual from top management to firefighter/rescuer is responsible for the safety and health of those persons under their supervision and the personnel with whom they interact. This may include media.

By accepting mutual responsibility to operate safely, we will all contribute to the well-being of everyone in our Organization and yours. The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service wants to ensure that we minimize the risks associated with our collective work environment that under varying conditions at any given time may be hazardous.

Therefore, Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers has asked, and expects that all media representatives, especially photographers, operating within the confines of an emergency scene in Montgomery County wear a minimum level of protective clothing with reflective striping to ensure their visibility.  In the past, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has made ‘safety vests’ available to those broadcast photographers normally assigned to, or residing in Montgomery County who may cover ‘breaking’ news. This action was voluntary, but becomes federal law this month, at least on certain highways. It just makes a lot of sense that from this point on that those with appropriate safety garments may be provided different access to emergency scenes in Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) is a full spectrum life safety agency protecting nearly 1 million people who live and work in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction. 

The MCFRS is a combination system (career/volunteer), operating with a budget of about $190 million, comprised of over 1200 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom actively participate in emergency response.  There are over forty fire and rescue facilities, including a 56 acre training academy, state-of-the-art communication facility, as well as thirty-four community fire and rescue stations strategically located throughout  Montgomery County’s 500 square miles in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is an all hazards service, responding not only to fires, but also auto accidents with injury, all kinds of medical emergencies, water and technical rescues, hazardous materials releases, and explosive devices.

To assist the media and you in quickly gathering the information you need in a manner that will guard your safety, we request you follow the guidelines below.

  1. You have 24-hour access to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Public Information Officer or his/her representative. We maintain a NEWS MEDIA HOTLINE and should you need any information about a ‘breaking’ situation or have a question related to an emergency event in Montgomery County, contact the on-duty Public Information Officer via the HOTLINE at 240.777.2442.  You will be provided with a pager number of the ‘on-duty’ PIO.
  2. When driving to the scene of an emergency, please follow all traffic laws. Do not try to keep up with an emergency vehicle should one pass you.
  3. When you arrive on the emergency scene, park your vehicle on the same side of the road as the emergency responders – anticipating that other emergency vehicles and/or media may arrive after you. Remember, passing motorists may be distracted by the activity and inattentive to YOUR actions. Wear a ‘safety vest’ or other reflective material in order to be better seen.
  4. Be prepared - Dress for the conditions. Emergency scenes are usually wet, muddy or full of debris. Wear a ‘safety vest’ for your protection when working on and around emergency scenes. 
  5. Report to the Command Post to locate the Public Information Officer (PIO) or designee. The Command Post is usually marked by a rotating green light or flag indicating “Command Post.” From here you will be directed to the media area and information officer. If you are unsure, ask any firefighter to assist you, or look for a firefighter with a white helmet, which indicates a command officer.  They will direct you.
  6. Understand that during an emergency incident, the primary objective is to handle the particular emergency on hand, save lives and protect property. Information will be relayed to the media as quickly as possible. Persons assigned to assist you (PIO or designee) understand the deadlines you work under and will provide information as it becomes available.
  7. If and when you report to the media area and PIO, he/she will generally brief you as to dangers on the scene, if appropriate. In addition to emergency scenes being wet and muddy, they are also potentially very dangerous. Walls can fall, power lines can come down, explosions may occur and passing motorists may be distracted and inattentive to YOUR actions. Wear a ‘safety vest’ or other reflective material in order to be better seen. You will not be restricted in your movements other than to keep you safe, alive and uninjured.
  8. Following the incident, should additional information become available, it will be forwarded to your newsroom or you may page the on-duty PIO after calling the Media Hotline to ascertain which PIO is on-duty.

For Your Information: (MCFRS procedure for fire and rescue personnel use of vests)

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service - Policy and Procedure
Use and Wearing of Traffic Safety Vest during Incidents
Issued by: Fire Chief Tom Carr
Policy No. 26-07AM
Authority: Montgomery County CodeSection 21-2.(d)(4)

SUMMARY: This policy requires MCFRS personnel who are operating at, or are on the scene of incidents on arterials, highways, or streets to wear a minimum level of protective clothing with reflective striping to ensure their visibility. The reflective trim package applied to structural firefighting gear satisfies the intent of this policy to ensure personnel visibility on the scene of incidents. Personnel must wear an approved traffic safety vest, or another approved reflective garment to ensure their visibility when they are not wearing structural firefighting protective coats.

BACKGROUND: The intent of this policy is to ensure the visibility and enhance the personal safety of all MCFRS personnel while they are present on incident scenes occurring on arterials, highways, or streets by requiring them to wear protective clothing with reflective surfaces.

Use and Wearing of Traffic Safety Vest during Incidents
Sec. 1. Purpose: To require all MCFRS personnel who are operating at or are present on the scene of incidents on arterials, highways, or streets to wear protective clothing and/or approved traffic safety vests with reflective striping to ensure their visibility.
Sec. 2. Applicability. This policy applies to all MCFRS personnel when they are operating at or are present on the scene of incidents on arterials, highways, or streets.
Sec. 3. Definitions.
a. Approved Reflective Garment. A shirt, vest, coat, pants, coverall, or combination of these garments, that meets or exceeds ANSI/ISEA 107- 1999 Class 2 requirements, and has been certified for use by the MCFRS Safety Office.
b. Approved Traffic Safety Vests. A vest with reflective striping that meets or exceeds ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 Class 2 requirements. At a minimum, all acquired traffic safety vests must meet the ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 Class 2 requirements.
c. Arterials/Highways/Streets. All interstates, spurs, collector lanes, exit ramps, and right of ways leading to or from an interstate roadway, or any County, State, or private roadway.
d. MCFRS Safety Office. The MCFRS component that comprises an MCFRS Chief Officer acting as program manager, and a complement of MCFRS officers whose training meets the requirements of NFPA 1521 Standards for Fire Department Safety and Health Officers. These safety officers are responsible for providing oversight on all fire and rescue incidents involving MCFRS personnel, regarding safety and health-related issues, regulations, policies, and standards.
e. Personnel. All on-duty firefighter, rescuer, and emergency medical service providers, including career, volunteer, and County Merit System employees, of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

Sec. 4. Policy. It is the goal of the Fire Chief to implement and enforce policies that ensure the safety of all MCFRS personnel. Personnel who are operating at, or are on the scene of incidents occurring on arterials/highways/streets must wear a traffic safety vest, and/or another approved reflective garment specified in this policy. The requirement to wear appropriate garments with a reflective surface is intended solely to increase safety by improving the visibility of personnel, and does not affect the operational requirements of this or any other MCFRS policy.
a. The Incident Commander will evaluate the risks on an incident scene and may designate an incident at any location a “traffic safety vest required” incident, if the Incident Commander believes that wearing a traffic safety vest will increase personnel visibility, and enhance their safety.
b. All personnel who are working at, standing at or near, or are otherwise present on incident scenes on arterials/highways/streets must wear a traffic safety vest if they are not wearing the structural firefighting coat or a sector/command vest. Personnel must wear a traffic safety vest or another garment with a reflective striped surface area that is equal to or greater than that of the traffic safety vest if they remove their structural firefighting protective coat, but remain on the incident scene.
c. All personnel must wear a traffic safety vest or another garment with a reflective striped surface area that is equal to or greater than that of the traffic safety vest, if they are operating at or are present on an incident on an arterial/highway/street, regardless of the incident type or their role on the incident scene. If traffic safety vests are unavailable, personnel must wear a structural firefighting protective coat, a sector/command vest, EMS gear, a group/division vest, or other similar garment with reflective striping.

Sec. 5. Responsibilities.
a. The Incident Commander is responsible for ensuring that all personnel wear a traffic safety vest, a structural firefighting coat, or other approved reflective garment.
b. All personnel who are on the incident scene must wear the approved traffic safety garment, as determined by the Incident Commander.
c. The MCFRS Safety Office will establish a list of approved traffic safety vests and approved reflective garments.
Sec. 6. Enforcement. The Fire Chief is the enforcement authority for all policies and regulations of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
Sec. 7. Effective Date. This policy is effective on June 1, 2005.

 

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