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Portable Traffic Signals

This article is directed at everyone in the emergency services, whether you're a firefighter or a police officer. How many times have you been on-scene at a vehicle accident on a sharp curve or just on the other side of the hill crest and had a harrowing experience with traffic control? In the seven years I've volunteered, I've lost count. In fact, last winter, I nearly ran over a local firefighter, in the dark morning hours, who was supposed to be warning traffic on a sharp curve at a highway on ramp which runs underneath the highway itself. The firefighter was not paying attention, I was driving inside the curve, just next to the white line when I caught a glimmer of reflection from the worn out reflective material on his/her turnout gear, while standing on the white line. This person had their back to traffic and, in my opinion, was not paying attention to what they were doing and how dangerous a situation they were in. I was able to swerve in the nick of time and avoid a very unpleasant chain of events. Of course, this was a bad situation only made worse by the failure of the firefighter to realize that he/she was nearly invisible, standing underneath a highway overpass, in the dark, with poor quality gear and not paying attention.

Illustraion of the portable traffic signal configuration.

A portable traffic signal fully extended and operational.

This story has several morals. However, the point I want to make is that these kinds of situations happen quite frequently in the Fire Service an in Law Enforcement. Only recently has technology advanced to the point where traffic signals have become portable and affordable. For the fire service, this means that a rescue truck could easily carry a portable traffic signal device which could easily be deployed by one firefighter with which to effectively warn and control traffic whenever necessary in a one way traffic scenario. In situations where one lane is blocked on a two lane road, especially when the scene is just past the crest of a hill or around a sharp bend, traffic can come upon the scene too quickly to react, thus adding to the problem. With two portable traffic signals, one traffic light deployed at either end of the scene and each one manned by one firefighter, each with a radio, the traffic can easily be controlled with drivers quickly responding to a portable traffic light as opposed to noticing an obscure figure standing in the road with a flashlight or warning flag.

It may seem as if it would be "overkill". However, it's much better than having to explain to the parents, spouse and/or children of a firefighter, the death or injury sustained from an inattentive driver or just the fact the firefighter was unable to be seen in time. There was a time when SCBA seemed to be "overkill", now a firefighter wouldn't think about entering a burning building without one. Eventually, the same will become true of portable traffic signals in the fire service. They require very little room on the truck and the life saving potential far outweighs any criticism they may face.

Click here for more information about portable traffic signals.