Section II-8

Safe Apparatus Driving Policy

Purpose:  To establish policy and guidelines for the operation and driving of any Three Star apparatus and privately owned vehicles (POVs) to/from an emergency scene, whether in our fire management zone or to a mutual aid district.  This policy will be read, understood, and be adhered to by all personnel.

Scope:  These policies are applicable to all personnel who operate/drive any Three Star Fire Department apparatus and/or their POV while responding to/from an emergency situation.  Before driving any apparatus, personnel MUST meet the guidance set forth in the Apparatus Driver Qualification SOG.  Personnel using their privately owned vehicles to respond to an emergency call, MUST also follow this guidance.

The single most important issue that affects crash avoidance and safety is the manner in which the vehicle is driven to and from the emergency scene.  Our most basic mission is to deliver a vital service to our customers or constituents.  When they have a fire, become ill, or are entrapped, we respond to mitigate the situation as much as possible.  The key principle here is that we must respond to the constituent’s location.  Rarely do they bring the problem to us.

Because we understand the urgency of their need, it is our goal to respond to their location as expeditiously as possible.  To that end, emergency responders are given many liberties that are not afforded other members of the driving public.  However, these liberties are often abused, neglected, or become complacent and mishaps occur.  To this end, Three Star policy has been established to eliminate, or at least minimize, the possibility of a fatal accident that includes fire apparatus or POVs responding to/from an emergency scene. 

Where a conflict of guidelines exists, this SOG and State/Local laws take precedence.


All personnel will meet the requirements as outline in Driver Training & Requirements (Section VI-4) and Apparatus Driver Qualification Guidelines (Section IV-3) prior to being designated as primary driver of a particular apparatus.  This includes the Emergency Vehicle Operator’s Course (EVOC).  Only drive apparatus in which you have been designated to drive because vehicle characteristics and dynamics differ from one apparatus to the next. 

  1. After initial qualifications, complete Competency Course (as stated in Appendix 4) annually.
  1. When responding to an emergency call in Privately Owned Vehicle, each person shall drive with due regard to State of Tennessee traffic laws.
  1. Respond in emergency apparatus in a safe and prudent manner, keeping control over the apparatus at all times.
  1. Emergency lights and sirens will only be operated during emergency situations.  This includes POVs. When directed to downgrade to routine, all lights & sirens will be secured. Section II-9 (Emergency & Non-Emergency Responses).
  1. Emergency apparatus and/or POVs will be brought to a complete stop at all intersections that include posted stops signs, red traffic signals, activated railroad crossings, blind intersections, and intersection where right-of-way for all lanes of traffic cannot be determined.  Proceed through red traffic light or stop sign only after being certain that every driver sees you and is allowing you to proceed.
  1. All Emergency apparatus and POVs will be brought to complete stop when encountering school buses with activated warning flashers. 
  1. Emergency apparatus shall exercise extreme caution and at an extremely reduced speed when moving into the opposing lane of traffic and proceed through the intersection or around an obstacle in their lane of traffic.  If oncoming traffic can not be seen, DO NOT drive on opposing lane of traffic.
  1. In congested and high risk areas, caution and situation awareness is paramount.   Congested and high risk areas include schools, commercial buildings, parks, yard/garage sales, parking in streets.  Never assume you are being seen or heard by all children or drivers.  Reduce speed and proceed with extreme caution.
  1. Establish safe distance when behind other fire apparatus or civilian vehicles.  Know your safe braking distance.
  1. Overtake and pass other vehicles during emergency response only when it is determined that all other vehicles clearly acknowledge your presence by pulling over to the shoulder or have come to complete stop.  Neither emergency apparatus nor POVs operating with lights and sirens have the right of way NOR will you demand the right-of-way.  A mutual recognition of the situation by both/all drivers involved must be obtained.
  1. It is STRICTLY prohibited to pass or overtake another vehicle on the right side. 
  1. Take safest response route being aware that weather conditions, time of day, and construction zones may make it necessary to take a longer route.
  1. Avoid operating emergency vehicles in reverse unless properly “spotted” by fire personnel. The use of handheld radios is encouraged.
  1. All personnel riding apparatus will wear seatbelts.  This includes POVs if responding to/from an emergency.
  1.  No smoking in or on any emergency apparatus.
  1.  Emergency apparatus and POVs will be driven at appropriate speeds.  The vehicles will ALWAYS be driven at a speed that allows it to be maintained under control, on the roadway, and able to stop within a reasonable distance.  Road conditions, population of roadways, type of surfaces, curves in roadway, and weather will dictate safe speed.
  1.  At no time will Tanker 31 be allowed to exceed posted speed limits.
  1. Emergency apparatus will not be directed off roadway unless all risks have been assessed and approval obtained by officer in charge.  The driver/operator of each apparatus has right to decline request if he/she deems it unsafe.  Brush Truck 3 will be allowed off-road operations on a case-by-case basis.
  1. When negotiating curves in the roadway, all emergency apparatus will be handled at safe speeds to ensure they stay in proper traffic lane and do not partially or completely leave roadway/shoulder.
  1. Apparatus will be handled at safe speeds to ensure any weight shifts can be handled.
  1. All emergency apparatus will be parked at emergency scene in a safe manner, with only essential emergency lighting on.  Park vehicle in a manner that reduces the chance of being struck by oncoming traffic and shields the operational work area.  Too much lighting can deem it unsafe and blinding for oncoming traffic.  Use bare essential emergency lighting on scene.  Be mindful of headlights on units parked at scene.
  1. Return to quarters in a safe manner.  All emergency lights are to be turned off when returning from alarms.  It is required that all vehicle and traffic laws of the State of Tennessee are obeyed.
  1. Upon returning to quarters, the driver of the apparatus will ensure that there is no less than ˝ of a tank of fuel in the apparatus and that water levels are full.

Backing Up

When Three Star Fire Department apparatus is operated in reverse or needs to back-up, the driver and/or Officer are required to assign at least one firefighter behind the apparatus to guide the driver and to keep the area clear of bystanders and obstructions.   At no times will a driver back up an apparatus on their own – ensure at least one person is used to guide apparatus. 


     A.  The Fire Chief has the overall responsibility for providing a proper driver’s training program within the Department and is responsible for overall driving and operation of each emergency apparatus and each individual responding to/from the station.

     B.  The Training Officer is responsible for ensuring all drivers complete the Apparatus Driving Training Qualifications and are fully qualified in all aspects.

     C.  Using the Tipton County Fire Channel (Channel 1), the Officer of each apparatus will transmit a message that the apparatus is responding to the alarm and how many personnel are on apparatus.  While responding to the scene, the officer and driver must be alert to any two way transmissions directed to their apparatus and the other apparatus responding to the scene.  All communications directed to the apparatus responding will be handled by the officer.  No communications will be made by Firefighters riding in jump seats.

     D.  Officer of each emergency apparatus shall ensure the driver is operating in a safe manner and is adhering to driving policies outline above and all other Departmental SOGs. 

     E.  Officer will ensure all emergency lighting is in the “on” position.

     F.  Upon arrival, the Officer will direct operator of vehicle on strategic placement of the apparatus to best suit the needs of the apparatus.  Use the apparatus to block traffic as necessary.  Be aware that firefighters will be removing tools and equipment from apparatus.  In heavy traffic areas, shutting down the road may be only resort. 

     G.  Driver/Operator of each emergency apparatus shall ensure he/she maintains driver proficiency by attending required training sessions and refresher courses, and passes all tests, written and practical. 

     H.  It is the driver/operator’s responsibility to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.  He/She shall have a working knowledge of this standard and be qualified as to ALL Three Star Fire Department standard operating guidelines to operate the apparatus in which they are driving/operating. 

     I.  When directed to terminate, the Driver and Officer will ensure all personnel and equipment are safely secured on the apparatus prior to departure.

     J.  The driver of each apparatus is responsible to ensure an inventory of equipment is conducted prior to departing scene.

     K.  When responding under emergency conditions, the driver and officer of the apparatus shall exercise due regard for the safety of the other crew members, the apparatus and the general public.  He/She shall be certain that the right of way has been yielded before proceeding through any controlled intersection, passing buses/vehicles, and that the apparatus is operating at a safe speed so to maintain control under all circumstances.

     L.  Driver/Operator is responsible for reporting all maintenance issues and equipment malfunctions and shall not operate emergency apparatus with any known deficiencies that deem the situation unsafe.

     M.  Driver/Operator and Officer shall ensure all measures are taken to ensure a safe operation.  This will includes all doors being closed, all personnel properly seated and wearing seatbelts, and that they are physically and mentally fit for the task at hand. 

     N.  Driver/Operator will ensure they notify Officer of vehicle if any conditions change that would make for an unsafe condition.  Officer will ensure safety of personnel and equipment is paramount.

     O.  All officers are responsible for ensuring that these Fire Department Driving guidelines are adhered to at all times by all members both in Emergency Apparatus and while operating POVs to/from emergency calls.