Few activities rise to the level of danger for a law enforcement officer than an emergency code run. Traffic, speed and emotions combine with the unpredictable actions of citizens to create a dangerous environment for officers.
Utilizing lights and siren in emergency response can create a false sense of security. As speed and traffic noise increase, the effectiveness of the siren decreases. This phenomenon, known as out running or over driving your siren, can begin at 55 mph. In addition, with the possibility citizens will be distracted with their car windows rolled up, radio on, air conditioning or heater fan on, etc., officers should expect their siren won t be heard.
These expectations increase the alertness and precautions an officer must take to safely arrive on scene. Here are some additional tips an officer can use to improve their safety during emergency-response driving:
When possible, utilize roads with a clear line of sight;
During the day, use headlights;
Continue to look down the road for potential dangers;
Assume citizens can t hear you coming and, if possible, gain eye contact from them before you pass;
Intersections are extremely hazardous and a complete stop may be the safest option, even if the light is green;
The sense of speed can be lost, especially in long code runs. Monitor your speed to ensure you can stop if a hazard lies ahead. This proves especially important at night when vision is limited; and
Siren audibility is less on a clear day, in residential areas and around tall buildings.
An element of danger will always exist when operating with your emergency lights and siren. For your safety and the safety of the citizens we respond to, we must arrive safely at our destination. With planning and consideration, we can conduct this police activity as safely as possible.