Intersection Safety Tips for Fire Truck and Ambulance Drivers

Intersection Safety During Emergency Response

By The VFIS Team on June 7, 2022

Why written training, policies and procedures are so important for intersections—and how to develop effective guidelines to help your emergency service organization address this risk.

You’re heading to an urgent call when you approach a stop sign where there is typically little to no traffic—what do you do? What if instead of a low-traffic stop sign it was six-lane intersection on a major highway?

The answer should be the same for any stop sign, yield sign, yellow or red traffic light—you should follow the intersection policies and procedures that have been set in place by your emergency service organization. However, we know that this doesn’t always happen.

In fact, intersections are considered the location that’s responsible for the majority of incidents involving emergency vehicles for VFIS clients. And not only are they fairly common occurrences—but they’re also
typically serious events involving T-bone or off-set types of collisions that result in someone getting hurt and/or significant damages to the vehicles involved.

Chris Rogers, host of the Don’t Risk It! podcast, recently sat down with Mike Baker, Director of VFIS Client Risk Solutions, and Blair Tyndall, Emergency Services Specialist, to talk about the latest best practices when it comes to training, policies and procedures concerning emergency response and intersections…and we’re sharing what they had to say.

Don't Risk It

Why are SOPs and SOGs crucial for intersections and how should they be utilized?

Standard operating policies (SOPs) and standard operating guidelines (SOGs) are important for intersections because all emergency response organizations and their personnel are exposed to this risk.

However, sometimes organizations create intersection guidelines, have their members sign them, stack them on a shelf somewhere and mark intersection training as “done” on their to-do list—which can be just as negatively impactful as not having an SOP or SOG at all.

These guidelines should be dynamic, living documents that are visited frequently, updated when needed and used to train to the point where they become engrained in members’ minds and they fully understand the purpose of each one.

What should be included in intersection SOPs and SOGs?

While these SOPs and SOGs will vary from organization to organization, here are some common best practices:
  • Your guidelines for intersections should get specific and cover topics like operating at intersections, clearing intersections and lanes of travel.
  • Generally, common practices can go across many types of intersections (whether they’re controlled, noncontrolled, multi-lane, etc.)—however, specifications will be needed for important variables. For example, Mike notes that missing accountability for the far curb lane is a common problem (whether it’s caused by a view obstruction, like a stopped vehicle, or they simply missed what’s happening on the other side) and risks like these need to be addressed.
  • A complete stop should be considered standard practice at every intersection—and if you can’t account for every lane within that intersection at any point while you’re going through it, you should stop immediately.
    The driver and operator should work together so that there are at two people to help find potential hazards and communicate those hazards to the driver.
  • We recommend that legal council is involved in all of your SOGs and SOPs—and especially those, like intersections, which cover large and serious issues. Not only could legal council help bring validity to the documents to help your members take them seriously but they could also help you identify any state-specific laws and guide you on whether or not disciplinary action is warranted after an incident.

Where can I learn more?

We understand that lives could be at stake when you’re responding to a call—but lives are at risk along the roadways all the same. It’s crucial for the safety of your team and the public for your drivers and passengers to remain vigilant, alert and calm until you have parked the vehicle at the station.

The VFIS Team

VFIS is the largest provider of insurance, education and consulting services for fire departments, ambulance and rescue squads and 911 centers in North America, having pioneered the first tailored insurance package for this industry in 1969.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

Glatfelter does not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the results obtained by the use, adherence or implementation of the material contained in this publication. The implementation of the plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication is not a guarantee that you will achieve a certain desired result. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a professional advisor, architect or other expert prior to the implementation of plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication.

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