Joining hands to do the best job possible
Fire Police Officers are an integral part of the Fire Company and respond every time there is an emergency call. One of their main functions is to ensure the safety of firefighters and protect their vehicles and equipment at the scene of an incident.
They also protect residents, spectators, and media personnel from being harmed; set up a yellow tape security perimeter around the incident to keep them from interfering with the work of the firefighters; and safely direct motorists around the scene.
When their pagers go off, the Fire Police Officers drive their personal vehicles directly to the scene. After arrival, the first thing the Fire Police Captain does is to assess the magnitude of the incident. He then works closely with the Fire Chief to determine how far back onlookers must stay, which roads need to be closed, and what alternative routes and detours can be set up. Using his radio he assigns the Fire Police Officers to direct traffic at key locations.
In their personal vehicles Fire Police Officers carry flares and at least three traffic cones, enough to close down a road until more equipment is available. The Fire Company squad truck carries the Detour, Road Closed, and Incident Ahead signs as well as barricades and cones. Firefighters make the rounds to set out and then gather up the signs.
Safety gear for the Fire Police Officers includes high-visibility lime jackets and pants. Three essentials they must have while on duty are an official hat or helmet, a metal badge, and a flashlight with a red cone. High-visibility safety vests are also a standard requirement.
After the Fire Company brings new Fire Police Officers on board, they go before a local judge or the township supervisors. Classes that lead to certification are offered at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center in Manheim. The classes cover traffic control, the proper use of PennDot required traffic control devices, PA State Traffic Laws, and public relations training to enable the Fire Police Officer to better relate to civilians at any given incident. Personal appearance and grooming is a major part of the training.
In addition to fires and accidents, Fire Police Officers protect the community during weather-related emergencies, such as road closings due to flooding or downed wires and trees. They are also called upon to direct traffic during large community events such as the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon and Lancaster County Carriage & Antique Auction.
Present Fire Police Captain Norm Decker says, “The reward for us is knowing that we are doing our part to keep things orderly and safe during an emergency. It’s great to know we are offering protection and possibly saving lives.”
Fire Police Captain Norm Decker and Fire Police Officer Les Fazekas contributed to this article.