Dr. Harry Carter
Dr. Harry Carter
Editors Column- Friday, Nov, 21, 2008

It's Finally Official

It's Finally Official

We here at the Emergency Response Safety Institute ERSI) and Respondersafety.com have been laboring the in vineyards of highway safety for a decade or more. The journey has been an interesting one to say the least. Sometimes it would seem as though every step that we took in a forward direction was accompanied by a pair of steps in the opposite direction. We have had our friends and advisors. There have also been those naysayers who made our journey a little bit more difficult.

Well gang, it is my pleasure to let you that is was different this time around. We have scored a touchdown on the issue of retro-reflective highway safety vests.

Steve Austin and a number of our stalwart members have been working to insure that the fire and EMS world is properly represented in the process in Washington, DC. In fact our own Jack Sullivan, Director of Training penned the language carving out the fire suppression exemption, a portion of which was incorporated into the revised rule. It is often difficult to be ahead of the curve on an issue, but that did not stop us. We knew where we wanted to go and kept on with the journey. Our consensus regarding the use of retro-reflective highway safety vests has taken quite awhile to build, but now it has paid dividends.

We assembled more information for you our faithful readers on the high visibility vests than any other portal in the world. Over the past few months we fielded questions from manufacturers, fire departments including some of the largest metros, police departments, EMS squads, the press and just about anyone else who asked. We know you appreciated it because we heard from you. Here’s an example: Read your SOP on the high visibility vests “Very good. Very helpful to a small volunteer fire department in western Nebraska.

On Friday November 21, 2008, the Federal Highway Administration issued an interim final rule revising the Worker Visibility rule (23CFR 634) to create an exemption for the firefighting community. This interim final rule allows firefighters or other emergency responders working within the right-of-way of any highway which were federally funded, and who are engaged in emergency operations that directly expose them to flame, fire, heat, and/or hazardous materials to wear retro-reflective turn-out gear that is specified and regulated by other organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association

Firefighters or other emergency responders working within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway and engaged in any other types of non-firefighting operations shall wear high-visibility safety apparel as defined in this rule. The FHWA decided to issue this interim final rule to address safety concerns raised by fire fighting community. The interim final rule was published in the Federal Register on November 21, 2008 and goes in effect on November 24, 2008.  This rule can be accessed at the following link:


My friends, this is the position that we here have been advocating for quite some time now. We wanted the vests available for those situations when fire person are not actively engaged in firefighting duties. I want you to know that we here at the ERSI and Responder safty.com will continue to remain on top of this critical highway safety issue.

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