Scene Safety and Awareness Around Bridges

Sources: EMR-ISAC, ABC WPVI-Philadelphia

Firefighters and EMS personnel respond to vehicle crashes or other incidents at bridges regularly. In the past two years, at least three first responders were injured or killed after falls from bridges. Accidents like these can be preventable with proper safety and situational awareness.

Two incidents involved people attempting to jump over divided highway overpasses while responding to accidents. An Alexandria, VA, paramedic died in 2012 after suffering injuries attempting to jump a 3-foot gap between highway lanes. Last month, a paramedic in Delaware fell 50 feet while attempting to do the same thing.

A 2007 fatality investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists several recommendations including proper lighting, ensuring the bridge barriers (concrete, railings, etc.) are high enough, and the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for bridge operations.

Departments should identify bridges or overpasses having gaps between lanes and rewrite SOPs to address them, if necessary. Focus on things such as apparatus staging, lighting of the scene at night, and how to cross the gaps properly and safely.