SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There's concern among the Santa Barbara City Fire Department when it comes to drivers on the roads during an emergency.
When a fire crew gets an emergency call, responding quickly is top priority. That's why they turn on their emergency lights and blast the sirens. If you're driving, you're supposed to pull over, stop and let the engine pass by.
Captain George Martinez works at Station Five on Modoc Road. He said the Las Positas overpass is one of their problem spots, but unsure drivers are also an issue throughout the city and on the freeway.
When Martinez and his crew respond to a 9-1-1 call in Engine 5, they often have to go around drivers, into oncoming traffic, or sit and wait until drivers pull over to the right.
Drivers appear to be distracted, looking at their phones, listening to music with the windows rolled up or stopping to look at accidents. Firefighters realize that drivers sometimes don't hear them coming until the engine is right behind them.
Santa Barbara City Fire crews respond to approximately 10,000 calls every year.
"Close to 70% of those are emergency medical aid calls that we are responding to Code 3," said Captain Gary Pitney.
City fire officials said they are always looking for ways to reduce response times--from 9-1-1 dispatch improvements to new protocols. But, Pitney said, "This is the one area where we can't make a lot of improvements without the help of the public."
So here are firefighters recommendations:
- Pull over to the right as soon and as safely as you can when you hear sirens behind you.
- Don't go to the left, or block an intersection.
- Even if you are on the opposite side of the street, pull to the right.
- Stay calm.
Firefighters say in an emergency, every second counts and precious moments lost waiting for drivers to pull to the right could be the difference between life and death for people on the other end of 9-1-1 calls.