Protocols to take in a roundabout when an emergency vehicle approaches

Hillary Johnson

The new roundabout appears to be confusing motorists trying to get out of the way of emergency vehicles. Thornhill Fire Chief Rick Boehm says there has been a learning curve for many drivers but explains the importance for operators to depart at the earliest possible exit safely when an active emergency vehicle approaches.

"When it was a four-way intersection, we had the ability to somewhat anticipate the behaviour of the travelling public because they would actually stop, and we would be able to overtake on the left and then start to weave through the intersection, but we don't have that option now with a roundabout. The requirement would be is if you are in the roundabout, we need you to carry on and exit at the earliest possible exit safely and allow for the emergency vehicles to proceed to their destination. If you are not quite into the roundabout and have a dual-lane option, stay in your lane and allow the large apparatus operator to take that conscious choice as to where and how they might overtake those vehicles that have yielded the right of way."  

He understands that commercial drivers might be limited when following that procedure. He suggests they continue on their planned route if needed, but says the most crucial thing is staying calm.

"If you noticed that the emergency vehicle has approached, you have heard them, you have recognized them there, and its looking kind of chaotic, and they suddenly turn their lights off. What they are doing is reducing the overall stress of the operators in that area. So you just manage that intersection traffic normally. So everybody flushes out, and typically that emergency vehicle will get through quicker. Once they are through, they will reactivate their emergency lights and sirens and carry on their way."  

The fire department has added additional external speakers, uses a dual-tone system and an auxiliary siren system that creates vibrations to alert surrounding vehicles. 

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