Driving and Code 3
most SAR missions an expedient response but not an emergency response
is warranted. Most cases
where backcountry travel will be required, does not warrant an
emergency response. In
cases where an emergency response may help the success of an operation
such as a known technical rescues where the team is absolutely needed
or a moving water rescue where time is critical to the success of the
mission and the life of the subject, the team may be dispatched to the
scene using emergency "Code 3" driving.
Above all the safety of the responding team and the general
public must be protected.
After team probational training, each member of the team
receives a county approved, Code 3 training course certified by the
academy for emergency Search and Rescue application (Non-pursuit
driving). Each year
through continuing team trainings and the yearly recertification, the
team member renews his certification to operate a county vehicle using
Code 3 guidelines.
is paramount to understand and practice the guidelines established in
this class and in the county approved training sessions.
A person and the corresponding agency is held responsible for
understanding and adhering to the guidelines that are established.
following topics are discussed below:
of Defensive Driving
of Using Safety Belts
Which Affect Stopping Distance
of speed on a Turning Vehicle
between MPH and Distance Traveled
of Emergency Warning Devices
Driving: Exempt from
Affecting Liability Under Code 3
Wheel Braking Skid
section contains some highlights in regards to proper operation of
in a defined emergency response. Members
must be certified through the county academy to operate the SAR or any
other county emergency vehicle in a code 3 response.
Operation of an emergency vehicle should be transferred to a
certified operator if required. In
no case should a non-certified driver accept a code response dispatch.
are several factors which effectively impact one's ability to drive
defensively. First a
driver's attitude has a great bearing on his ability to operate a
motor vehicle. Such
factors as overconfidence, self-righteousness, impatience, and
preoccupation can all negatively effect one's performance.
The driver's psychomotor skills, understanding of physical
dynamics, and experience greatly influence the one's ability to drive
factors which may detract from one's ability to drive defensively are:
decreased visual efficiency due to fatigue or illness, prolonged
perception time, increased decision / reaction time due to external
influence or one's ability to manage physiological and psychological
There are some factors over which the driver may have control.
The condition and capability of the vehicle being driven is
very important. Frequent
inspections of equipment may help to identify a faulty element prior
to its failure during an emergency call.
There are unique characteristics in all vehicles.
One's familiarity with the particular vehicle and practice in
it's operation is required for safe defensive driving.
Weather itself, such as snow, rain, ice, or black ice play an
important role in the ability to negotiate hazardous conditions.
Last but not least is the ability to adjust to the unexpected
elements that appear on the roadway such as pedestrians, animals, or
are several factors that are common when considering what causes a
collision. One of the most
common causes is unsafe speed for the conditions that are present.
Another is the violation of another's right of way.
Right of way incidents typically originate in merging traffic,
during turns, while backing a vehicle, or while one vehicle is parking
or pulling to the side. The
accidents which are most difficult to identify fault are those that
are caused by distractions or driver inattention.
Advantages of Using
stated, if one wishes to live through a traffic collision then he
should use a seat belt. The
seat belt is the simplest and most effective protection against major
injury or death in a collision. The
seat belt when properly utilized lessens the consequences of human
collision and internal organ collision.
In addition to limiting the occupant from striking injury, the
seat belt provides a "Ride Down" effect which increase the
time in which the deceleration occurs (reducing the apparent force).
The seat belt also helps to maintain the driver behind the
steering wheel which helps in maintaining (or regaining) control of
the vehicle during a collision. A
sheriff personal one must wear the seat belt to comply with the law
and agency policy. Wearing
the seat belt also provides a good example for others to do the same.
Not wearing a seat belt would promote the opposite.
bags are a topic of discussion now a days.
Under certain conditions, air bags can reduce injury or death.
Air bags are not ever to be considered a substitute for
seatbelts. Air bags are
only effective in frontal crashes.
Factors Which Affect
There are many factors that effect the stopping distance of a
vehicle. A primary factor
is the driver of the vehicle. Such
things as perception time, decision time, and reaction time effect the
stopping distance in either a positive or a negative way.
Another factor is the preoccupation of the driver.
The driver's mental condition or fatigue can delay his
maintenance, the type of tires, the type of braking system, and the
quality of the brakes directly effect the ability of the vehicle to be
stopped. Under certain
conditions an ABS system can stop a vehicle faster than a non-ABS
system and vice versa. Road
and weather conditions greatly effect the stopping distance required
to stop a vehicle. Any
substance on the road that would effect the coefficient of friction of
the tire against the road will increase the stopping distance.
A rough surface will help slow a vehicle faster than a smooth
surface. The final factor
is the speed which the vehicle is traveling before the stop was
Effect of speed on a
The turning radius of the vehicle as speed increase and
diminishes as speed decreases. Of
major concern is the traction limits of the tires when the apparent
acceleration is normal (lateral) to the turning direction.
A weight transfer occur in the opposite direction to the
direction the vehicle is turning.
The weight transfer increases as the speed increases.
MPH and Distance Traveled
should be aware of the time traveled during the different phases of
reaction. If 0.75 second
occurs for perception, decision, and reaction, then 2.25 seconds
occurs prior to the application of a brake (or initiation of other
evasive maneuvers). At 55
MPH 181 ft are traveled prior response activation.
At 80 MPH the reaction distance increases to 264 ft (which is
pretty close to the length of a football field).
Rule number 1, is "When available there should be a
supervisory controller of all Code 3 operation."
The supervisor could be in the operation or could be the watch
commander. Prior to the
operation, when more than one vehicle is involved, the primary unit
must be established, identified, and designated such with dispatch.
If the number of vehicles in the operation changes at any time,
all drivers and the supervisor must be informed.
the operation enters another division or jurisdiction, the controlling
agency must be advised. The
best way is to request dispatch or the watch commander to advise the
proper agencies. If
possible when advance travel is known, it is best to advise the
applicable jurisdiction of the planned route in advance.
A secondary notification should be made when the jurisdiction
is actually entered. If no
other communication scheme is available the operations leader may be
able to communicate with local law enforcement through the CLEMARS
of the primary responsibilities of the operations leader which is also
shared by each vehicle operator, is to determine when to terminate the
code 3 response. Termination
of Code (prior to arrival) is usually based on the interest of public
or officer safety. There
are times and conditions when it is easier and safer just to drive to
a location without light and siren.
For example in heavy fog the overhead light limits the drivers
ability to see. Perhaps
during ice and snow one does not want people attempting to pull off
the road. The team could
spend the entire trip rescuing people on the way to the assigned
Vehicle Code, CVC, requires the use of a forward red light and a siren
when responding code 3 to an emergency call.
There are very few cases that the siren would not be applicable
to a Search and Rescue Code 3 response.
The allowance to squelch the siren was made in the interest of
officer safety when a "Silent" approach is required.
An example when it might be prudent to squelch the siren during
a SAR Code response would be driving the freeway at 3 AM or on Highway
33, 15 miles north of Ojai. In
these situation the manual selector of the Unitrol would be applicable
so the siren could be activated by the driver (horn button) when other
vehicles are observed or blind intersections are being approached.
Emergency Warning Devices
are certain limitations of the lighting equipment on the SAR vehicles
of which all should be aware. During
daylight hours, the traditional red and blue lights are harder to see
and should always be augmented by the vehicle headlamps.
Use the normal (not high beams) headlamps as the high beams
have a tendency to diminish the effect of the overhead lights.
The team blazer is equipped with forward "wigwags"
which are much more effective than steady burning headlamps.
The height of the SAR vehicles also reduces their visibility
especially in the lower compact model vehicles.
Studies have shown than the regular headlamps are often seen
prior to the overhead lamps. This
is attributed to the typical driver is looking for lights at ground
level rather than at roof level.
team member should be aware that high speed reduces the affectivity of
the siren as a warning device. The
faster one is traveling the less effect the siren becomes.
Typically at 55 MPH most vehicles being overtaken will not
identify the siren until the Code vehicle is passing them.
Also one must be aware of the physical constraints of the SAR
vehicles. For Example the
utility bed of 3800 almost completely obscures the rear view of the
roof lights at close range. For
this reason additional amber flashers have been placed high on the
rear of 3800. These ambers
should be engaged whenever responding code.
The length of the team suburban has the same effect however to
a lesser degree. In
addition one should be aware of external physical barriers that may
impair the effectivity of the siren such as blind intersections,
buildings, dense forrest or hills (continuing through an endless list
Exemptions from Vehicle Code
There are four primary vehicle sections dealing with Code 3
responses. Two of the
sections are addressed to the operator of the vehicle and the other
with the other traffic on the highway.
The responding SAR unit must be authorized (directed by
dispatch) and be responding to an emergency call involving rescue
where undue harm or death may result from a non-emergency response of
the unit. The SAR unit may
also be dispatched for special reasons such as a fire response if the
watch commander determines the necessity.
The Ambulance Driver's Handbook from the CHP lists the vehicle
code sections that are exempted during code response.
Of key importance is section 21056, which state that the above
exemptions does not relieve the driver of the response vehicle of safe
operation and due regard for all others using the road.
The lights and siren are a request for others to yield; never
assume other vehicles have observed the lights and will execute the
correct or expected reaction. When
returning from a code call, as with any other time, the SAR vehicle
must comply with all rules of the road.
Liability Under Code 3
officer or team member may be civilly liable if a problem arises
during an unauthorized code response.
Team and S/O agency policy does not allow a SAR member to self
initiate a Code response. Section
17004 state that an officer may be criminally liable if he does not
drive with due regard for the safety of others.
A law enforcement agency may be civilly liable for death,
injury, or property damage caused by a county operator who negligently
or wrongfully operates a motor vehicle as described in vehicle code
section 17001. Although
only applicable to pursuit driving (not applicable to SAR members) a
law enforcement agency could be liable for death or injury caused by a
pursuit subject unless a pursuit procedure is in force in accordance
with CVC 17004.
times during disasters, major fires, or floods, a caravan of emergency
vehicles may travel together. In
this case the same safety regulations and regards for other vehicles
is required. Never assume
that all other vehicles see the caravan.
One should apply the same precautions used elsewhere.
On each activation of the team vehicles a standard check list is
activated. This should
include a mechanical check of the vehicle including the engine bay for
worn parts. Tires should
be checked for pressure, flaws, cracks or cuts.
Fluid checks should be made as well as a check of the ground
under the vehicle to note any apparent leakage.
All lights should be checked and the Unitrol should be
activated. The manual
switch should be selected on the unitrol.
With the unitrol selector set to full code the horn switch
should be tested to properly activate the siren.
The PA system should be verified.
The unitrol should be left in the manual position.
Gear stored in the vehicles should be secured in a safe fashion.
This is particularly important in the suburban where the gear
is directly aft of and exposed to the passenger seats.
Brakes should be tested several times before leaving the
station as well as the turning response to the driver's command.
Since team members do operate the SAR units every day, some
time is needed to reacquaint oneself with the individual vehicle.
All Wheel Braking
In most team code responses, the team is mainly attempting to
save time by moving traffic to the side to allow the vehicle to
proceed at a safe pace. In
a water rescue the environment will restrict the travel to a slower
than normal pace. However
the fact that the trucks are not waiting several layers back in jammed
work traffic allows a quicker and safer response.
During the team practical trainings skids and spins are induced
to prepare the team member for unusual circumstances.
In most cases the speed is to great for the attempted maneuver.
The best response is usually to let up on the brake and steer in
the direction of the sliding rear of the vehicle.
A collision occurs when there is insufficient distance or time
for the driver to regain control of the sliding vehicle.
Remember if the vehicle is skidding or sliding, this is an
indication that the normal steering mechanism of the vehicle (friction
of front wheels on the pavement) is no longer functioning.