Published on January 12, 2022

Time is the Enemy in Any Emergency

Help emergency responders get to the scene of an emergency as soon as possible by following the rules of the road. 

Reacting to Emergency Vehicles

When an emergency vehicle, such as a fire truck, police car or ambulance approaches with a siren on, be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to act. If an emergency vehicle approaches with its siren on, here is what to do: 

  1. Immediately pull over as close to the curb as possible, remaining parallel to the road. Typically, you should pull over to the right. Make sure you are not in the middle of an intersection and use your turn signal.
  2. Stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed, and it is clear no other emergency vehicles are approaching.
  3. When the emergency vehicle has passed, be courteous and let drivers ahead of you back into traffic. Use your turn signal.
  4.  Do not drive within 150 metres of an emergency vehicle with its siren and/or flashing lights on. For reference, 150 metres is nearly 1.5 times the length of a football field.

Credit: Government of Alberta

Did You Know

  • Fire sirens and emergency lights have evolved over time to become louder and brighter. They evolved to gain as much attention as possible. These noises can be jarring but are necessary. Newer vehicles now have noise cancelling systems and a lot of other bells and whistles to compete with. The loud sirens and bright lights are needed to ensure nearby drivers are aware and safe during emergency situations. 
  • Traffic lights can be controlled in real-time by Global Positioning Systems (GPS) found in emergency vehicles. Firetrucks and rescue vehicles can communicate with traffic signals via GPS. As they approach, their GPS interacts with the traffic light system to turn the light green. If a pedestrian-activated signal is operating, the system will delay changing lights until the signal has finished. This helps to ensure that pedestrians are clear of the intersection before emergency vehicles proceed.
  • The amber flashing lights outside the fire station allow emergency vehicles to save valuable time. These amber lights, located outside the fire station, can be activated from within the station. When these lights are active, drivers should slow down and yield to exiting vehicles even if they do not have their lights and sirens on. This allows emergency vehicles to gain valuable seconds of travel time. Dispatch of Fire Services and EMS crews often occurs before all the information is available. Lights and sirens are only activated once they know how urgent the call is. 

Fire Services, Municipal Enforcement and the RCMP are strategically located throughout the city to enable efficient response times in emergency scenarios. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1. Looking to learn more? Check out the City’s Emergency Services page today.  

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Last edited: January 12, 2022