Volunteer firefighters jump from their beds or the family dinner table to respond to emergency calls. The state of Louisiana permits the use of personal vehicles when responding directly to an accident scene or fire. Due to the "time is of the essence" nature of firefighting, Louisiana emergency responders may also travel above the speed limit with flashing red lights to reach the fire house after receiving a department page.
Personal Vehicle Response
Louisiana Revised Statute 32:24 accords the title of authorized emergency vehicles to privately owned vehicles of volunteer firefighters responding to an emergency. While responding, firefighters must slow down at traffic signals or stop signs, but they are not required to come to a complete stop. The speed limit can also be exceeded, but the firefighter may not endanger public property or life while responding in a personal vehicle to an emergency page. While en-route to a fire call in a privately owned vehicle, volunteer firefighters are permitted to disregard standard traffic signs governing the flow of traffic and turn lanes.
Siren and Flashing Lights
The state statute requires a volunteer firefighter to use visual or audible signals to warn oncoming motorists and pedestrians when a personal vehicle is used during an emergency call. A flashing red light does not need to be permanently attached to a vehicle. A siren or flashing red light can be positioned on a dashboard or placed temporarily on top of the vehicle's roof. Although the law allows Louisiana volunteer firefighters to use a privately owned vehicle when responding to an emergency call, it does not absolve the firefighter from the responsibility adhering to public safety. If a volunteer firefighter drives recklessly and damages public or private property or causes harm to others, the firefighter may suffer legal consequences.
Louisiana Revised Statute 32:3286 prohibits a motorists from following a volunteer firefighter responding to an emergency call in a personal vehicle at a distance any closer than 500 feet. It is also unlawful to park on the same block where an emergency responder stops to answer a fire or accident call.
Firefighter Bill of Rights
The Louisiana Revised Statutes includes a Fire Service Bill of Rights which outlines both the rights and responsibilities of department members. The emergency responders document governs all safety aspects and duties relating to standard duties of both paid and volunteer firefighters. All firefighters are afforded the right to respond to emergency incidents in their designated coverage area and regional scenes when asked to offer mutual aid to another service area.