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New State Guidelines for Emergency Responders

Woodland Park Assistant Fire Chief Michael Muccio was an emergency responder following a car accident on Route 80 several years ago when a drunk driver sped through the accident site and hit him. He lost his right leg as a result.

Now Muccio and other emergency responders are lauding what was absent then - New Jersey guidelines for state troopers, firefighters and other responders that spell out chain-of-command directives, procedures for alerting other motorists and specific how-to plans for rendering an accident site safe for emergency workers.

The guidelines - entitled "Highway Incident Traffic Safety Guidelines for Emergency Responders" - provide much-needed consistency, say responders such as Jerry Naylis, a volunteer firefighter in Bergenfield, who notes that, "Everyone in emergency services is [now] playing from the same playbook."

That was far from the case previously, with tensions often existing, for example, between state troopers  and fire chiefs concerning who was in control, whether a lane or highway needed to be shut down and related matters. In fact, a state trooper arrested a Morris County deputy fire chief in 2006 over a traffic-flow dispute when the latter refused to move a fire truck that was operating as a safety buffer.

The control issue "goes back quite awhile," says Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. Notes Naylis: "You had verbal altercations with police and fire."

The new guidelines seek to end bickering and confusion, as well as increase accident-site safety. They specify that state police are in charge in all emergency response situations on state highways, but they also call for a "unified command" and stress cooperation among responders.

Muccio and others are thankful for what they believe will clear up friction, control issues and general confusion. "We've never had a document like this," says Muccio. "Let's apply it and make the job safe."

Related Resource: "Safety playbook may be lifesaver" August 18, 2010

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