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Yes, state vehicle code mandates that while responding Code Three, an emergency response vehicle must have all emergency lights on and the siren sounding. A Code Three response is initiated when life, property or the environment is in immediate jeopardy (ie. bleeding, breathing problems, fire).
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Fire Department units are dispatched according to information received by the 9-1-1 operator. Ceres Emergency Services thinks pessimistically when they respond to citizens in need of help. In other words, the firefighters are prepared to deal with the worst that could happen. They are fast, well-trained and pleasant in their response. The dispatcher selects the closest unit to respond to an incident.
The Fire Department's philosophy is to get our firefighters there as soon as possible. In preparation for the worse case scenario, an ambulance often is dispatched as well. The first unit on the scene may not be an advanced life support unit (a unit with paramedics). Therefore, such a unit also will be responding. There may be two or three fire department vehicles on the scene for what appears to be a "simple" incident. However, in emergency services we have learned that if we assume something is "simple," we can be horribly mistaken. Plus, we respond as fast as we can and prepare to encounter the worst. The winner in these situations will always be the citizen who needs help.
Sometimes several units are dispatched to the same incident. The first unit may have arrived on the scene, surveyed the situation and informed the dispatcher that the situation was under control. All other responding units were cancelled and put back into service, ready to take another call. Most likely, when you see an emergency vehicle go "Code 3" (lights and siren) through an intersection and then slow down and turn the emergency lights off, they have been cancelled from the call they were going on.
We respond to more than 4,100 calls per year, with 68% of those calls being medical in nature.
Inform the apartment management of the apparent fire hazard so they can correct the problem. You also can contact the Emergency Services Division at 209-538-5703 to request a fire inspector to review the situation. If the hazard is an immediate threat to life safety (burning trash, leaking gasoline, etc.), dial 9-1-1 for immediate assistance.
When people think of calling 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, they may focus mostly on getting to the hospital. Most research has demonstrated that rapid, on-scene medical intervention produces the best patient outcomes. The fire service is best positioned to deliver this critical care, as they can regularly arrive on-scene faster than the ambulance.
Other primary duties of the fire department are to respond to fires, hazardous materials incidents, auto accidents, etc. Quite often, these calls come in while returning from other calls. In order to maintain the fast response times to provide the highest level of care, the entire crew and equipment need to be together ready to respond. If a company needs to drive past an incident to switch into a different apparatus, the results could be devastating.
The bottom line – a better chance for patient survival, property conservation and/or environmental protection is why the fire department responds in their primary apparatus to medical calls.