Last week, the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) announced the launch of a pilot project featuring the use of blue lights on 12 of the city's fire apparatuses.

The 12 vehicles that have been selected by the CFD, are engines and one rescue vehicle that respond to a high volume of motor vehicle collisions in high-traffic areas, such as along Deerfoot Trail, and follow a similar protocol that has recently been introduced for tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles.

"The Province of Alberta recently granted approval for a trial period of one year... With reporting protocols in place to track all incidents involving collisions or near misses for fire engines fitted with blue lights. This data will be important in assessing the impact of this initiative on overall safety outcomes," The City of Calgary stated.

While Airdrie City Fire Chief Mike Pirie lauded the CFD's announcement, he said there are no plans for Airdrie to follow suit. He cited costs as one of the impediments to pursuing the initiative.

"[The blue light] has to be on its own circuit; it can only operate while it's in a stationary position; so, you're talking about a lot of interfaces," he explained. "Then certainly, for the fire trucks, the way our electrical systems are set up, they're not set up to run an additional light. You could pull out maybe a red light and put in a blue, but it's not that simple just to put a light [like] on the tow trucks."

According to The City of Calgary, the cost to fit CFD’s apparatus with blue lights is approximately $4,000 per vehicle.

"... And is being funded through our existing budget. This modest cost supports the ability to enhance safety for first responders and motorists and represents an investment in public safety. Costs for removing the lights, if necessary, at a later date would be negligible," a city spokesperson stated in an email.

The newly fitted blue lights on the CFD apparatus will only be activated when the fire engine is parked.

"These lights will be installed on both the front and rear of the engines, enhancing visibility from all angles and alerting motorists to the presence of emergency responders on the road."

CFD cited that it took months of work and the support of Calgary City Councillor Wyness to push through the initiative.

"The idea for incorporating blue lights into our fleet was supported by re-suggested by a Senior Firefighter within the CFD."

Chief Pirie added that the CFD's initiative will be followed closely,

"We're all going to be watching Calgary, I think fairly close to see - not only do they get the permits, [but] will they be able to use them effectively? What do they find? What I question is, what are we looking for? The goal is just to help the motorist move away from your vehicle in a safe manner," he explained. "It's not as simple [as] do you reduce collisions? That would presume that you're getting hit all the time. I'm not sure what we're trying to measure that hasn't already been measured."

DiscoverAirdrie also queried City of Calgary officials on what specific data sets will be collected during the pilot project. Officials wrote that 'the CFD will be collecting incident reports for these apparatus when they are operating on roadways and attending to motor vehicle collisions.'

"Incident reports will note observations made related to the blue lights by crews in terms of driver behaviour while on scene. CFD will also be collecting information from our Safety Database Management System where crews report any near-misses or unusual or problematic occurrences for review and follow-up," officials explained.

In the event there are collisions involving CFD apparatus while they are stationary on a roadway, CFD will conduct their standard collision investigation and will determine whether or not blue lights were in place on the truck.

"In each quarterly review period, we will compile observations of driver behaviour, reviews of near-miss situations, and any relevant collision data and report it to the province. These categories will be reviewed against historical data before the implementation of the blue light trial, as well as compared with apparatus that do not have blue lights to observe any trends."

Many countries across the globe already utilize blue lights on fire vehicles, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Sweden, as well as many states in America. 

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