Leaking hand torch tank, stuck-on giant Barney head, dog fall: re firehouse emergency response rules

Is it a law that any time the fire department sends a truck or engine on a logged civilian call they must turn on their sirens and lights? What about their smaller vehicles?

Because I’ve had to call 911 for the police a few times for non-emergency emergencies, immediately say it’s not that kind of emergency, apologize, explain, and eventually a car quietly rolls up.

Yesterday, after finishing off some cooking with a normal propane hand torch (400 g cylinder), I must have unscrewed the torch unevenly, or something, because the valve stuck open slightly, and, although nearly empty, it continued to softly hiss away.[sup]*[/sup] I was stumped about what to do. So I went outside my apartment building, sheepishly called 911, who switched me to the fire department, they said let’s check it out, and an engine came with sirens on, although they understood I just wanted to know what to do, I’m outside I’m away from flame, it’s just slowly draining, etc, no emergency. They came with sirens and lights.

Coincidentally, and a lovely story, yesterday a kid got a giant Barney head stuck on her, and they said if they come, they come with sirens a’blaring and lights a’blazing. For some reason the kid didn’t like that idea; the family had friends at the station house, requested they come without all the hoopla, and a bunch of them came quietly in a minivan.

(Vid here of initial, frenzied civilian attempts at rescue, hindered by teen giggling; more commentary and photographs from firehouse here.

And many years ago, in a horrible day, my dog jumped off a tenement to an inaccessible alley (long story), and I knew the guys in the firehouse around the corner, ran to them, and the trucks (plural in this case) came with light and sound. (I didn’t think my mad love for NYFD could get any greater, but then came 9/11.)
*Flaming a ground-chickpea/pureed-pea/honey coating on a wine-poached cod filet on a bed of pilaf, why yes it was terrific, thank you, I invented it last night.

Here’s my guess … emergency responders don’t want to get stuck in traffic in case an actual emergency comes up. I not trying to denigrate your calls, better safe than sorry and the firemen do want to fix your torch rather than hose down the charred remains of your house. However, they want to get there in a hurry, save your life, then get back … the next call might be the fertilizer factory on fire and they want to be ready.

Alternately, the siren switch manager might be sitting on a full house and everyone’s paycheck is in the pot …

What kind of wine?

It’s kind of embarrassing. We called them once because the carbon monoxide alarm went off and yes, they came with lights and sirens in our tiny little neighborhood. And people are so fucking nosy! They will literally stand on their front lawns and gawp. (God, I hate people). Anyway the only benefit was the cute firefighters, but they did stomp through our house with their boots on. We never wear our shoes in the house, so they tracked dirt everywhere. But they were VERY nice.

Warning: anecdote approaching…

Our fire department is all volunteer. Yesterday a fire truck went by with it’s lights and sirens on and no call had gone over the radio. I said to my partner “They are probably going to get gas.” The volunteers seem to really like the lights and sirens. When you do it multiple times a day it gets old pretty quick. All the cops I know who have been on more than a year know to only go lights and sirens when necessary. It’s probably the most dangerous part of the job day to day. The fire department doesn’t seem to understand. We are always the first ones on a fire scene and when it’s not urgent we always make sure to put over the radio to proceed with caution. They always come as fast as humanly possible regardless of the circumstances.

But I’m sure that all the volunteer fire fighters on here use all due caution at all times.

To specifically answer the question in the 1st line of the OP: In New Jersey there certainly is no law that fire engines must respond to calls with lights and sirens.

You seem to be implying the fire department honored the request for no hoopla,but your link says otherwise:

And did you try putting the torch back on the bottle to see if it stopped leaking?This really seems like a waste of the fire department’s time.

Loach’s answer probably gets most of the way there. To the extent there’s a more operational rationale, though, they may be thinking that the risks associated with overreacting are likely to be much smaller than with underreacting. If they overdo, then there’s potentially a lot of unwanted attention and embarrassment. If they underplay their response, however, they’re taking a chance that the caller has somehow underestimated the emergency. The OP is a Doper and can be relied upon to be astute and reasonable, but other callers might not be. Consider:

[li]“My propane cylinder is leaking (and I’m neglecting to mention that I brought it inside through the back door into the utility room, where the gas furnace’s pilot light is running).”[/li]
[li]“A little girl has something stuck on her head (and I haven’t yet realized that she can’t breathe).”[/li][/ul]

I don’t see anything astute and reasonable about it.
If we were discussing a 20 lb. cylinder,sure. But…a 1 lb bottle that is almost empty? Put the torch back on it, if it still leaks light the torch and burn the rest off.

Been a few years, so IIRC. We had some friends over, they thought they smelled a little gas, we called the non-emergency line to get someone to check it out. (Why fire and not the gas company? dunno). Were not expecting lights and multiple trucks.

Apparently they are required to treat any potential gas leak as an emergency because boom. Weird, since it’s not like we were the road crew that broke open a gas main and made a big boom. :eek:

Hey! OP here.

  1. I am astute-- I got right that the firemen-on-call want (need?) hoopla, but failed as has been astutely corrected by a poster here, who’s astutydom fails because the sense of the OP is not negated;

  2. I am reasonable enough to know that a leaking propane tank of that size will eventually run itself out, but–words of wisdom to all who are observing a Yahrzeit during sitting next to a burning candle is not a good idea, not did babysitting the damn thing in my living room sound like fun;

  3. I am reasonable enough to know it maybe is a waste of the fire department’s time for that call–you see, I wrote that in the OP.

Recapping the plastic didn’t seem like a good idea. Re-screwing in the torch to burn it off controlled I thought of, but worried about a spark on the metal before it was attached properly.

But thank you for your astute and reasonable answer.

You left the leaking tank inside and walked out.

How about carrying the leaking tank outside and walking back in?

Every police and fire department has a non-emergency number staffed 24/7. Yes, it’s often answered by an emergency dispatcher, but at least they know it’s NOT an emergency call. I can’t imagine there was any reason to call 911 for this.

Finally, no, it’s not a legal requirement to respond to a call with lights and sirens. I’ve seen ambulances and fire trucks running with lights but no sirens many times, often late at night.

Taco Bell run. :cool:

If you weren’t finishing off the crust on a crème brulée then you were using the wrong kind of gas. :eek:

Take it from me. :wink:

9-1-1 supervisor here…

We* do not relay requests to change the response configuration of emergency responders. Whether a fire truck, police car, or ambulance responds with lights and/or sirens is dependent upon criteria established by the response agency, not on the request of the caller and/or dispatcher. It does not matter whether you called the 9-1-1 line or the non-emergency number.

So a 75 year old male with upper abdominal pain gets a Priority response, even if he *thinks *it is just indigestion and doesn’t want the ambulance to run with lights and sirens. The ambulance crew then makes the determination of whether lights/sirens are needed for a priority response base upon time of day, weather, traffic, etc…

Lesser events might warrant a lower response level such as Urgent (e.g. single seizure in a known epileptic which lasted less than 5 minutes), or even lower as Standard (e.g. bedridden patient needs transport for scheduled medical test or appointment). Here at least a Standard response has no lights or sirens and the ambulance acts as any other vehicle stopping at all traffic signals/signs just as any private vehicle.

Gas leaks are priority response for the fire service. Period. Things going BOOM are bad. Even if nothing is burning yet, keeping things from going BOOM is a Priority matter. Most fire calls are a Priority response.

*ALL 9-1-1 policies are local. Just because my office does it this way does not mean your local office is wrong for doing it another way.

What if you had a hostage situation or a major robbery where somebody was able to call 911? If I were able to call in such a situation, you can bet your last dollar that I would request no sirens, to try to preserve the element of surprise.

A policy that is too rigid, and does not take extenuating circumstances into account is a bad policy.

I didn’t. Didn’t think it needed explaining: loved ones at home with one flame, take self downstairs in open area.

As to dispatcher “know[ing] it’s NOT [sic] an emergency call,” re-understand OP and subsequent comments.

BTW, nobody asked what happened after the fire truck came, what they said, and what was reccomended as the proper disposal method.

Strange, that.

The response configuration policy of the responding agency varies depending upon the type of incident reported. So it is not the dispatcher that tells the officer not to run lights and sirens to a hostage call, it is the responding agency’s policy that tells them how to respond. Those are tactical decisions to be made by higher authority in the police agency.

We do relay scene safety information which may be used by the responders to change their response configuration. (e.g tell and ambulance crew that the patient is a victim of an assault and the location of the assailant is unknown) But the decision to change their response is up to the responders.