Winter Road Safety: Clearing the Path for Emergency Responders
“We’re doing our best to get there safely and as quickly as we can.”
As winter covers the roads with snow and icy conditions, it’s essential for emergency services, highway maintenance and the general public to navigate them safely.
Corey Resch, AEMT/Supervisor with Aspirus MedEvac, emphasizes the unique challenges faced by emergency responders this time of year.
“During the winter, road conditions can be slippery and it can be hard to see with the snow coming down, especially with the blinding lights at night,” says Resch. “We’re trying to respond to emergencies quickly while focusing on getting there safely.”
Resch advises other drivers sharing the road to remain vigilant in snowy and freezing rain conditions, providing the following guidance when encountering an ambulance with its lights flashing:
- Avoid slamming on your brakes
- Slow down gradually and pull off to the side
- Be aware that one emergency vehicle may indicate others are coming soon
- Keep an eye out, know your surroundings, and ensure a safe path for emergency vehicles
For those requiring emergency services during challenging road conditions, be aware that unplowed roads and varying vehicle capabilities may impact response times. Resch requests patience, assuring that emergency responders are doing their best to reach locations safely. He notes, “Certain ambulances might not have four-wheel drive, which can slow down travel on unplowed roads. We’re doing our best to get there safely and as quickly as we can.”
Sometimes, accomplishing this requires a bit of extra help from community partners, such as the Marathon County Highway Department (MCHD).
The MCHD assists during the winter by pretreating, or spraying salt brine on, state highways, county roads, and specific areas like bridge decks and high flyovers. In heavy snow events, the MCHD Highway Operations Supervisor John Bangart assures the availability of 24-hour snowplow service on key routes, with direct communication channels for emergency services to contact plow drivers.
“It’s very important for the highway department to be out there making sure we have safe roads so first responders can get out there and save people’s lives,” says Bangart.
He emphasizes the importance of driver awareness around snowplows, stating, ‘If you see green and yellow lights on a truck, please slow down, give them plenty of room behind, and avoid passing. Our drivers put in long hours and are out there for your protection – to make roads safe for everyone.”
Remember, winter road safety is a shared responsibility. Whether you’re a part of the general public or an emergency services professional, staying informed, driving cautiously, and respecting the roles of each party can make a significant difference in winter road safety.