Unsung Hero: Tom Brown, Volunteer Stony Point Fire Police Officer

High-visibility safety apparel is a type of clothing, such as a yellow vest, that Fire Police Officer Tom Brown wears to improve how well other people ‘see’ him. Most often, high-visibility clothing is worn to alert drivers and other vehicle operators of the presence of the Fire Police Officer in low light and dark conditions.

BY BARRY WARNER

A volunteer Fire Police Officer (FPO) receives sworn police powers and special training to support firefighting efforts at emergency incidents.

“Under the direction of the fire chief, the FPO has a duty to make certain that the firefighters and EMS personnel are given the opportunity to operate unimpeded by making sure no one gains access to the emergency site that does not have the proper authority to do so. In addition, the FPO provides traffic control at the fire scene and keeps crowds of onlookers behind barriers for their own safety,” Tom Brown told the Rockland County Times. “The fire apparatus and emergency vehicles operated by firefighters need to be parked, operated within the area and need room to be turned around. Tanker operations must be run and hose lines have to be placed for firefighting and hazmat operations.”

During the tour of duty, the FPO may become involved with aggressive drivers because of time schedules and fire emergencies where the road is closed or detours announced. Motorists are likely to become angry and take this anger out on the FPO. They may insist that they be permitted to use the route they always use and may even attempt to drive where they aren’t permitted to travel. Drivers are already frustrated by the delay or having to travel an unknown route, but the assistance of the FPO can be a calming factor. Tact and courtesy have to be employed in addition to ‘verbal judo’ to get motorists to obey the commands of the FPO. It’s a way of using one’s words to de-escalate a situation and to maintain healthy mental and emotional behaviors.

Other duties assigned to fire police teams include:

  • Protecting fire department equipment.
  • Assisting with police investigations.
  • Locating and marking downed energized electric wires or other hazards to first responders.
  • Deploying county team apparatus using lights and equipment at road blocks.
  • Establishing fire lines and outer hazmat zones.
  • Conducting a crowd-watch for suspicious spectators.
  • Providing a written record of personnel, witnesses and observations.
  • Assisting at fire department parades, inspections and memorial services.
  • Participating in public service education programs.
  • Providing an interface between the fire department and the public.

Residents, owners, occupants, relatives, spectators and the media are among those individuals who may approach the scene of an auto accident or house fire. The fire police must prevent them from being harmed or hampering the work of the emergency services personnel working at the scene. Since the fire police are often the first point of contact by onlookers with the fire department, they must be skilled in public relations.

The equipment used by the PPO includes a reflective vest, radio, reflective gloves, glowing wand, flashlight, pants, display badge, coat and hat. High-visibility safety apparel are types of clothing, such as a vest and gloves that FPOs can wear to improve how well other people ‘see’ them. Most often, high-visibility clothing is worn to alert drivers and other vehicle operators of the FPO’s presence, especially in low light and dark conditions.

“I’m retired after 27 years of working for the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department and have served as a volunteer FPO for 28 years with the Stony Point Fire Department. In addition, I’m a 53-year member of the Wayne Hose Fire Company in Stony Point and a life member of the Fire Police Association,” Brown concluded. “To prepare for the position, I attended a 21-hour fire police training course. Being a FPO is not an easy job and it requires a lot of concentration when I’m on duty. Volunteering has been part of my life and I enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team.”