It's a situation that many of us know all too well.
You're out on the roads when the familiar sound of a fire truck rushing to an emergency seems to come out of nowhere. You think that you know what to do, but one wrong move could cause delays for the responders, or worse.
14 News rode along with the Owensboro Fire Department to find out how to avoid a delayed emergency in our special report: Delayed Emergency.
"We're watching you, just like you're watching us," says Brad Blandford.
Driving a fire truck to emergencies around town is all in a days work for Brad, who has been with the Owensboro Fire Department since 2004.
"A lot of times, the drivers seem to panic," says Brad. "They see us coming up behind them and they don't really know what to do, and they'll just stop."
It might not seem like a big deal, but the fire department points out that there can be some serious consequences for everyone.
"If the emergency responder will do their part and drive with due regard for the safety of the motorist, and the motorist will do their part, we can prevent some disasters and unnecessary accidents from occurring," says Battalion Chief, Steve Leonard.
Steve says there are typically several situations that the fire department encounters when they need to get somewhere quickly. The first one, a driver who doesn't know what to do.
"They basically just slam on their breaks and let the emergency responder decide what to do," says Steve.
Even though it's not that tough to stop a car quickly, it's a different story for a fire truck.
"It's very difficult to stop a 28,000 pound plus fire apparatus in a timely fashion," says Steve.
"Our stopping distance is quite a little big different than a vehicle of smaller sorts," says Brad. "Just as it would be for a semi and even the ambulance service. They have a hard time stopping, too."
If you do hear the sirens when you're behind the wheel, just yield the right of way.
"The correct answer and the correct thing to do would be immediately and safely pull over to the right of the street or road and let the emergency vehicle pass you by," says Steve.
But sometimes, it's not that easy. Fire officials say there's one particular situation that causes some anxiety for drivers.
"We understand the stress that the motorists feels when they are caught in an intersection where there's five or six cars around them," says Steve. "They can't move."
When that happens, Steve explains that people will try to dart out into the intersection so that the emergency vehicles can get through.
It's actually one of the worst ideas.
"That's a disastrous mistake," says Steve. "You're actually pulling into the line of traffic when you do that."
If you're stuck at an intersection, just wait.
The fire department understands that there's not much you can do if that happens, but waiting is important during any situation where crews are trying to get to a wreck, medical call, or fire. Just because one of the fire trucks flies by, doesn't mean it's the last.
"There may be multiple or many vehicles on the road responding to an incident, even if it's a small incident, so be aware of that," says Steve.
"Usually if there's one of us, there's two or three more coming behind us, so after one passes, don't just merge back out, check your mirrors," says Brad. "Make sure there's nothing else coming."
If you're driving in a busy downtown area, it's actually harder to tell where the siren's coming from, because the sound typically echoes off of the tall buildings.
When in doubt, fire officials recommend simply staying alert and aware.
"You need to have that heightened awareness, so that you can be aware that that vehicle is somewhere nearby and slow your traffic and be aware of what's going on until they pass," says Steve.
According to the fire department, Kentucky law states that drivers will pull over to the right side of the road as quickly, safely, and easily as possible to let an emergency vehicle pass by. But in a stressful situation, it's something a driver might forget.
"We don't want to cause accidents," says Steve. "The other part of that is they have to yield to the right of way so that we can get through and make it to that incident, so we can help someone."
Steve says that partnership and cooperation can go a long way.
"It's a community involvement on both sides of the fence to make sure that we have a safe response," says Steve.
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