Observer Program

GENERAL ORDER (G.O. Number: 1-3)
Subject: Ride-Along Observer Program


To establish a uniform procedure to be followed by persons wishing to be ride-along observers with operational units of the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department. Adherence to this policy will ensure the safety of all personnel and the public and is the shared responsibility of the Incident Commander, the unit officer-in-charge, and the participant.


This procedure covers all aspects of the ride-along observer process. The process identifies responsibilities for the release preparation and defines the role of the observer.


Persons who are not members of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department may only ride along in an observer capacity. This provision specifically includes members of other fire/rescue departments outside of Prince George's County.

In order to do so they must:

A. Be at least eighteen years of age.

B. Sign the release form prior to riding in any Fire/EMS Department vehicle. Signature must be witnessed by the appropriate Battalion Chief or Volunteer Chief. A copy of the completed waiver shall remain at the fire station, and the original shall be filed with the appropriate Battalion Chief or Volunteer Chief.

C. Read and sign a copy of the rules regarding the Ride Along Observer Program (Attachment 1-3-1).

1. Observers are not to engage in actual firefighting or rescue operations and shall not count toward minimum staffing.

Minimum staffing is defined as three-persons (engine company) or four-persons (truck squad) certified to engage in structural firefighting. Minimum staffing for an ambulance is two-persons certified at the appropriate level.

2. No more than two observers per station may participate in the Ride-Along Observer Program. In addition, no more than one observer may ride on a single piece of apparatus at a time.

3. Observers are to remain seated and belted when riding Fire/EMS apparatus and follow all applicable safety rules.

4. Observers are to remain outside the perimeter of the operational area of the scene. They will stay outside of and away from the building on fire calls and will remain a safe distance away from accident vehicles on rescue calls.

Under no circumstances will an observer be permitted to enter a building that is on fire until such time as the fire has been placed under control by the Incident Commander, all smoke has been cleared from the building, and the building has been determined to be safe for entry by non-operational personnel. Such entry shall be directly supervised by the assigned unit officer-in-charge.

5. Companies participating in the program will provide each observer with an orange fire helmet clearly marked “OBSERVER.” The participant shall wear the helmet at all times while on the emergency scene, and no other structural firefighting equipment is to be worn.

6. Observers will wear clothing that is comfortable and does not bring any discredit to the Fire/EMS Department.

7. At all times, observers will be under the control of the officer-in-charge (OIC). Failure to follow the directions of the OIC will result in removal of the privilege to participate as an observer.

D. Requests for special exceptions to this General Order must be made in writing to the County Fire Chief.


Advanced Emergency Medical Services (AEMS) has specific procedures for allied medical professionals and students to participate/observe on Medic Units.

Attachment: 1-3-1, "Ride-Along Observer Program Release" (3 pages)

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