Why are emergency vehicles left with the motor running

The in box: Chris Blankenship on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com wrote, “I’ve had it! I just left the Silverdale Costco parking lot where a
Citizens on Patrol large Ford sedan was idling with its lights
flashing behind a parked Grand Marquis. Now you may say that it’s their job to patrol and find the scofflaws who park willy-nilly in the handicap spaces at businesses. (But) couldn’t they just issue a ticket and move along?
“The county must have a better way to spend our (expensive)
gasoline than with this kind of waste,” he said. “You are burning dear tax dollars idling ( and blocking) in the parking lot waiting for a confrontation. The county needs to do away with the Citizen’s on Patrol!”


The out basket: Well, that’s not likely to happen, but the blogger raised an issue that has puzzled me since way before gas prices shot up.
Why are police and emergency aid vehicles left running while their drivers are out of them attending to the emergency?
I sought the answer from deputies Pete Ball and Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and Battalion Chief Steve Wright of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue.
Pete said, “The emergency lights and on-board computers and other devices draw quite a bit of power and could drain a battery pretty low in a short period of time. 
“Newer technologies and low amp draw equipment is getting into the field and we will be constantly evaluating ways to reduce fuel consumption. 
“At the same time,” Pete said, “if a battery gets drawn low so the car would need a ‘jump’ to start it, the same electrical equipment is very sensitive to surges and spikes. Our cars cannot be jumped the same way they used to be and do not offer jumps anymore in order to avoid damage to very expensive, sensitive equipment.
“A patrol car that is not available to start and respond to something is the equivalent of losing that deputy for whatever time the vehicle is out of commission,” Pete said. “Having a deputy available to respond when you need one is the first priority that we need to remember.”
Scott echoes what Pete said and added, “Actually, except in specific instances, sheriff’s personnel don’t leave the engines idling in their patrol vehicles. It just happens that in the instances that they do, it’s generally in public view.
“When parked at the office, and generally when responding to most calls, deputies / detectives turn the motors of their vehicles off upon arrival.”
But there are exceptions, he said, leading with one about which he didn’t feel it wise to elaborate.
“Deputies leave their patrol vehicle engines running during traffic stops primarily for officer safety purposes. For security reasons I’m not going to provide a laundry list of the officer safety concerns, other than to state that the precautions taken are based on ‘lessons learned’ (the hard way) through years of experience by police officers, sheriff’s deputies and troopers / highway patrolmen over decades.”
Leaving the engine on also keeps the car from fogging up, provides ventilation for an arrested suspect in the back seat, or for the animal partner of a K-9 officer who is left in the car, Scott said.
And on rare occasions, the officer is in hot pursuit and jumps from the car without taking the time to turn it off.
Steve with the fire service said their reasons are mostly the same.
“There are a lot of emergency lights. We also have onboard computers and radio systems, heating and cooling. Patients are susceptible to being too cold or too hot, depending on the time of year.
“If it’s going to be a long-term thing, we’ll have someone shut them down, (but) most of ours we might be in the house for just a short time.”

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