RBOC-supported "Blue Light" Safety Bill Passes Senate Committee

The RBOC-supported boating public safety measure AB 78 [Cooper] has passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety with bipartisan support.

AB 78 would expand the allowed use of a distinctive blue light on public safety vessels to include vessels owned by fire departments or fire protection districts whenever the vessel may be engaged in law enforcement activities.

The measure next proceeds to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The author's description of the measure and its objectives:

"Currently the Harbors and Navigation Code (section 652.2) authorizes the use of “blue” lights on law enforcement vessels only. The use of blue lights on emergency vessels indicates to civilian boaters to yield the right-of-way and/or to slow down as to not create a hazard or unnecessary wakes. They do not mean by themselves to stop and succumb to police actions. Fire Departments also work the California waterways and are responsible for public safety responses to include extinguishing boat, structure and bank fires, emergency response and rescue, dead body recovery, medical response and staffing public waterway events. 

"Current law does not allow fire to equip or use blue lights while they are engaged in a public safety capacity or response. This continues to cause difficulties in that fire department vessels cannot respond in the most expedient manner to water way emergencies. Furthermore, when their vessels are stationary at incidents such as fires, search or rescue operations or body recoveries boaters do not use caution when passing or approaching fire vessels. Many fire departments call for mutual aid from law enforcement vessels merely to “standby” with blue lights activated while fire department personnel provide emergency public safety services. This costs time for fire department vessels to wait for law enforcement response and also creates an unnecessary manpower drain because it requires the services of two public safety entities when one would suffice. 

"AB 78 would fix this problem by allowing fire departments to equip their vessels with blue lights and to use them only for public safety responses on the waterways."