While directing traffic is best left to trained public agency personnel, at times towers find themselves in a situation where these trained personnel are not available. This is why towers commonly carry cones and flares with them.
Traffic cones are best used during short-term traffic directions, specifically when traffic is already blocked, moving slowly or when there is a potential for fire hazard.
Cones should be a minimum of 18” tall with reflective strips. However, more effective are the 28” cones with reflective strips, as they will be more visible from farther away.
When placing cones, it is best to start by placing the first cone the furthest away from the incident you need to block and then work your way back to incident; stopping every 20’ to 25’ to place another cone. (In slower traffic conditions, the cones can be placed closer together.)
For towers to protect themselves at larger incidents or when traffic is moving at a fast speed (and there is no potential fire hazard) flares are a better option.
15-minute flares are most common in the industry, however, you can get 30-minutes flares as well. Or, you can “stack” two 15-minute flares together by placing the top one on the bottom one at the unlit end. By doing this, the second flare will automatically light when the first goes out.
Placing flares and the distance in between them is the same as the application of placing cones.
Before lighting the flares, it is important to ensure that the anti-roll device is working properly. Once that has been determined, the tower can light the flare. When lighting flares, the tower should strike the end against the striker cap with the end of the flare pointing downward and away from the body.
For both cones and flares, you should ensure that all federal, state and local requirements and laws are being met. Some areas require specific sizes, quantities and colors to be used. It is also important to note that towers should seek qualified training before using cones and flares. This article is not meant to take the place of training, only to provide helpful tips.