What’s in your fleet?
Fire apparatus accidents are a leading cause of firefighter line of duty death and injury. Of far less importance but still significant, the monetary losses related to these incidents are staggering. So, rightfully, we spend a good deal of time discussing and training to reduce such events. Engines, tankers or tenders, ladder trucks and heavy rescues each have their own issues and fire service leaders have a responsibility to see that all drivers are properly trained to handle them.
We seem however to forget about another group of fire service vehicles which are also involved in numerous accidents annually, the staff vehicles. We often consider staff vehicles as “just a car” and dismiss any training for their operation, but with the name of our department on the doors and the trust of the public that you will operate their vehicle properly, it is more than “just a car.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that over 31,000 people are killed and nearly four million people injured in traffic accidents each year, mostly in “just cars.” Yet we take these vehicles for granted.
Fleet safety doesn’t begin and end with the “big trucks” every vehicle in your fleet deserves maintenance, care and training.
Most fire department staff cars are driven well over 100,000 miles before retirement and budget restrictions are always driving that number up. As such, regular preventive maintenance is vital including tires and brakes.
Cars with lights and sirens such as command staff vehicles and first response vehicles are not quite as big as larger fire apparatus and thus not as readily noticed by other motorists making intersections even more dangerous. This is part of the training that should go hand and hand with the right to operate these vehicles. When was the last time your staff vehicle operator took a defensive driving course? If it was more than three years it is probably time for a refresher.
NFPA standards for driver qualifications and for driver instruction define Fire Department Vehicle as “any vehicle, including fire apparatus, operated by a fire department.” After a catastrophic accident and questions such as “Why weren’t the brakes maintained better?” Or “Why wasn’t that driver properly trained?” The answer can never be ... but it is “just a car.”
Bill Tricarico, is a Senior Risk Management Consultant for Emergency Services Insurance Program with over 25 years experience as a firefighter/EMT with the North Bellmore Fire Dept. holding many positions including chief and also served as Fire Commissioner for the City of Cortland, NY. Chief Tricarico has also spent nearly 40 years as a risk management consultant and is on the faculty of several fire service and EMS organizations.
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