This is the time of year when preliminary firefighter line-of-duty death statistics are released for the previous year. Most times, the number is up from the previous year. But this year is different. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), 93 firefighters died in the line of duty in 2009...
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Another question that keeps popping up goes something like this: "I have not had an emergency vehicle driving course since 1972. Should I take another one now?" The answer was probably best said by fire service attorney Neil Rossman in an article he wrote in 1994 titled "Avoiding an Apparatus-Related Lawsuit." He wrote that fire department members who complete an apparatus driver safety course should be certified for such duty and should have to recertify on a regular basis, every three years not being unreasonable. Rossman went on to say that "this operator's safety course should include classroom work with an instructor well versed in apparatus safety."
In New York State, a defensive driver's course is offered for civilians that can reduce insurance costs and license points. The course must be taken every three years to maintain the insurance reduction. So the answer to the question is that each fire department and each apparatus driver should complete an emergency vehicle operator's course offered by someone from outside the department every three years.
MICHAEL WILBUR, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department, assigned to Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx, and has served on the FDNY Apparatus Purchasing Committee. He consults on a variety of apparatus-related issues around the country. For further information, access Wilbur's website at www.emergencyvehicleresponse.com.