While there is no doubt that fire apparatus safety -- and the safety of the firefighters riding the apparatus -- is more prominent than ever, some of it still makes us think. Hard.
Naturally, the issues of WHO IS DRIVING your fire apparatus is worth thinking about. Who are they at your FD? What are their qualifications? How were and are they trained? How experienced are they at driving...anything? Are they sober? Do they know where the BRAKE pedal is? Are they excitable? Do they spend more time watching NASCAR than attending training? Stuff worth thinking about.
Essentially, will your family, friends and loved ones trust THEM with YOU riding that apparatus?
And then, of course, is the issue of us taking care of ourselves when we get IN and ON the apparatus. How much stuff in the cab will go flying around if something bad happens? Is all the stuff secure? And how about the brothers and sisters riding ... will they get ejected if something goes wrong?
And Then There Is This Issue ...
A very recent NIOSH firefighter fatality report covers the death of a Polk County (Florida) Firefighter. Polk Firefighter/EMT Ben Lang, 22, died while assisting the local non-fire EMS service with the transport of a patient to the hospital. He was located in the back of the NON-FD ambulance when the ambulance struck a large tree.
It is important to note that this firefighter was riding in an ambulance operated by a 3rd service public EMS agency within his County ... not a vehicle under the authority of the fire department.
The NIOSH report identifies worn tires, speed and driver training as noteworthy. This got us thinking. While a FD, Chief and members are clearly responsible for the maintenance of the FD's vehicles, shouldn't we be concerned when firefighters are regularly assigned to "ride in" on an ambulance or related vehicle where the Fire Chief and that FD are not responsible for the vehicle-or the person driving it?
In other words, the RISK of placing firefighters in vehicles of other agencies (with driver not under their command as well) is one that should strongly be evaluated by all of us.
Sure, if the EMS or ambulance service you assist does have a good driver training program, a good screening program, safe vehicles and safe and enforced practices -- the risk is much lower. But what if they don't?
What if that EMS or ambulance service firefighters "ride in with" have no driver training program, no personnel screening program and a poor ambulance maintenance program?
As tough as it is for Chiefs, Commissioners and Presidents (Unions, Locals and Volunteer Association) to keep their members safe within the FD environment, this may be an area of added risk worth thinking about.
Again, here is the link to the report.
Who are you and your firefighters riding with? It's worth thinking about.
See You In Baltimore!