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Recommendations for preventing line-of-duty deaths focus on six areas; emergency vehicle operations was one of them. The urgent need for a cultural change, whereby firefighter fatalities and injuries are never accepted as inevitability, was a common theme in all of the areas. The recommendations also stress that accountability and responsibility for health and safety must be fostered at both personal and organizational levels. Simply put, you are responsible for your safety.
Regarding emergency vehicle operations, it was felt by summit attendees that for the most part there are enough rules and standards, but that someone must be empowered to enforce them. National fire truck driving licenses was one of several initiatives discussed. Driver training performed by someone or some group outside of the fire department was suggested. Re-certification of emergency vehicle operators on a regular basis was also discussed. Ironically the easiest, cheapest, simplest initiative having all firefighters wear seatbelts would have an instant, dramatic impact on reducing firefighter fatalities.
I was proud to take part in the first Firefighter Life Safety Summit, but now comes the hard part; that is, to take the 15 initiatives that were put forth and make them policy, enforce them and have the fire service continue to speak with one voice. I thank Chief Siarnicki for all of his hard work, knowing that the hardest work lies ahead.
Michael Wilbur will present “Emergency Vehicle Operations: A Pictorial Review of Current Events” at Firehouse Expo 2004 in Baltimore, July 13-18.
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 for the past five years on the FDNY Apparatus Purchasing Committee. He has consulted on apparatus-related issues throughout the country. For further information access his website at www.emergencyvehicleresponse.com.