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The fire chief meets the problem head on, offering help in the form of consulting with the firefighter and providing professional therapy or medical intervention to help solve the problem. If these measures are rejected or fail to work, the next step should be some form of disciplinary action. If the fire chief follows this course of action, he stands a good chance of alienating some members, including perhaps some family members, which could ultimately unseat the fire chief in the next election.
The next solution, we call the good ole' boy solution. The action for this solution is no action at all. The fire chief sticks his head in the sand and holds his breath every time certain drivers get behind the wheel of his fire department's apparatus. This fire chief is hoping with all hope that nothing tragic happens while he is fire chief. This good ole' boy fire chief is more interested in being a member of the club than he is with the safety of his firefighters, the apparatus and oh, yes, the people we are sworn to protect: the public.
Which fire chief are you? Now would be a great time to do a self-inspection. Perhaps you could prevent a tragedy this summer.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released preliminary 1997 firefighter fatality statistics. The second-leading cause of firefighter fatalities in 1997 was involvement in emergency vehicle/ motor vehicle incidents, with 18 killed in motor vehicle crashes and four struck by vehicles. Twelve of the 18 firefighters killed in motor vehicle collisions or rollovers were responding to alarms when the crashes occurred - five of those 12 were driving or were passengers in personal vehicles; the other seven were killed in six crashes involving fire department apparatus. The most commonly reported factors in these road crashes were speeding (including driving too fast for road conditions), failure to use seat belts, and failure to yield at intersections. (I would like to thank the NFPA for providing this information.)
If you noticed, one of the contributing factors in apparatus accident fatalities was failure to yield at intersections. My emergency vehicle operations seminar at Firehouse Emergency Services Expo '98 will deal with intersection safety. Hope to see you in Baltimore.
Michael Wilbur, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an FDNY lieutenant in Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx and a firefighter in the Howells, NY, Fire Department. He is an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science and the Orange County Fire Training Center. Wilbur has developed and presented emergency vehicle operator courses throughout the country and has consulted on a variety of fire apparatus issues.