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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

POV response: When is it the right choice?

Many fire departments require response to the fire station unless the firefighter literally drives past the scene

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel recalls the heated debates during his volunteer firefighting days about the question of responding directly to the scene or to the assigned fire station.

I still remember the often-heated discussions in my former volunteer departments about whether, when and how members should, or should not, respond directly to incident scenes in their privately owned vehicles versus driving to their assigned station and responding on fire apparatus.

As I recall, we instituted similar policies that required all but chief officers, and some company officers, to respond to their stations and ensure the dispatched response vehicles got out, preferably with full crews. We did allow that a member who literally had to drive past an incident scene to get to their station could stop and render aid if there was nobody else on scene. But subsequent members were required to continue on to the station.

The rationale for such policies still strikes me as fairly simple. First, in most departments I know, the response units are what's dispatched, not individual members (except chief officers assigned to incident command roles, in many cases). Second, there's only so much a single firefighter, or even a group of firefighters, can do without the appropriate complement of apparatus and equipment. Third, what would happen if everybody went directly to the scene instead of the station?

There's no question that volunteers, and sometimes career firefighters going to/from their work locations, occasionally face a dilemma when called to, or arriving upon, a fire or other emergency in their POVs. Stop immediately and do what you can to help without the proper apparatus, tools, equipment, and PPE. Or drive to the nearest fire station and make sure that all the required vehicles (and firefighters) are able to respond to the call.

Like so many decisions in the fire and emergency services, it's hard to anticipate every possible situation that might arise, and the "right answer" for a given incident will probably depend on how each department's members are deployed, equipped and trained.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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Jeff Allen Jeff Allen Tuesday, November 27, 2012 4:54:59 AM You've covered most of the variables that should be in any volunteer SOP regarding response in personal vehicles. Add to that those departments like mine where traffic congestion especially at this time of the year makes POV response out of the question. Siren and lighting equipment must be compliant with the laws (360 degrees), and all SOPs regarding POV response strictly enforced. The enforcement is the largest problem. Heck, if most departments aren't enforcing their policies on the paid people how can they do so with the volunteers. Stay safe.
Gordon Knapp Gordon Knapp Friday, November 22, 2013 6:00:19 PM fire police are needed to go to scene to secure the area

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