"What'd ya say we crash this thing good today?"
"Crash it, hell, let's flip it."
It's a pretty safe assumption that Charlotte, N.C. firefighters did not hop in their rig and have this conversation before going en route to an emergency call last week. I just don't see that happening.
But crash and flip CFD Ladder 23 they did.
The four firefighters on board suffered minor injuries; all had been released from the hospital by the following day.
Outside of weather conditions and time-of-day traffic patterns, there just aren't any indicators for when a fire truck is likely to crash. Poorly trained drivers and poorly maintained vehicles can predict overall risk, but doesn't send up any "today's the day" red flag.
While en route, the situation can go from normal to deadly in a split second with almost no warning.
Obviously, there are things we can do to keep safer and they range from hard to easy.
We can replace older rigs with new ones that offer better firefighter protection. Yet, buying a fire truck is difficult — sometimes nearly impossible.
We can better train our drivers — perhaps going so far as to not let those drive who lack the ability to keep calm — and better maintain the vehicles. This is less difficult than buying a truck, but still takes considerable time and some money.
And of course, we can wear seatbelts. This is by far the easiest and among the most effective steps.
The Charlotte crash report has not been released yet, but I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that all four were wearing seatbelts.
If that is so, I applaud the Charlotte firefighters. Because as easy as clicking that restraint is and as long as we've known about its life-saving benefits, that click still doesn't happen on every rig on every call.
There is something odd that goes on in the human brain where despite overwhelming evidence, we cling to wrong beliefs and wrong practices.
You may not be able to snap your fingers and have a new rig with the latest in rollover protection and curtain airbags. But with about as much effort as that finger snap, you can wear a seatbelt.
Do it; it may save your life.