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How many of us have been involved in an apparatus accident while in reverse? During my career, more than half of all accidents I have seen or investigated have involved apparatus backing up. We have hit mailboxes, parked cars, trees, bay doors and even the gas meter on the side of the firehouse. Although most of these incidents were minor in nature, some still cost us down time of personnel and apparatus for investigation repairs. In 2005, two firefighters were killed when they were run over by a fire truck backing up.
A human backer/spotter is an easy way to reduce and possibly eliminate accidents while backing up. Whenever a piece of apparatus needs to back up — whether it's 2 feet or 20 — we need a firefighter to stand behind the apparatus and guide the driver with hand signals to prevent it from striking anything. By using a backer/spotter, the driver of the apparatus gains a whole new set of eyes that he or she can utilize to help him maneuver safely.
• A backer/spotter must be easily identifiable; they must be wearing proper reflective clothing so they’re visible to all motorists.
• A portable radio should be used so they can relay instructions or simply say "stop!" if necessary.
• The use of a flashlight at night is also very beneficial.
• Policy should require that anytime the driver loses sight of the backer/spotter or needs to check his or her opposite mirrors, they should stop backing up.
Straight Back: One hand above the head with palm toward face, waving back. Other hand at your side (left or right hand optional).
Turn: Both arms pointing the same direction with index fingers extended. (Driver will advise the spotter which way the turn will be made. The spotter then assists the driver in backing apparatus. The driver’s intentions must be verbally communicated to the spotter.)
Stop: Both arms crossed with hands in fist. Be sure to yell the stop order loud enough so the driver/engineer can hear the warning.