By Jim Love
If you're an officer or chief, do you know if your firefighters always wear their seat belts? Stop at intersections? Operate at speeds safe for conditions? Turn corners in a smooth, safe manner?
If you answered 'yes,' do you really know or are you guessing?
Often fire departments think, falsely I believe, that because there are officers on most fire apparatus, such devices are not warranted or needed.
However, the continuing and growing number of preventable collisions suggests different. This is where in-vehicle monitoring comes in. It helps to eliminate the guesswork and answers many of the questions you have about the actions of your crews.
In-vehicle monitoring is any device or program placed in or on a vehicle that is designed to improve driver performance and to provide performance information to management.
Any discussion about this type of program must begin with an attempt to answer the question, why. Why should a department invest in such technology? Why should individual firefighters embrace such devices?
These benefit not only officers, but the firefighters, too. Have you ever ridden with a fellow employee whose driving scared you? Ever wished management would act but you did not want to say something because you did not want to get the person in trouble? Used correctly, this technology provides solutions, helps prevent losses and can save lives and money.
Some criticize this type of technology as being "Big Brother." But in other business settings such as manufacturing there is a live person, a supervisor or foreman, watching over the activities of others. In addition, police officers monitor our behavior on the roads and highways. Are both of these examples also instances of Big Brother watching?
In fact, in many circumstances, machines can actually be superior to people when monitoring the actions of others. Consider the facts that machines:
- Aren't mad at you for being late for work this morning
- Don't know that you have different political or religious view
- Don't know or care if you are black, white, young or old
- Don't want to ask you out
Machines — in the form of cameras — record our actions in many intersections across the country and tape ATM transactions to dissuade robbery. Machines simply record actions without bias or prejudice, without embellishment or pride. Often these programs capture the good we do and the correct actions we perform, not just our mistakes.
More and more agencies are making use of the advances in technology by installing in-vehicle monitoring systems. It is doubtful they would pay for such programs if they did not produce results.
Driver modification or behavioral change, the desired outcome of any such program, occurs in part simply because vehicle operators know of the program and know that the company is interested and is watching.
In-vehicle monitoring may be right for you if:
1. You are committed — this is a permanent addition to safety, not a sometime one.
2. You have the mindset that understands you must sometimes spend money now to save a greater amount in the long term..
3. Someone at your company is passionate and will "own" this program.
4. You use carrots and not just sticks to motivate people.
5. You have baseline data from which to evaluate change and benefit.
The next article in this series will focus on the types of systems available.
Jim Love began his EMS career in 1974. Since that time he has worked providing direct patient care, and has been an FTO. He transitioned to management and has held many positions over the years including operations and later focusing on training, safety and risk management. His most recent position was National Director of Safety and Risk for AMR. Prior to that, he was the Regional Director of Safety and Risk, CES and Fleet Services, also for AMR. He worked extensively on the development of all three Safety Concept Vehicles co-built by AMR and AEV. He maintains an EMS Safety site and blog, EMSafety.net, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.