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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Do no harm begins with how we drive

Driving emergency vehicles fast adds very little to our response time

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at how driving too fast adds little to our response time, yet carries heavy consequences.

What a tragic story. So many lives, including the involved firefighter and his family, changed forever.

And for what?

I've been in this business long enough, as both a volunteer (with a lights-and-siren equipped POV) and career emergency responder, that driving fast isn't a thrill. In fact, it's pretty scary so I usually drive the speed limit.

I certainly understand the importance of response time, and I'm also aware of research studies that suggest driving emergency vehicles faster than posted speed limits has only a marginal impact on reducing overall response times.

As the judge in this case correctly describes, and whatever is burning, the risk-benefit calculation is rarely on the side of drive faster.

Like so many things we do, I think the answer to my earlier question goes back to the mantra we were taught in day one of EMT class: "First, do no harm."

Drive safe.

(And by the way, have you given up texting while driving, yet?)
 

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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