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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Seat belt excuses make little sense

While some factors cannot be controlled, many are under the direct influence of the driver, officer, and crew

Unfortunately, and for the second time this week, I'm writing about the tragic deaths of two firefighters in the line of duty. Once again we mourn our fallen brothers: Posey Dillon and Danny Altice of the Rocky Mount, Va., Volunteer Fire Department; my deepest sympathy and respect goes out to their families and fellow firefighters.

I have to admit that while I've developed some sense of professional detachment when viewing vehicle crash scenes through the years, I have a really hard time looking at fire apparatus crashes.

While the exact circumstances surrounding this incident won't be known until the Virginia State Police finish their investigation, it seems apparent that seat belts were not in use when the crash occurred.

Now I've had plenty of arguments with people about seat belts in fire apparatus, and I'm not going to say that wearing a seat belt will guarantee survival in a crash, but we all know from experience that it helps — a lot.

I've heard all the reasons some firefighters don't wear seat belts, but I can't say any of them ever made any sense to me, especially considering the many dangers on our roadways today, even when we do everything right.

As with most line-of-duty death events, however, firefighter vehicle crashes generally involve multiple factors: speed, visibility, road conditions, driver training, vehicle familiarity, and the use (or non-use) of provided safety equipment.

While some of these factors cannot be controlled, many are under the direct influence of the driver, officer, and crew.

The United States Fire Administration has many good resources available through its Emergency Vehicle Safety website.

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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