Speed kills: The issue the fire service needs to discuss

Like any problem, it's impossible to address if we don't acknowledge it...and talk about it openly and honestly


Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Speeding to an emergency scene has been an issue in every department, says United Hook & Ladder Fire Co. No. 33 Chief Steve Rabine. "If a fire chief says it's not a problem,"  Chief Rabine said, "he's a liar." His comments follow the death of 19-year-old Firefighter Brandon Little. Our Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel outlines his thoughts below — be sure to add your voice in the member comments section.

I know we all join in supporting United Hook & Ladder Company No. 33 and Firefighter Little's family members as they go through the terrible aftermath of losing a loved one while he was serving their community.

While, unfortunately, this will probably not be the last (nor is it the first) time I've commented on emergency vehicle response safety, I want to applaud Fire Chief Steve Rabine's candor in talking about one of the fire and emergency services' major problems: speeding.

As fire-EMS providers or as patients, we all know the story: speed kills.

In my experience, Chief Rabine is absolutely correct: speeding is a problem for all us; in our departments, and for many folks, as individuals.

Like any problem, it's impossible to address if we don't acknowledge it...and talk about it openly and honestly.

We can write policies and guidelines all day long without addressing the core "cultural" issues that lead to speeding; the willingness to take unnecessary risks for reasons that sometimes defy logic.

Ultimately, fire departments will respond safely and effectively if we all demonstrate proper behaviors and hold each other accountable for not risking each others' (and those of innocent bystanders) lives while responding to, and returning from, emergency incidents.

Like my instructor told me on the first day of EMT school 20 years ago: "we can't help if we don't get there."

Stay safe!

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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