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10 ways to make fire truck responses safer

A lot of advances have taken place technology wise, but not enough is being done at the local level to protect firefighters

It sometimes seems like firefighters need to be reminded over and over again about the hazards they face on an every day basis. Safely responding to and returning from the emergency scene is still a major cause of injury and death to firefighters and civilians.

A University of Michigan study in 1998 came up with the following results:

  • 2472 fire apparatus collisions per year.
  • 6 occupants of fire apparatus killed per year.
  • 413 occupants of fire apparatus injured per year.
  • 21 civilians killed by fire apparatus per year.
  • 642 civilians injured by fire apparatus per year.

A lot of advances have taken place since these stats were released. The fire apparatus industry has done a lot to alleviate a great deal of some of these problems. Among them are stability control and side and frontal air bags.

In addition, we’ve seen the introduction of better designed seats and seat belts, etc. But a great deal of problems still remain with the daily operation of fire apparatus at the local level.

If you are a well-informed fire service leader, have you done all that you can do to make your apparatus safe and your responding firefighters aware of the dangers of responding — and what can be done to alleviate some of the dangers?

While everybody is probably tired of hearing this over and over, but the bottom line is that we are still experiencing some of the incidents mentioned above.

1. Make sure that all firefighters are seated and belted before your leave your station. Do not move the vehicle until you are sure that all are belted in.

2. Have you adopted an alternative response policy, responding to non-life threatening emergencies?

3. Design and enforce department SOPs for emergency vehicle response in your community.

4. Make sure your apparatus is maintained with proper records kept. If there is any kind of issue mechanically, when in doubt, take it out of service.

5. Come to a complete stop at all red lights and stop signs. And, slow down when approaching a curve. Remember, you have a different weight ratio that will shift because of the weight of water and equipment on the rig.

6. Have an officer’s side speedometer installed, so the officer can see what speed the apparatus is traveling at.

7. Consider having the engine governed on your vehicles, so the apparatus cannot go over a certain speed.

8. Even at controlled intersections, do not take for granted that you have the right of way at all times.

9. Have a backing procedure in place when the vehicle is placed in reverse at the scene and also backing into quarters. Use firefighters to guide you when backing.

10. Have a driver training program in place. If your state does not require CDL’s, you can implement the plan yourself. If this is not feasible, then have your drivers attend EVOC courses or insurance company training programs at the least. Provide proper documentation.

These are just a handful of things you can be thinking about. There are many training programs that will provide the complete picture.
If you consider yourself a fire service leader that thinks outside the box, you may already have these plans in place.

If not, you have a lot of work to do to make your firefighters and fire department safer.

The Apparatus Bay is a column section devoted to the fire truck industry, vehicle safety and the latest technology and vehicles. Articles are written by experts from across the industry. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, or you are interested in writing for The Apparatus Bay, email