Volunteer departments: Getting rigs on scene

Volunteer fire departments that allow members to respond in personal vehicles handicap their ability to bring the emergency under control

The fire apparatus are designed to bring water and equipment to the emergency scene. They are essentially a giant toolboxes on wheels that allow firefighters to select the proper and needed equipment for the particular task at hand.

Getting the apparatus to the incident scene is crucial as it will allow for quick and effective interventions. In full-time career fire departments, this is not the issue as there are assigned crews to each apparatus. Wherever the crew goes, the truck goes with them and vice versa.

So let's look at the domino effect and how we handicap ourselves at the incident scene for fire departments that have a combination or complete volunteer system.

These two videos reinforce the importance of getting the fire apparatus to the scene quickly. This operational procedure needs to be addressed as it dictates how the fire scene will unfold in the critical first few minutes.

One video is shot by a firefighter responding to a structure fire in a multi-story building. We are not showing this video to criticize their actions, but to show the importance of having fire apparatus responding and arriving on scene quickly.

You can see how the rescue and suppression efforts are hindered because there are more arriving firefighters coming in their personal vehicle than on a fire apparatus. The trucks arrive later with the needed equipment.

The other video is a spoof, but also highlights the importance of having a fire apparatus on scene first.

Fire departments need to have response SOPs or SOGs that address how firefighters will respond to any incident. Some fire departments require all members to respond to the station first, and then respond on a fire apparatus to the scene.

This system guarantees a fire truck arriving with firefighters. This will certainly add to the overall response time, but will allow for immediate action to be taken with the needed equipment as opposed having a bunch of firefighters on scene with no equipment and not being able to do anything but watch and wait.

Other fire departments will allow their firefighters to respond to the scene directly with their gear in their vehicle. The only problem here is who is bringing the truck?

This needs to be addressed and identified with SOGs or SOPs. Only a select few are legally allowed to operate and drive fire apparatus and if this is the case in your fire department, then these people need to be identified as such and be given the parameters to follow for a response.

These firefighters are the crucial domino in the line up. They need to get to the station quickly to bring the needed equipment to the scene.

Another good reason to have all firefighters respond to the station first is the decrease of personal vehicles at the incident scene. These can become a handicap as they can block critical access points to the structure along with clogging the incident scene. 

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