We Can’t Save Anyone If We Become Victims
Our first objective when we receive an emergency alarm is to get to the scene as safely and efficiently as possible. The fire engines, ladder trucks and ambulances of today are all larger and require more skill to operate.
Increased traffic congestion and aggressive drivers have made this first objective very difficult and dangerous. If we get into an accident while responding to a call, not only have we endangered ourselves, but we will be of no help to the people who needed us.
We can’t save anyone if we become victims. So, the company officer must ensure that his crew thinks clearly, that the driver drives defensively and slowly rather than fast, and to avoid causing or being involved in an accident while responding to an emergency.
Think clearly. The cab of a responding emergency vehicle can be very chaotic. Sirens are sounding, lights are flashing, the radio is talking, and the crew is excited. The environment in the cab must be controlled so everyone can think clearly.
The crew, especially the driver, must be aware of the destination and the type of incident they are responding to. This is the time to begin the size-up process and start preparing an action plan. Communication should be kept to a minimum, with the company officer controlling the conversation.
Drive defensively, not offensively. Driving an emergency vehicle requires skill and a lot of practice. No one should be put in the driver’s seat without the appropriate training. The company officer must ensure that the driver is capable of operating the vehicle safely and efficiently.
The driver should make allowances for what everyone else on the road is doing, or not doing, and avoid situations where safe passage does not depend on the actions of another vehicle.
Taking vehicles by surprise and scaring them into irrational maneuvers will only create chaos, probably delay the response time, and may cause an accident. Emergency vehicles must be operated in a way that makes them highly visible and their actions predictable, while allowing for the inappropriate actions of others.
Drive slowly rather than fast. Most fire rescue apparatus today are large and heavy, with the mechanical engineering capability to reach top speeds quickly. Fast moving, large objects do not stop easily. Traffic laws state that the drivers of responding emergency apparatus may exercise certain privileges, so long as they do not endanger life or property.
Remember, the mission is to save lives and protect property. With this in mind, the burden falls on the company officer to ensure that the driver follows a safe and prudent speed. Responding emergency vehicles need to slow down.
Make sure that the driver is decreasing speed when approaching intersections, is prepared to stop, and never exceeds the posted speed limit. And when arriving on scene, the driver should slow the apparatus to pedestrian speed and maneuver with due regard to all of the other activity in and around the scene.
One of the most dangerous aspects of emergency services revolves around the delivery of personnel and apparatus to the scene. No matter how serious the emergency may be, nothing positive is contributed by overly aggressive firefighters who injure themselves, damage apparatus, and wreak havoc on the general population in their eagerness to get to the scene.