Houston fatal crash a reminder of roadside danger

They are impossible to predict or prevent, yet we must take steps to ward off the motorists who are trying to kill you

Sometimes life is random and absurd. There are events that, while you can assign cause, defy reason.

When I read this past weekend's story of the drunk who slammed into the back of a Houston fire truck, killing his passenger and injuring two firefighters, I was somewhat relieved.

I was relieved because had the truck not been blocking where firefighters were attending to a minor crash, it could have resulted in more severe injuries and line of duty deaths.

We all know that working a roadside incident is among the most dangerous of all fire and rescue activities. Yes, weather and road conditions increase the risk. But ideal conditions are no guarantee for an ideal outcome.

When it comes to motorists, life is random and absurd.

In addition to the forces of nature and randomness, we occasionally have law enforcement working against us. OK, one can understand how LEOs feel the pressure to keep traffic moving, but life safety for victims and responders must trump traffic flow — every time.

Both fire and police are adept at pre-incident planning and training; we simply need to do that together for roadside incidents before we are on scene. Lives depend on it.

There are also things we can do on scene to shift the odds in our favor. Using the rig to block the scene, as Houston did, is critical.

The Emergency Responder Safety Institute has an entire web site dedicated to keeping firefighters, medics and police safe on roadside incidents. They offer free online training, videos and public service announcements you can distribute through your local media outlets.

There may be no way to predict that one driver who chooses to drink too much, who chooses to set off at a specific time, who chooses to drive 45 mph rather than 35 mph, and who chooses a specific route that brings him into deadly contact with an emergency scene.

We do know that they are out there, being random, absurd and dangerous. Please, take the steps you can to shift the odds in your favor of a safe outcome for all roadside incidents. 

About the author

Rick Markley is editor-in-chief of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, a volunteer firefighter and fire investigator. He serves on the board of directors of and is actively involved with the International Fire Relief Mission, a humanitarian aid organization that delivers unused fire and EMS equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's of fine arts. He has logged more than 15 years as an editor-in-chief and written numerous articles on firefighting. He can be reached at Rick.Markley@FireRescue1.com.

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