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Proper training is crucial for emergency vehicles operation

Submitted by Bob Vaccaro

Before you let just anyone in your department drive a fire truck or ambulance, serious consideration should be made to develop a driver-training program with stringent guidelines. The increase in firefighting line-of-duty-deaths and injuries is mostly a direct result of improper operation of these heavy specialized vehicles. Most big city departments have their own in-house driver training certification programs. Some require commercial driver’s licenses for all drivers before they can attempt to drive an emergency vehicle.

However, there are still many smaller departments that let their members learn to drive through instruction by a senior member. This is the way I learned 32 years ago. And it is probably the worst way to learn. It depends on the individual teaching. Some may be very good, yet some may have bad habits that will filter down to the new driver. Also, if an accident were to occur you wouldn’t have any concrete documentation of your training when you get hauled into court.

Not only will a new driver have to prove his or her skill to drive these vehicles, but he or she will also have to learn how to pump or operate an aerial device. This is an additional learning curve.

Get a copy of NFPA 1002, Standard for Fire Department Vehicle/Driver Operator Professional Qualifications and see what the levels of competency are. You can also contact the various emergency services insurance companies such as VFIS and ESIP. Both have excellent programs that they can provide you and your department on a seminar basis.

Your local county or township fire school might also provide an emergency vehicle operation course. If not, look at Annex A in NFPA 1002. They provide a vehicle operations course that you can set up in a big parking area, where your drivers can operate in a safe-training environment.

Remember, whatever you do, document the amount of training hours that an individual has driving as well as operating the pump, aerial device or special equipment on the apparatus.

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