‘We must look out for each other’: A mantra that applies to all parts of the response

A crash between New Jersey fire trucks underscores the need for all members to check intersections en route as we travel to the incident scene

In September, the world witnessed the crash between two responding fire trucks at an intersection in New Jersey. The incident was caught on video and immediately posted online, which accounts for the significant number of viewers.

The crash resulted in the injury of eight firefighters with three of them being in critical condition immediately after the crash.

This is not the first time we have witnessed two fire apparatus collide while responding to an incident at an intersection, and I am sure it will not be the last. Why does this occur?

The fire service takes every call seriously and responds accordingly. In the case of a fire, we tend to respond a little faster so that we can make a positive difference once on scene. The key factor is getting to the scene so that the positive difference can be achieved. When a secondary emergency occurred, the situation is going to increase in volatility with a negative outcome for all those involved. And in the case of a crash between responding apparatus, the initial incident now becomes two incidents, requiring additional resources to respond to both scenes.

The bottom line: We must look out for each other! This is not just a catch phrase used in the fire station or on the fireground; it transfers into crew response as well. Approaching an intersection requires either a complete stop or follow through depending upon the color of the traffic signal or the type of intersection, like a four-way stop. In the case of our example, it was a traffic light-controlled intersection requiring one fire truck to stop with the other following through.

Communication is critical among the responding apparatus. If there are multiple trucks converging onto the one intersection, the truck officers/drivers need to communicate who has the right of way, which should be dictated by the traffic light.

Buildings can be a blind spot, preventing drivers from seeing other apparatus approaching the intersection. These blind spots are all the more reason for drivers to approach the intersection slowly, rather than just blowing through on a green light at full speed.

It is best to take the extra few seconds to ensure that the intersection is clear before proceeding through it – this is part of looking out for each other.

Training time

After watching this video/reading this news story with your company, a department can do the following:

  • Have a round table discussion on the importance of stopping at a red light
  • Conduct driver training to reinforce the need to stop at red lights
  • Review the department’s SOP/SOG’s to see what is stated and allowed for going through a red light.
  • Discuss what losses would be sustained if one of the firefighters killed a driver of another vehicle by not stopping at a red light?

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