Preventing Another Line-of-Duty Death
With all the dangers we face daily as volunteers, it really saddens me to see line of duty deaths responding to, or from an incident. We always believe that it may be the fire that is going to get us, when to often motor vehicle incidents claim the lives of our brethren.
This year alone, we have lost 16 of our brothers responding from or returning from an alarm. Most recently we lost Firefighter Cusson from South Killingy Fire Department. (SKFD) We've all seen that statistics about line of duty deaths but I know that the combination of knowing the Chief Auclair of SKFD, and the recent loss of a 14 year old junior firefighter from PA, has really brought the issue to my attention.
When the siren goes off and the alarm bell rings, our adrenaline starts pumping. It is very easy to get in our car or apparatus, turn the lights on, and put the pedal down. Our natural reaction is that there is an emergency out there somewhere, and we need to be there now.
But how many of our calls are truly emergencies? With the number of true 'working fires' dropping, and the number of 'good intent' calls increasing, it is time for the fire service to look at our response procedures. We all want to help, but if we do not make it to the scene safely, how can we help anyone?
Many fire departments have initiated policies for non-emergency responses to calls such as CO, fire alarms, and assistance calls. This means not only does that apparatus go with the flow, but so do the firefighters in their personal vehicles. Our firefighters need to be aware that not only is speeding or going through red lights in their personal vehicles illegal in most cases, it is also unsafe, and a could lead to their injury or heaven forbid, death.
In addition to looking at our responses, we also need to train our drivers better. As apparatus technology has changed, it has become easier for people to drive our trucks. The downside is that drivers often do not have the experience or training to handle a 30,000 pound+ vehicle. Many firefighters go from their personal vehicles to driving an apparatus without a full understanding that the apparatus doesn't handle the way their personal vehicle does. There are multiple defensive driving programs, and it is well worth departments' time and money.
The time is now to look at how we can stop another LODD from happening while responding to or from an incident. We are halfway through the year, and to have another 16 firefighters die while responding is a tragedy. So before you respond to another call, ask yourself if you and your membership are properly trained, and whether or not it is a 'true' emergency.
For more information visit:
http://www2.vfis.com/esecg_train/train_sem1.htm (Defensive Driving)