I know I might sound like a broken record at times, at least my wife thinks so, but none the less I can’t reiterate enough about using prudent judgment when responding to, operating at, and returning from alarms. No matter how often fire service safety advocates preach, it seems that we are still having serious accidents out there.
Remember one thing: The officer in charge in that right seat is responsible for the safe and prudent operations of the emergency vehicle and for the safety of all firefighters in the vehicle.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Fire Administration published a great document back in 2010 that I think should be in the hands of all firefighters. In case you haven’t seen it yet, I thought I would share it with you. Read it, keep it on you, discuss it at company and department meetings, whatever, just practice and live it and just maybe we will save some lives and unneeded injuries.
Emergency Vehicle Operator
Ensure that you are qualified and fully capable of operating the emergency vehicle you are operating. Drive with due care. Operate an emergency vehicle as you would if all those in your vehicle and on the road around you are your family.
Slower means safer. A good safety guideline is not to exceed the posted speed limit. Drive even slower when road conditions or visibility are poor.
Always stop at intersections with a negative right of way. Proceed through these intersections and railroad crossings only after coming to a complete stop and when you are sure that other vehicles have stopped and given you the right of way. Be prepared to stop even when you have the right of way.
At an unguarded railroad crossing or when your view is obscured at a railroad crossing, the National Transportation Safety Board recommends lowering the emergency vehicles windows; idling the engine; and turning off all radios, fans, wipers, and audible warning devices to listen for all on-coming trains.
Never assume that another vehicle is aware of your presence. Today’s vehicles have noise insulation, powerful radios, and air conditioning that decrease the effectiveness of horns and sirens. Dark-tinted windows may also impact the ability of drivers to see emergency lights. Additionally, some emergency lighting might be difficult to see in daylight.
Park safely. Park your emergency vehicle away from hazardous areas such as downed wires, falling debris, flames, and toxic gases and smoke.
If you park on a roadway, ensure that your emergency vehicle can be seen by oncoming traffic by appropriately using its emergency warning lights. Do not blind oncoming traffic with the vehicle headlights, spotlights, or scene lighting, especially at night. Park in a manner that shields the incident area from oncoming traffic.
When operating on the roadway, wear an appropriate American National Standards Institute (ANSI) high-visibility vest. DOT 28” high traffic cones with retro reflective collars should be deployed. These should be positioned upstream from the scene to warn approaching drivers. The use of illuminated warning devices such as flares and arrow boards can channel traffic away from first responders.
Always use the parking brake and chock the wheels of parked emergency vehicles. Don’t move your emergency vehicles until you and all of your passengers are seated and wearing seatbelts. Every passenger needs one. Make sure your vehicle is completely stopped before anyone exits the vehicle. Always use a competent spotter when backing your vehicle.
Never drive an emergency vehicle or any other vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Be aware of medication use as well.
As An Emergency Vehicle Passenger
Always put on personal protective equipment (PPE) before getting in an emergency vehicle.
Always ride seated in the interior of the emergency vehicle with your seat belt fastened. Do not loosen the belt while the vehicle is in motion.
In a not completely enclosed by the vehicle, wear a helmet and use eye protection.
Never ride on the running boards or back step of an emergency vehicle.
Never stand in a moving emergency vehicle.
Never try to jump onto or from a moving emergency vehicle.
Ensure that all tools and equipment in passenger and patient treatment compartments are secured safely before the emergency vehicle moves.
Ensure that the emergency vehicle has come to a complete stop before you unbuckle your seat belt and exit the vehicle.
Prior to exiting a vehicle, ensure that it is safe to do so. Watch for oncoming traffic, downed wires, and other hazards.
When operating on the roadway, wear ANSI compliant PPE with reflective material and striping.
If you are operating as a spotter for a backing vehicle, always be aware of its direction and location. Never turn your back on a vehicle headed in your direction.
Never board an emergency vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol as a responder.
If you think this is redundant then you are right. However most of us still don’t practice what we preach, and that seems to be part of the problem.
I hope you will post this or share it with others in your department. Only you can make it happen and prevent accidents.
FEMA document FA-255F, January 2010.