Risk Management and Emergency Vehicles

Risk Management and Emergency Vehicles

Over the past 16 years that I have been writing columns for FireRescue Magazine, I have touched on risk management, loss control, and ergonomics concerning fire apparatus. I feel that study into these topics should start not only with fire chiefs but go from the top down.

Safety and loss control for emergency responders is something that we cannot afford to overlook. In this day and age, there is an abundance of information in print format and on the web that deals with emergency vehicle response as well as vehicle operation on the fireground. It is up to you to study and learn as much as possible whether you are a recruit, probie, fire officer, EMS provider, or an incident commander.

If you don’t have standard operating procedures (SOPs) that directly relate to emergency vehicle response, whether it concerns your apparatus or in a volunteer setting concerning POVs, then you are way behind, my friend.

One good publication that should be in everyone’s fire service library was produced by the U.S. Fire Administration entitled “Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014).” It provides best practices and recommendations for safer emergency vehicle and roadway incident response.

 Topics covered include common crash causes and crash prevention, internal and external factors for improving response and roadway safety, vehicle design and maintenance, and regulating emergency vehicle response and roadway scene safety.

The following are some of the concerns that are addressed in this great publication.

  • Design all new emergency vehicles to meet, as a minimum, NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, for that type of vehicle.
  • Use the information contained in the various research reports regarding enhanced emergency vehicle visibility, conspicuity, and lighting as a guide to exceed minimum standards and improve vehicle and scene safety, where applicable.
  • The manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with myriad safety features in the past several years, including front, side, and rear airbags, stability control, bigger and more functional seatbelts, greater windshield visibility, chevron striping front and rear, better emergency lighting, and scene lighting.
  • Fully train all emergency vehicle drivers for each type of vehicle that they are expected or assigned to drive. Not the usual go out with the senior member type of training but an emergency vehicle operators’ course sponsored by an insurance company, county, or state fire training academy. Also keeping proper records on the type of training (hours driving, pumping, operating the aerial, etc.) should be strictly enforced.
  • Train all personnel who operate at roadway incident scenes to perform their roles according to local SOPs; mutual-aid agreements; and applicable local, state, and federal laws and national standards. Let’s stop the territorial infighting that goes on between these organizations and work for the safety of each other. We are still seeing a great deal of emergency responders being struck, injured, and killed on the roadways. Let’s work together to avoid these needless injuries and deaths.
  • Ensure that all personnel wear appropriate personal protective clothing and retroreflective vests or garments when operating at incidents on or adjacent to a roadway. The only exceptions to wearing retroreflective vests or garments are when personnel are required to wear chemical protective suits or SCBA during the course of their duties.
  • Thoroughly investigate all emergency vehicle response and roadway scene incidents to determine the circumstances and causal factors that played a role in the incident. This should include all near-miss, injury, fatal, or otherwise unusual incidents. Use this information to amend policies and procedures, if necessary.
  • Use the NIMS-ICS at all roadway incident scenes and ensure that all agencies and personnel operate within the command structure.
  • Develop department SOPs that require that all emergency vehicles operate at a safe and controllable speed and that all members be seated and belted when the vehicle is in motion.
  • There is that nasty seat belt word again. How many times do we have to encourage our personnel to wear seat belts? We still have people disconnecting alarms or ignoring them while responding. WEAR them; they save lives. Here is an idea, as an officer don’t move the rig until everyone is belted and seated.
  • Ensure that all vehicles that respond to incidents on a major roadway are equipped with the appropriate types and amounts of traffic control equipment and at least one retroreflective vest for each person riding on the vehicle.

These are just a few of the topics covered in this publication. Read it, stop whining, and implement all of them. It might save a life.