It is customary in this column to review some very current events every so often to see what lessons can be learned or reinforced. With many fire departments experiencing unprecedented turnover having older seasoned, experienced veteran drivers being replaced by younger less experienced operators it is important to try to learn from these incidents so that history truly does not repeat itself.
So in the spirit of education and learning we will present several recent incidents and highlight some of the lessons that can be learned or reinforced.
In the first incident a father and son have filed suit against the Township and its fire department.
According to the suit – filed in County Court a father and his son, were seriously injured when their vehicle was struck by a township rescue truck.
The father was driving a pickup truck northbound about 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 14, 2013, when he stopped “in deference to emergency vehicles and other stopped traffic” at the scene of a traffic accident, the suit states.
A northbound rescue truck was approaching the stopped traffic when its driver “lost control of his vehicle and collided with the rear of the fathers vehicle with great force and violence, causing severe injuries,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the victims’ “severe and permanent injuries.”
The father has had medical expenses in excess of $8,000, while medical costs for the son, a passenger in his father’s pickup truck, are more than $13,000.
The second incident six firefighters were treated for non-life-threatening injuries after the fire truck they were riding in crashed in the Township early Wednesday morning.
The State Highway Patrol says that Fire District firefighters were responding to a call just after 1 a.m. when the truck went off westbound road, hitting a culvert, ditch, mailbox and a tree. The truck was not running its lights or siren.
The 60 year old driver operator was charged with failure to maintain reasonable control.
A State Highway Patrol Lt. said the firefighters were lucky.
The fire truck, however, was not so lucky officials believes that the truck will be out of service for quite some time.
In both incidents there has been involvement with the legal system. Many that driving emergency vehicles, even police officers believe that they are in a bubble and are immune from lawsuits and or criminal charges. If you believe this and drive like you believe this, it will be only a matter of time before your bubble will burst and you will be thrusted into the legal system. As you can see the law is neither applied equally or fairly. Both operators were reported to be driving without control of their apparatus one was being sued civilly and the other operator was being charged criminally by the highway patrol. All training programs should emphasize the importance of preventing Driver Operators from entering the legal system at any level. Any kind of success by the Driver Operator or the fire department if you enter the legal system will be minimal at best.
CA BATTALION CHIEF INVOLVED IN CRASH
A fire battalion chief suffered minor injuries when his pickup was broadsided by another pickup as the chief made his way to an emergency on Wednesday, Dec. 23, authorities said.
The Fire battalion chief, a 62-year-old man, was driving east in his F250 Fire pickup.
Officials said the firefighter had his lights and sirens on and was making his way against a red light through intersection. A dump truck stopped to let the emergency vehicle pass.
Officials said the driver of a 2003 Toyota Tundra, a 52-year-old man, was driving the Tundra 45 mph to 55 mph when he came upon the stopped dump truck.
He went around the dump truck by switching to another lane and proceeded through the intersection on a green light. That’s when he was struck by the battalion chief’s F250, pushing it through the intersection and into a nearby fence.
Officials said the roads were wet and slippery at the time of the accident because of recent rainfall. He said drivers should keep wet road conditions in mind.
In this incident I will quote a friend of mine and one of the best presenters in the business Gordon Graham “If it is predictable it is preventable.” It is hard for most Emergency Vehicle Operators to comprehend this but many people do not hear us nor do they see us. Show me a serious Emergency Vehicle Accident at an intersection and you will have the same situation as illustrated in this incident. Emergency Vehicle Operators need to treat each lane of a multi-lane intersection as a complete and distinct intersection all onto itself. If you cannot see and are not assured that the traffic is stopped you simply cannot proceed you must stop. Also as an operator trying to negotiate an intersection you must look left right left and must make sure that not only the first vehicle in line at the green light is stopped and yielding to you but all vehicles in that line are stopped and yielding to you. With inattentive driving as the national norm, what happens next is both predicable and preventable. A vehicle four or five cars deep sees cars ahead stopped at a green light yielding to you. They cannot see you they cannot hear you and they are in a hurry to get to Walmart. Next they pull into an unoccupied traffic lane, turn lane or even in some cases the road shoulder. They now drive around all the cars that are yielding to you and end up right underneath you. The results of this type of collision can be devastating for both the fire apparatus and the civilian vehicle or vehicles involved.
There is a good article worth a few minutes of your time at the following link.
The article was written by Neil Sjostrom and talks about saving our own in a much different way than you might suspect. When it comes to vehicle extrication a custom fire truck is arguably the most difficult vehicle that you will have to perform an extrication on. This article walks you through the necessary steps to perform a successful fire apparatus extrication.
Finally as we are in the midst of winter and some really severe weather always remember you cannot out drive or over drive the apparatus in inclement weather. If it takes an extra 5 minutes to get there safely than that is what it takes. Remember failure is not an option.
By Michael Wilbur