What was your last training session or company drill like? Odds are it was not emergency vehicle driver training. I have always asked why is it that the things we use the least breathing apparatus, portable ladders, nozzles, hose, rescue tools, forcible entry we train with the most and the fire apparatus that we use the most we train on the least. You may or may not put breathing apparatus on for your next run, you may or may not be stretching a hand line on your next response. But for every call that you respond to someone has to drive an emergency vehicle. Why is there such a difference in the time committed organizationally to training on things we use the least versus the thing that we use the most? No one seems to know? Perhaps driving a fire apparatus or an ambulance is treated just like a car and that in the United States it is a birth right that when you reach driving age that you are anointed to drive. Perhaps there is an attitude which I think is pervasive that I can drive I do not need any training. I know what I am doing! However emergency vehicle accident statistics do not prove this to be true. So for some devoting time and resources to emergency vehicle driver training maybe an organizational hard sell.
How does your fire department approach there legal obligation to provide proper emergency vehicle driver training. In fact what is your fire departments organizational approach and serious commitment or not to all training. I have had experienced two very different approaches. Each becomes part of the organizational moral fabric and it speaks to the level of leadership that the organization provides.
The first is the CYA (Cover your Ass) approach. Where pencil whipping training records is the norm. What is pencil whipping you might ask that is the art of giving credit for training that some firefighters may not even have attended. Or perhaps we put a video in the DVD at 1300 hours and shut the lights out in the training room. Or perhaps we have the training officer with two DWI convictions conducting the driver training and is signing off as the responsible party that conducted the training. The organizational culture has nothing to do with accident reduction, or reducing firefighter line of duty death. It is all about just getting the training over with while getting every fire department member through it one way or the other, taking a mark and getting credit for it and yes CYA. Now if someone were to get into an emergency vehicle accident and investigators ask the question that they always will do. Has this driver / operator received emergency vehicle operators training? Your organization can now answer yes and offer the penciled whipped attendance sheet as proof. Or can you? For sure if this is your organizations approach to driver training someone maybe guilty of falsifying governmental records which is against the law and is a pretty big deal with potential jail time. Moreover is there really any meaning full training occurring and the answer is an overwhelming NO. So a good question to ask is how meaning full and effective is your departments training?
Now the other approach is one of organizational responsibility not only to its firefighters but for the civilians that they must drive around and interact with. Organizationally Training is look upon as being important and to some the life blood and the keys to success of the organization. Organizational training goals are established which may include accident reduction, Driver / Operator skill improvements, and fostering an attitude that wrecking emergency vehicles is organizationally unacceptable. In short training is important and it matters. This attitude starts at the Chief Officer level and flows throughout the organization. The substance of the training is far more important than the attendance certificate and the mark. Fire Departments with this attitude understand that good training costs money and that it is important to have a strong training budget. Spending those budget dollars may include driving simulators, fuel for the trucks, good training facilities, and hiring outside instructors. Most experts agree that a good Fire Department Emergency Driver Training should include an Emergency Vehicle Operators Course conducted every three years taught by an outside instructor not associated with the department. Unfortunately Fire Department attitudes and traditions suggest that you cannot be an expert in your own department and that much better driver training results are achieved as it relates to accident reduction and driving safety by outside instructors. The old adage applies here live ten miles away and carry a brief case and you are the expert.
Perhaps the time is right to do an organizational audit on your department training and establishing attainable goals to improve training results.
Finally as we go to press it is that time of year to be mindful of animals such as white tail deer, elk and moose that are going into rut and may find themselves in your path. Also with the warm breezes of summer transforming into the cold air of winter it becomes very foggy. Awareness of both conditions may prevent an accident.
BY MICHAEL WILBUR