In this installment we will look at the N.F.P.A. Line of Duty Death statistic’s for 2013. You might say old news as we are now in 2015 however due to the time it takes to verify the facts and to get it right which the N.F.P.A. has done a really good job over time however there is about a 10 month lag time. Thank you to the N.F.P.A. Fire Analysis and Research group for this information.
As a former training officer I would look forward to getting this information for a couple of reasons. First the information is timely and generally accurate. Second many of these case studies made excellent material to learn from others and to learn from history. The old adage if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Among these tragedies are none that anyone wants to see repeated.
In 2013, 17 firefighters died in vehicle-related incidents, including 10 firefighters who died in vehicle crashes. Six other firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles, and one firefighter fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a proficiency jump. There were no firefighter deaths in aircraft crashes in 2013.
Seven of the 10 firefighters who died in crashes were killed while responding to incidents and one was killed while returning from an incident. All eight were the drivers in single-fatality crashes. Three were responding to the scene of motor vehicle crashes, three were responding to structure fires, one was responding to a wildland fire and another was returning from a wildland fire.
A firefighter responding to a wildland fire in his private vehicle was killed when his vehicle went off the road and struck a tree. The victim was wearing a seatbelt.
A firefighter driving to a structure fire in a fire department SUV skidded on a wet curve, went off the road and struck a tree and fence. The victim was wearing his seatbelt and was not ejected. Driving too fast for conditions, which included limited visibility due to heavy rain, was cited as a cause of the crash.
A firefighter responding in his personal vehicle to a structure fire lost control and his vehicle overturned. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected. Speeding and drunk driving were factors in this crash.
A firefighter driving a pumper to a structure fire was killed when the vehicle ran off the road, overturned and struck a utility pole. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was partially ejected. Water shifting in the tank on a curve was cited as a factor in the crash. There was no information on speed.
A firefighter responding to the scene of a motor vehicle crash in his personal vehicle struck another emergency responder’s car as he attempted to overtake or pass the other vehicle while it was making a left turn. After striking the other vehicle, the victim’s vehicle went down a ditch, hit a culvert, went airborne, landed on the roof and rolled. The victim was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected. Failure to yield the right of way and improper passing were cited as factors in the crash.
Another driver responding to a motor vehicle crash in his own vehicle lost control in heavy rain, crossed the centerline sideways and was broadsided by an oncoming vehicle. He was wearing a seatbelt and was not ejected. Speeding was cited as a factor in the crash.
A third firefighter responding to a motor vehicle crash in his personal vehicle lost control on a curve in the rain, overcorrected and ran off the road, striking a concrete structure. The victim was not wearing a seatbelt and was not ejected. Speeding was cited as a factor in the crash.
The firefighter who died in a crash while returning from a wildland fire was driving a water tender (tanker) when he hit an embankment on a steep road and overturned. There were no other details on the crash.
In the other two crashes, a firefighter riding an ATV searching for the source of a reported fire apparently jumped or was thrown from the vehicle when it started to roll on a slope. The vehicle rolled over him, resulting in fatal injuries. In the other crash, a firefighter returning on his motorcycle from off-site training crossed the centerline on a curve and struck an oncoming vehicle. No other details were reported.
Of the nine firefighters mentioned above who died in road vehicle crashes, five were not using seatbelts (three were ejected or partially ejected and two were not), two were using seatbelts (one was not ejected and there were no details on the other) and no details on seatbelt use were reported for the eighth victim. The ninth victim was riding a motorcycle. Factors reported in the crashes included excessive speed, weather conditions, intoxication, cargo shifting, failure to yield and improper passing.
Six firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles. Four were working at the scenes of motor vehicle crashes and two were operating at fires.
One firefighter was operating at a motor vehicle crash on an icy highway when a passing tractor-trailer lost control and struck him. Actions of the driver, the weather, inadequate protection of the highway work area and inadequate traffic management were cited as factors in the death.
A drunk driver struck a firefighter while he was directing traffic at a crash scene on a highway.
A firefighter was struck at a crash scene by a passing vehicle as he was putting on his personal protective equipment.
A firefighter directing traffic 100 feet (30 meters) from a crash scene was struck from behind. He was wearing a safety vest.
Smoke obscured visibility at the scene of a prescribed burn as a firefighter stepped out of his vehicle. He was struck by a passing vehicle. The victim was not wearing a high-visibility retro-reflective vest at the time and the travel lane was not protected.
A firefighter was retrieving his gear from the back of his rescue vehicle at a fire scene when he became pinned against the vehicle by another apparatus that was backing up. Inattention, lack of situational awareness, vehicle placement and lack of a backer guiding the apparatus were cited as factors in the incident.
NFPA publishes several standards related to road and vehicle safety issues and a new standard is currently being developed.
NFPA 1002, Standard on Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications, identifies the minimum job performance requirements for firefighters who drive and operate fire apparatus, in both emergency and nonemergency situations.
NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire Service Vehicle Operations Training Program, provides for the development of a written vehicle operations training program, including the organizational procedures for training, vehicle maintenance, and identifying equipment deficiencies.
NFPA 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, Maintenance and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, details a program to ensure that fire apparatus are serviced and maintained to keep them in safe operating condition.
NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, addresses vehicle stability to prevent rollovers, and gives manufacturers options on how to provide it. New vehicles will have their maximum speed limited, based on their weight, and will have vehicle data recorders to monitor, among other things, acceleration and deceleration, and seatbelt use.
NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus, establishes minimum design, performance and testing requirements for new vehicles over 10,000 lb. gross vehicle weight (4,500 kg) rating that are specifically designed for wildland fire suppression.
NFPA 1091, Standard on Traffic Control Incident Management, which is currently under development, will identify the minimum job performance requirements necessary to perform temporary traffic control duties at emergency incidents on or near an active roadway. Its first edition will be published in 2015, and a proposed draft is available on NFPA’s website for review.
The provisions of NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, include requirements that operators successfully complete an approved driver training program, possess a valid driver’s license for the class of vehicle, and operate the vehicle in compliance with applicable traffic laws. All vehicle occupants must be seated in approved riding positions and secured with seatbelts before drivers move the apparatus, and drivers must obey all traffic signals and signs and all laws and rules of the road. This includes coming to a complete stop when encountering red traffic lights, stop signs, stopped school buses with flashing warning lights, blind intersections and other intersection hazards, and unguarded railroad grade crossings. Passengers are required to remain seated and must not release or loosen their seatbelts for any reason while the vehicle is in motion.
In related efforts, the USFA has formed partnerships with the IAFF, NVFC and IAFC to focus attention on safety while responding in emergency apparatus. Details can be found on USFA’s website. http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/firefighter_health_safety/safety/vehicle_safety/index.shtm
The focus of vehicle safety programs should not be exclusively on fire department apparatus, since, over the years, private vehicles have been the vehicles most frequently involved in road crashes. NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, includes a requirement that when members are authorized to respond to incidents or to fire stations in private vehicles, the fire department must establish specific rules, regulations, and procedures relating to the operation of private vehicles in an emergency mode. NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire Service Vehicle Operations Training Program, also requires training for those using privately-owned vehicles.
Requirements are also in effect for emergency personnel operating on roadways. The 2009 version of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requires anyone working on a roadway to wear an ANSI 107-compliant high-visibility vest. An exemption was created for firefighters and others engaged on roadways that allows them to wear
NFPA-compliant personal protective clothing (turn-out gear) when directly exposed to flames, heat and hazardous material. NFPA 1500 requires firefighters working on traffic assignments where they are endangered by motor vehicle traffic to wear clothing with fluorescent and retro-reflective material and use fire apparatus in a blocking position to protect firefighters.
As we have seen we have not found new ways to kill firefighters during emergency vehicle operations; Factors reported in the crashes included excessive speed, seatbelts not being worn, weather conditions, intoxication, cargo shifting, failure to yield and improper passing. The lack of scene safety and the backing of fire apparatus without a spotter or backer were also cited. These are all subjects that at various times have been covered in this column. So what can we do what can you do. Learn from these tragedies and train to prevent them in the future. You can certainly use this column and others written in the past as a resource and also the NFPA standards listed in the text but where else can we go for additional resources.
Niosh.comfirefighter fatality reports
United States Fire Administration website.
As we go into the winter months where outside training opportunities are diminished now would be a great time to use some of the listed resources for some new and exciting training possibilities.
Finally from our family to yours we would like to wish you a Very Happy, Healthy, Safe and Prosperous New Year.
Firehouse Magazine January 2015
Emergency Vehicle Operations
By Michael Wilbur