The aim of every call to put out a fire or any other emergency is for the firefighters to arrive safely. When accidents happen either towards or from the accident scene, then the fire department’s purpose is cut short. This shows why it is essential for fire vehicle drivers to maintain safety precautions.
According to 2018 records by Injury Facts, 56% of deaths caused during emergency vehicle collisions involve non-emergency vehicles. 74% of such accidents involve multiple cars, thus spreading the risk.
How to Safely Drive Fire Apparatus
Driving fire apparatus and other emergency vehicles is a noble task. However, the job also demands that the person in this position has the right training. Such vehicles are often more significant than the average car on the road, meaning one has to factor in different concerns. These concerns include:
The vehicle’s size: Firefighter vehicles have ladders, cranes, and other machines that make them take more space than even an average truck. This means the driver has to pay attention to effectively creating a turn without colliding with other drivers. The driver also needs to have some sense of the center of gravity and how it works to make proper navigations and at the right time.
The vehicle’s weight: Apart from its size, a fire fighter’s track will weigh differently depending on what it carries. When the track has to bring water to its destination, it will weigh heavier than empty. The driver also needs to remain aware that a truck’s weight will dictate its safe speed and navigation techniques.
Area laws: The advantage of driving a fire truck is that you can use sirens and lights to show that you respond to an emergency, thus exempting you from a few traffic laws. However, that does not mean that no traffic rule applies. Also, different states have different emergency driving guidelines. A fire department driver should always be in the know on how to use these laws.
Some of the standard driving and operating guidelines for the fire department includes:
- When and how to use signals, lights, and sirens.
- Working with an assigned spotter when making different turns.
- How to respond to traffic lights and stop signs.
- The maximum speed for any emergency vehicle
- Using an emergency vehicle in creating safe zones, especially at a crash scene.
- The use of seatbelts for an emergency vehicle driver and passengers.
The Process of Qualifying Your Fire Apparatus Drivers
Just because a potential driver arrives at the fire department for a job does not mean they are well qualified for the position. There might be minimum requirements one has to meet, but the department should also have a valuable qualifying process that ensures any driver adopted to the field is fit for the job.
Aside from having a suitable program, every fire department also needs to update its programs frequently. This is because routes change, technology advances, and more innovations have been hitting the market in recent years. To ensure that a department has the proper guide for safe drivers, they have to answer a few questions.
What improvements to the drivers need?
When planning a program, the people in charge should think about the knowledge and skills needed. Such skills need constant checks even with drivers who have been in the force for a while.
Also, some skills are not often used, especially for emergencies that happen once in a while. There should be a test sheet that helps drivers and other department members keep their knowledge in check. For example, even if it has been a while since one had to rescue a run under accident, do the drivers know how to participate in the rescue work?
Department heads have to work with their drivers to check which updates are necessary. During daily updates, such pieces of training should be mentioned as scheduled as soon as possible. New drivers have to go through a test program, no matter when they last worked at a fire department. This ensures that every team leader is at par with their member’s skill standing.
What new technologies need thorough training?
There has to be an allowance to visit new technologies and techniques in every fire department training program for drivers. It is one thing to improve a skill and a whole other story to learn a new one. Such programs should ensure that every member of the force goes through improvement pieces of training often.
Has the department acquired any new tools lately? Do its drivers know how to operate these machines in real-life cases? What about new forms of emergencies and their responses?
The world keeps changing, and fire outbreaks are caused by different things today. Technologies such as unmanned drowns are causing havoc, and rescue teams should be able to respond appropriately. It does not matter if one only applied as a qualified driver; every fire department member needs to be versed with all forms of emergencies.
Are customer relations in check?
The most foundational work of the fire department is to take care of people. This means that communication skills, whether on the road or when attending to a victim, should be well understood. This involves the use of sign language, verbal communication, and using different communication apparatus.
A well-trained driver is also one who can multitask and do so safely. The training program should check on matters such as this. Full competency will go a long way while reducing accidents’ multiplication when drivers are attending to emergencies.
Why Fire Department Driving Training Programs are Important
As already highlighted, it is not enough to meet the minimum qualifications to be a competent fire department driver. General driving guidelines demand that each driver is fit for the road and to run different machines on the fire truck. This is why further training drivers is essential. The programs are necessary because:
Teachers drivers’ pre-response routines
It takes a lot to be a fire department driver. The driver should follow all pre-response guidelines as missing one can put the entire team at risk. This involves understanding the district map, quickly suiting up, and carrying all the necessary tools.
Drivers also need to have proper training on traffic patterns and how to swing their way when they are tight. If such knowledge lacks, it takes longer for a driver to get to the scene, meaning the damage would have already gone too far.
Personal safety in the fire trucks
Besides being careful about the environment when one is getting to an emergency scene, fire truck drivers need to be just as cautious with how they carry themselves in their work trucks. Do they have proper seatbelts, and are they adequately fastened? How dynamic are their decision-making processes without being too aggressive?
All trainees need to have all the necessary tips for handling hazardous circumstances. This means they need proper mentorship from those who have been on the job longer. Such mentorships ensure that drivers know how to do basic tasks such as coming to a stop at an intersection, watching traffic lights, when to push the brakes, and when to rush forward.
They also need to understand that high speed does not always mean getting to the scene fast enough, especially if they risk their safety in the process.
Safe driving demands drivers continuously keep their eyes on every corner of the road. This means they have to know how to scan through corners, side mirrors and know what to do when an animal, pedestrian, or another car suddenly appears on their way.
Remember that a truck will not stop as fast as a personal vehicle in the event of an unforeseen obstacle. Therefore, drivers should mechanize their stops to ensure that accidents are avoided as much as possible.
From the few guidelines, one can already tell that navigating a heavy track is almost an art or a science. This means that specific laws need to be put in check at all times, else something will go amiss. This also involves having simple etiquette or good habits that need to be instilled in all drivers from the start.
What If an Accident Occurs?
Just like any other accident, all accidents caused by fire trucks and other emergency vehicles need investigation. It is estimated that at least 6500 accidents in a year are caused by an emergency vehicle, which claims at least one life of the car’s people. Since such accidents involve heavy vehicles, a simple collision can cause more damages with higher impacts. They are also easier to lead to multiple crashes on the scene.
Even if an investigation may not start immediately, occupants of the vehicles involved have to give a statement as soon as they are in the right shape to do so. Legal counsel will also ensure that every operator is legally checked to determine who is to blame for the accident.
As an operator of a fire truck, in the event of an accident, you should:
- Stop. It doesn’t matter how small the accident may appear to be; all drivers are required to stop in the event of an accident, and so are fire department drivers.
- Try all you can to keep calm. No sober decisions are made when high emotions are in play. This is why fire department drivers should have the capability of maintaining their calmness when on the road and when an accident occurs.
- Observe safety measures first. The same safety measures you use when rescuing victims during an accident are the same measures that come in handy when an emergency car accident happens. This means the driver’s rescue skills should apply where relevant. Turn on emergency lights, place accident cones, and flares. Also, move vehicles that can be moved.
- Call for help. The driver needs to realize that they have just switched positions from the rescue team to an accident victim. This means that they too need as much help as they would have given otherwise.
- Involve authority. Since all accidents need thorough investigations, the police have to be involved. The police are trained to handle emergencies and will know the best way to handle the incident.
- Contact the department heads. Drivers need to remember to keep their heads in the know. This will help them know if they will send more help from the station or contact another station for assistance. The sooner such contacts are made, the better.
- Gather as much information about the scene of the accident as possible. This will help one remember the incident accurately when testifying or writing their statements. It also helps in the investigation and tells the state of mind a victim was in when an accident occurred.
- Help if and where you can. Once you confirm that you are in a proper state to offer assistance, you can go on to help other victims. However, this should only happen if one has a precise pass to do so.
Fire Department Drivers’ Preparation for Accidents
People can only hope that their journeys are not interrupted, but this is not always the case, even for emergency car drivers. This is why fire department drivers need proper training on how to deal with emergency car accidents.
Each driver should ensure that they have all their documentation in place before answering an emergency call. Such documents involve:
- Vehicle registration
- Updated insurance company cards
- Unique medical details cards such as allergies
- Evidence of employment
Next, all fire department vehicles need to have stocked emergency kits at all times. Such kits have supplies such as:
- First aid tools
- Duct tape
- Road flares
- Warning triangles
- Writing materials
- Flashlights with batteries
The list could go on and on. It is the primary procedure to check that such items are in the fire truck before departure.
What Checks Should a Fire Truck Driver Meet?
Many things allow a person to pass as a proper fire truck driver. Some of these include:
- The person’s job history. Even though any person with the heart to help people apply to be in the fire department, their previous job standing could work for or against them meeting the guideline. People who have some experience, such as veterans or former medical professionals, are usually encouraged to apply.
- Legal standing. Like in any other job opportunity, one needs to be in the right place with the law to work. Since firefighting means a lot of discipline, an excellent legal standing is a must.
- Understanding vehicle dynamics. While a lot of training is offered on the job, knowing how to drive a heavy truck is a plus for all who desire to apply for fire truck driving. Prior experience reduces the time needed for training.
- SOP and SOG courses. Different fire departments across the country offer standard operating procedure courses. Although these programs are sometimes specific to an operation area, the fundamentals are often the same, making it easy for one who has previously undergone one to fit right into the program.
- Proper mental health. Poor mental health cases have been on the rise in recent years. Firefighters have this sense of responsibility that sometimes impairs their decisions to check their mental space. Different researches in the past have revealed that at least 6.4% of firefighters suffer from post-traumatic stress. This means that even as one applies for a driving job with the department, they should have a good record of mental health and regularly check it.
- Physical fitness. Any job at the fire department demands a lot from one’s physical body. The training pieces need one to be fit or be willing to change their lifestyles about the same.
To reach an emergency scene, fire department drivers need to have safety as their priority. Otherwise, they won’t do much to help those who need them most. With proper training and following standard fire truck driving guidelines, drivers take care of their safety and the community.