Emergency Vehicle Operations
One of the most critical skills needed by a firefighter is the ability to safely get to the scene of an incident. For volunteers, this begins with operating a personal vehicle to the station. Understanding and following all traffic rules is important. The last thing we need is to add a vehicle accident to the emergency call we have just received! It is important that we emphasize safety. It is very easy to allow adrenaline to get the best of you. This drug will trigger reduced hearing and tunnel vision. Recognize the simple fact that no matter how calm you believe you are, you are operating excited!
Once you arrive at the station you will move to the vehicle you will be driving. Disconnect the land lines connected to the truck and place them where they will not be run over as vehicles leave the station. It is recommended that the driver not where turnout gear. The bulky boots, pants, and coat can limit your ability to safely operate the controls. While the passengers are positioning themselves plan your route to the scene and determine the nearest water supply if needed. Start the vehicle and be certain all passengers are in, the doors are closed, and the seatbelts are on. Be aware of other responding firefighters and vehicles as you leave the station.
Our department has a set route when leaving and heading to the scene based on the direction of the call. All responding units will follow this path to prevent a chance meeting at an intersection with another responding unit. When in route, follow department rules for use of lights, sirens, air horns, etc. Drive a respectable speed and always be alert of other vehicles and hazards. The road conditions may dictate a need to drive slower. Consider the time of day. Are children out? Will there be heavy traffic? When on scene position the truck as per department procedures. Be certain to not let anyone out until the vehicle has come to a complete stop. Set the parking brake and chock the wheels.
To assist in developing and confirming skills it is best to annually perform a driver certification program. This should include a review of the department policies like what we have discussed above. The next part would be the hands-on practical skills. Set up few cone stations that will challenge the drivers. Diminishing clearance will be one. Set the cones wider at the entry of the course and then narrow them down towards the end. Just wide enough for the truck to get through. We like to place a cone at the end in front to ask the driver to stop as close as they can without hitting it. The next few can use a spotter. Set five cones in a row the length of the truck. This will be a serpentine course. Ask the driver to enter by weaving forward and then reverse through the same course. The last cone course is a backing station. Require the driver to back from a roadway in between cones. The final station is an over the road one. Choose a route in your area that represents skills needed to operate safely for your department.
Upon completion, the department should be able to…
• Discuss the departments safe personal vehicle operating procedures.
• Discuss the departments safe emergency vehicle operating procedures.
• Perform basic skill stations with cones.
• Perform an over the road driving skills station.
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon Volunteer Fire Department, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org