Repeat after me: "It will all be okay." Breathe deeply.
That got your attention, didn’t it? However, I strive to maintain a “G” rating on FHZ, and the language is not that bad. I’m not interested in pushing any of your buttons; I just want to get this safety message across.
So let’s just jump right into it. Depending on where my shift falls, I drive my youngest daughter to school three or four times a week. Without fail, there is one dumbass who every morning, manages to tie up the carpool line for an extra five minutes while she yaks incessantly to one or another of the other parents waiting in line.
When she finally decides to pull up her tricked-out Escalade and discharge her whiny little brats, she ties up those exiting by stopping and talking to someone else. Thus far, I have not succumbed to the (strong) urge to walk up and pull her out through the partially open window of her status machine. But even as I originally contemplated this post, she ran a stop sign, swerved across three lanes of traffic at carpool pick-up, cell phone in one hand and double decaf frappe crappacino in the other, cutting cars off, just so she could pull up next to one of the other moms (there for the afternoon social, of course) and gab some more. (Breathe deeply).
“Where is he going with this?” you ask (cautiously). Well, while watching this daily comedy of the bizarre, I was thinking that perhaps our apparatus operators are also too distracted while driving very large, inertially-challenged, parade beasts, and maybe this is part of the cause of so many minor and major vehicle collisions each year.
Take for example, the discussion that I encountered this past week. I am the Chair of our department’s standard operating guideline committee and people sometimes pull me aside to discuss recent changes to our manual. With recent changes to the way we back our apparatus, our logic is to make everyone get off the apparatus (except the drivers, obviously) and act as spotters to provide some more eyes on the blind sides of the apparatus. As you can expect, there are those who think more than one spotter is a bad idea. I think that given the number of accidents we have had, we should be doing anything in our power to change things, since the current modus operandi doesn’t seem to be working all that well. If one spotter isn’t working, two or more might be better, but one certainly doesn’t seem to be doing the job now.
In our organization, the command staff (unreasonably, I guess) believes that any number greater than one is an unacceptable statistic for collisions. We LIKE being proactive. Consequently, we have people who think a few collisions is okay. ”It’s the price of doing business”, I heard someone say.
Of course, when assigned to spot the apparatus, if we happen to be doing so with a spotter who can actually manage to do more than fog a mirror, that’s all well and good. I say this because we have drivers who still manage to back into something even with an individual out there to plausibly prevent such an occurrence. Of course, that’s if THE SPOTTER isn’t themselves distracted by their own cellphone, the hottie crossing the street, shiny objects, or the flashing lights.
Between the radio going, the siren blaring, the other distracted drivers, the officer ordering, and the three swans-a-swimming, our modern fire apparatus operator has a serious challenge when it comes to paying attention to the road and the myriad hazards encountered between Point A and Point B. In today’s emergency services, and having read some interesting posts by members of some of the forums, while many of us believe the foremost concern of the apparatus operator should be the safe operation of their vehicle, there are people who are more concerned with what music they should be blasting on their way to “the big one”. Then we wonder why we have accidents.
Years ago, I heard someone say that if every vehicle on the road was equipped with a nine-inch stainless-steel spike in the center of the steering column, we would probably decrease the number of traffic accidents ten-fold. While I agree that a sharp object pointed at my chest would probably cause me to think twice before exceeding the speed limit, I think a less lethal solution, like a machine that would punch you in the balls for exceeding the physical limitations of the rig, might just be the answer. Trust me, if I were smacked in the cajones every time I unlawfully exceeded the speed limit, it would get my undivided attention. I certainly wouldn’t make that mistake twice. So, if you’re sincere about avoiding this terrible contraption: FOCUS ON DRIVING THE (Pick one: engine/truck/medic/rescue) SAFELY, because I’m off to get the patent.
It is painfully obvious each time we roll a vehicle, smash one into a car at an intersection, park one on the train tracks, or run over our back-up man that there are serious issues of attention at play here. Instead of focusing on getting to the fire first, we need to focus on getting to the fire in one piece. And so long as officers on these rigs sit silently and pray that the ride ends up well instead of speaking up and ordering the driver to slow down and drive reasonably, we will continue to lose our brothers and sisters for what- so some hopped up adrenaline junkie can pretend he’s Mario Andretti racing in a 25-ton killing machine?
Just as my story about the clueless soccer mom riled some of you up, so should the image of a fire apparatus driver ramming into the side of a carload of kids be equally, if not so much more, reprehensible. After all, our subject mom is just another dumbass civilian with a cell phone. But you, my friends, are caretakers of the public trust. The taxpayers chose to allow you to drive the biggest, shiniest example of the American Fire Service down its public thoroughfares because they had a semblance of trust that you wouldn’t mow them down like a dog when you were running to that alarm activation.
Let’s be serious about safe driving of our trucks. If you really want to kill yourself, do it at the scene where at least you can pretend you were saving someone’s life. Driving down the highway like a maniac isn’t helping anyone, may likely kill someone, and is really just an excuse for showing off. Don’t be a dumbass.
Do your job and be proud you are a firefighter, and keep your community safe by easing back a little on the throttle. Focus on what is important; delivering your highly trained crew with the necessary equipment to the scene of the emergency, and insuring that not only they arrive safely, but everyone and everything encountering you in your travels survives the experience as well.