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Why Is This Number Important?


Complete a driver training program. From an investigation conducted after an apparatus accident that resulted in a firefighter fatality in my home state of New York, the report recommends that the fire department "should provide and ensure all drivers successfully complete a comprehensive driver training program before allowing a member to drive and operate a fire department vehicle." Think about how basic this recommendation is. Nothing beats initial and regular follow-up training.

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                                                                          Why Is This Number Important?

   have never been much of a numbers guy. For                May 2009 issue, there it was in black and white.       any formal driver-training program and they
   most of my life, I have struggled with math.              Harvey Eisner provided a piece of information that     are driving your rigs, find a class for them now!
   When I became a paramedic in 1986, calcu-                 I had never pondered until just that moment. He        Nobody should climb behind the wheel of one of
lating medication doses with all that milligrams-            noted that between 1977 and 2007, the National         your rigs unless they have received initial train-
per-kilogram stuff really messed with my head,               Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that       ing to understand what can go wrong and how
and as a person who spent 20 years primarily                 3,826 firefighters died in the line of duty and that   to prevent or correct bad situations. Supplement
as a fire apparatus driver/operator, I have to               932 of them were killed responding to or return-       your in-house driver-training program (which
admit I really never quite “got” the friction-loss           ing from calls. 932. How did I miss that? I was so     I am assuming you have) with the many guest
stuff despite the fact that I know that I have               focused on what had happened each year that I          speakers who are available to address accident
provided a great deal of water to some good                  never looked at the cumulative effects of years        reduction. Make driver safety a part of every
friends on the end of a line.                                of accidents involving firefighters responding and     drill. Even if the drill topic is hoselays or initial
      There are, however, some numbers that do               returning. 932 is a big number and it caused me        attack, include training that reviews safety
catch my attention. These are the numbers that               to look at some of these accidents again.              procedures and best practices for driving your
we use to track our brothers and sisters who                       I returned to the National Institute for         pumpers. If your drill topic is ladders, then add
are no longer with us – nine in Charleston, SC;              Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website         some “behind-the-wheel” time with your aerial.
343 in New York City; six in Worcester, MA; five             (www.cdc.gov/niosh) and to the many reports            Cutting up a car? Then cover emergency vehicle
from Ladder 5 in Buffalo, NY. And now, 932.                  that I had read over and over. As pictures of the      operations and handling characteristics with
      It is almost natural for me to have an                 damaged apparatus popped up on the screen, I           your heavy rescue as well.
interest in the safe operation of fire apparatus.            thought, “I remember that one” almost every time.            • Know where you are going. From a fatal
After all my dad is a retired trucker, my wife               What I wanted to do was to look at the NIOSH           apparatus accident in Louisiana came a recom-
is a CDL-holding school bus driver and I have                recommendations and see whether any of these           mendation that reads, “ensure that firefighters
spent most of my full-time career dealing with               incidents were out of the ordinary. We all know        are familiar with the location of the roads in their
a fleet of vehicles and commercial drivers                   that excess
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