By Frank R. Myers
Originally Published in Fire Apparatus Magazine, 11-2016
By Frank R. Myers
Originally Published in MultiBriefs, 08-2016
Hands-free devices were introduced to help make mobile communications quicker, easier, and safer. But is there a place for these devices when driving emergency vehicles?
According to consumer.healthday.com, hands-free does not mean risk-free. Devices such as speech-based technologies in cars can overload drivers, taking their attention from the road and making an accident more likely, experts say.
What's cheaper — fighting a fire or preventing one? While the answer is obvious, the same line of reasoning somehow seems to elude fire departments when it comes to maintenance of their apparatus and equipment.
Why? In part, it's because of the proverbial "head in the sand" mentality to ignore issues that aren't imminent threats. Adding to the mix is the workload of today's firefighters, who generally are focused most on acute challenges, not potential problems.
Finally, there's often a sense of complacency because of reliance on technology to warn of imminent threats. What this doesn't take into account is there aren’t warning systems for many issues warranting maintenance. And sometimes, the warning technology itself malfunctions.
Apparatus and equipment continue to get more and more complex. Couple that with the fact that firefighters are being asked to specialize in more areas than ever before, and it’s easy to see why maintenance checks often take a back seat. But incomplete or non-existent maintenance records can – and have – come back to haunt departments across the country.
Just as thieves gravitate toward the most vulnerable targets, so do opportunistic attorneys and reporters looking to dig up some dirt. If your records aren’t complete and current, you might as well paint a target across your chest. Even if you’re not targeted right now, you sure will be once something goes wrong.
Video recording is everywhere — from personal cellphones to highway and street cameras that record everything from traffic flow to red-light runners. Therefore, it's a good idea for public safety officials to always act as though they're being recorded.
Recordings often end up on the Internet and can quickly go viral. If you act inappropriately, how does that affect your personal reputation and the reputation of your company and co-workers? Beyond that, there's always the threat of legal action, with the video serving as evidence.
Despite why you chose a career in the fire service — to help people, excitement, tradition, opportunity, etc. — the fact remains that it is one of the most dangerous professions out there. In our line of work, minutes and seconds count.
That's why it's imperative to use our time as efficiently as possible — both out on calls and back at the station. One way to maximize productive use of time occurs at the beginning of your tour of duty during the morning truck checkout.
When money and time are stretched to their limits, shortcuts proliferate. Overtaxed fire crews may begin pencil whipping what they believe are routine tasks involving equipment and apparatus maintenance. While this may seem like a minor issue, in reality it is an insidious disease—because overlooking a small check can explode into big trouble.
We’ve all read stories about what can happen when needed maintenance is not performed. Take the Charlotte Fire Department truck that malfunctioned and overturned on its way to an emergency call in May of 2014. According to WCNC TV, “the crew was headed down a hill on Ardrey Kell Road when the auxiliary brake failed to engage. The truck skidded as the driver attempted to turn the truck right on Bridgehampton Club Drive, and then rolled onto its roof. The truck briefly caught fire after the crash. An internal investigation will be conducted. The damage is estimated to be $800,000.”
Depending on your department's accident rate, an Accident Review Committee (ARC) may not be a bad idea. There are many potential benefits, including: