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.
Think it won't happen to you? We thought the same thing at my fire department, but video from a security camera mounted to a condominium building captured an accident involving a fire apparatus. It ended up with the chief in charge of the emergency response division. How it ended up with him, I will never know.
On top of all this, some departments are placing cameras in fire/EMS apparatus to record the cab and patient areas. And many of today's vehicles are equipped with a Vehicle Data Recorder (VDR), which are similar to "black box" flight recorders found on aircraft.
With changes made by the National Fire Protection Association, fire industry maintenance personnel and their municipalities can link up a computer and access the information that is on the VDR. The VDR can pretty much paint a picture of what occurred. It is capable of of gathering the following data:
Therefore, subsequent to an accident, the above information can be used to recreate the events leading up to the event. For example, it can tell whether the seat belt remained buckled after leaving the seat (like when someone buckles their belt behind their back instead of over their shoulders).
Unlike subjective testimony of witnesses, video is typically infallible (assuming it's unaltered). It can be sent in an instant via email, text or other convenient means. It could end up with the wrong or right people. Are you ready to explain what happened?
The information gathered on video or data recorders can either work for you or against you. Even though a person may not be found criminally guilty, the other parties can still seek civil compensation. While the department is typically targeted in a lawsuit, do not believe you are fully protected from getting sued just because it was on company time.
Clearly, individuals need to have a heightened awareness of their possible appearance on "candid camera." All of us need to adopt a better driving attitude. Those who drive emergency response vehicles need to stay mindful that a lot of mass and kinetic energy is at play when these vehicles are placed in motion. When we make unintentional contact with a civilian vehicle, the damage can be devastating, whether at low or high speeds.
Having attended thousands of hours of driver training over the years, I've discovered one common factor to preventing accidents: slow down.
With the jolt of adrenaline that accompanies a call, it's easy to understand how emergency response personnel can pump the accelerator. Not only does this increase the likelihood of collisions, studies have shown that over many years of service, this heightened state can take its toll on the body. Combine this with the fatigue that usually sets in after working long tours of duty or shifts, it becomes harder and harder to stay at a high-performance work level.
Granted, in the emergency response field, seconds count. It can mean the difference of life or death. However, we once did an experiment and drove to common occurring addresses without lights and sirens when we were not on an alarm and compared the times when we did use them when responding to alarms. The difference was only 1-3 minutes.
Are you saving time? Yes, but in actuality, not all that much. And, obviously, if something happens on your drive, you're not helping anyone. Remember all of us have a responsibility to ourselves, the people riding with us, and the public at large to drive safely.
You've heard it time and time again; all of us need to drive with "due regard." Due regard simply means how a reasonable careful person performing under similar circumstances would act. If driving without due regard is proven in court, the chips are going to be stacked against you (especially with the aid of video evidence). The injured parties and the people representing them are generally going to use any means necessary to prove their point to receive restitution.
Many states and their statutes across the country require emergency responders to stop at all intersections when there is a red light, even when responding on alarms. Some states allow you to roll through these intersections, but only after slowing.
I always told the people I instructed that you will never go wrong if you stop. If transporting a patient to the hospital, whatever their age or condition is, they are getting necessary treatment and attention already in the back of the truck. You are not going to do anyone any good if you can't even make it to the emergency room because you had an accident that could have been prevented, much less adding insult to injury to others in the vehicle.
In short, you can't go wrong if remember the three S's: slow down, safety belts and stop if unsure.
This article was written for & published by MultiBriefs.com.