By Frank R. Myers
Originally Published in MultiBriefs, 10-27-16
Thorough vehicle inspections would take place prior to driving course training, for which we would split the group in half. The range master would do a safety review and go over the driving range rules.
During the morning, half of the class would "practice" driving the course with an EVOC instructor in the cab. The other half would be "cone flippers" to reset the cones that fell over or were hit. In the afternoon, we would then switch groups.
Practice would occur for two days, and a third day was designated for testing. Additional days were built in for any needed remediation.
The recruits would perform the following exercises: evasive maneuver and recovery (25-30 mph), alley dock (reverse), threshold braking (from 25-30 mph), offset alley, serpentine both forward and reverse, and skid recovery on a wet skid pad. A scoring system was in place with points deducted for cones hit along the way.
This training was invaluable because it familiarized newly-hired personnel with the handling characteristics of our vehicles. Across the country, fire departments and EMS services have different vehicles, manufacturers, equipment and weight parameters.
Due to time and resource constraints, you may decide to accept newly-hired firefighter EVOC certificates in lieu of the driving course, even though the vehicles elsewhere may have been completely different. Be aware that in some cases, also tied to expedient circumstances, EVOC certificates have been issued without any practical driving experience.
We had to use a secondary course for suppression apparatus (aerials, pumpers, haz-mat, etc.) to at least give the precertified EVOC recruits some idea of how our trucks handled. However, we could not perform evasive maneuvers or threshold braking due to lack of space to perform higher speed maneuvers.
When new firefighters finished their training, they were only allowed initially to drive on "routine" (nonemergency, no emergency lights/siren) movements. Once off probation, they were then allowed to drive on a "three" (with emergency lights and sirens).
As a member of the accident review committee, I would always see a spike in accidents once a class had finished their probationary period. It was due to the "newbies" starting to drive the trucks, so stay alert to potential issues.
In the long run, the necessary experience and training can save time and money. Remember, each time there is an accident, it incurs monetary loss somewhere — including potential loss of personnel to work-related injuries, worker's compensation claims, injuries to the public, litigation and property/vehicle damage to both fire department and civilian vehicles.
Many new firefighters have not had much, if any, experience driving larger vehicles/trucks. The baby boomers and older veterans did, since many of them had jobs where they drove larger vehicles like trucks prior to becoming a firefighter.
The more recent firefighters are better educated, and many have attended and graduated from a college/university. But that doesn't replace hands-on experience.
Regardless of how qualified or certified you are, you need to perform and train on the equipment, gear and vehicles you will be using every day at work.
Frank R. Myers is a retired lieutenant with the City of Miami (Florida) Fire Rescue, where he served for 32 years. He works as a consultant for PSTrax.com, a technology service that helps fire departments across the country automate their apparatus, equipment and inventory checks.
Orignally Published in MultiBriefs, 10-27-16