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National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Apparatus Placement and Blocking

There were 10.2 million motor vehicle collisions in 2008 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fire departments and other emergency responders are present to perform vehicle extrication, rescue, and EMS at many of these collisions. The frequency of the incident leads to a high risk to responders due to the nature of the event. From distracted drivers rubbernecking to see what is going on to distracted drivers unaware of an accident, emergency responders at the scene have to have eyes on all sides of their heads.
Brackets [ ] denote reviewer de-identification.
"...Engine [1] was being relocated to provide the blocking function for the crew treating the victims of the collision. The engineer noticed two vehicles sliding towards the incident...The engineer blasted the air horn to notify the crew of the impending danger. The sliding vehicles (two SUVs) struck Engine [1] and moved it five feet. The crews were spared any injury due to the positioning of Engine [1] and the situational awareness of the officer and engineer.

A savvy officer orders the engine repositioned to protect crews; an alert engineer blasts a warning to crews inside of a safety zone that trouble is on the way. The repositioned engine is struck by two out of control vehicles, and everyone goes home. Proper apparatus placement at the scene of collisions is no accident. The barriers created by blocking apparatus provide protection, a higher vantage point, and incident screening for all working in the hazard zone. However, the hazard zone isn't always inside the apparatus barrier. After you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), and the related reports, consider the following:

1.      Are your state and local law enforcement personnel versed on the purpose and necessity of emergency apparatus as blocking tools?
2.      When apparatus is positioned for blocking, is the front of the rig pointed toward the hazard zone, or away from the hazard zone?
3.      Is every riding position equipped with a high visibility safety vest?
4.      Does your SOP for vehicle collision include a designated crew member (or members) whose sole function is lookout for traffic hazards?
5.      Whose responsibility is it in your jurisdiction to redirect traffic with flares/cones?

Operating at the scene of a roadway incident should not be considered routine. The next time you are traveling the streets of your area, note how many drivers are doing everything but driving. Those are the very same people you'll be seeing at your next vehicle collision. The least dangerous among them are those that have already crashed. The rest should be considered a threat to your safety and the safety of your crew.

Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today so everyone goes home tomorrow.


Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.


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