In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.
Thursday, April 21, 10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
My experience as a firefighter and a police officer was the driving force behind my developing the “Drive to Survive” program in 2003. Its premise is that if firefighters learn the science behind driving a vehicle, they will have a greater respect for the dangers involved in driving a large vehicle during routine and emergency conditions.
I have investigated thousands of serious and fatal motor vehicle crashes, almost all of could have been prevented. With this background in crash reconstruction, I began to pay attention to the number of fire apparatus crashes I was reading about on the fire Web sites. Motor vehicle crashes had become the second leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters (behind heart attacks), but yet there was very little training on the topic, and the training that did exist often glossed over the most important aspects of vehicle operations–vehicle dynamics, roadway friction, critical curve speeds, total stopping distance, and countless of other areas that are often missed or not properly explained in many driver training programs.
Using vehicle dynamics and physics, I developed this much-needed program to fill the gap in the fire service and help fire apparatus operators to thoroughly understand vehicle dynamics. It would drive home to emergency vehicle operators that regardless of how long they have been driving or how good a driver they think they may be, at some point physics will take over, and they will lose control of the vehicle.
This is the 11th consecutive year “Drive to Survive” is being presented at FDIC International. Every year, the comments from students have been extremely positive. The class presents valuable information on an extremely important topic in a “fun” and understandable way. Many of the driving safety seminars that have been hosted throughout the country during these years have been a direct result of FDIC attendees’ recommendations to their administration to host a regional course. Some departments host the seminar annually as a part of a comprehensive driver training program they implemented based on what was learned in the original seminar. Some 15,000 emergency responders at more than 380 locations across the United States have attended this seminar. I would like to think that this is an indication that driver safety is becoming recognized as the serious issue it is and a way to help protect against the potential liability and dangers vehicle operations can present for a fire department.