NVFC: Fire Service Must Do a Better Job Reducing Injuries, Deaths from Emergency Vehicle Crashes

Since the beginning of May, there have been a number of injuries and deaths caused by incidents involving fire department vehicles, including:
  • May 3: A woman in Beech Grove, IN, was killed after her vehicle was struck by a fire truck responding to a structure collapse. Two firefighters were injured in the crash as well.
  • May 10: A volunteer firefighter was hospitalized with leg and head injuries after being ejected from a fire truck that was heading to an emergency in Tarkington Prairie, TX, when it crashed and rolled over.
  • May 16: A fire truck responding to an incident in Chicago, IL, struck a pedestrian who was listening to head phones and apparently did not hear the vehicle approaching.
  • May 24: A teenager riding his skateboard was struck and killed by a volunteer firefighter responding to a traffic accident in Gloucester, VA.
  • May 25: A volunteer firefighter and medical responder struck and killed a woman in Union, NC, while responding to a medical call. The firefighter was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.
  • June 23: A fire chief in Adams County, WA, died after the fire apparatus (a Firecat ATV) flipped and rolled 100 feet down a steep slope while he was fighting a brush fire.
  • June 27: Six volunteer firefighters were injured in a rollover accident after attempting to avoid an accident with another vehicle in Farmington, MO.
  • July 15: A volunteer firefighter in Hepburn Township, PA, responding to a car crash in his personal vehicle was killed after losing control of his truck, which rolled over, resulting in his being ejected.
  • July 26: Two firefighters were killed in Rocky Mount, VA, when the fire department apparatus that they were riding in was struck at an intersection by another vehicle.
While the number of firefighter fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes last year (nine) was the lowest since 1983, incidents involving emergency vehicles remain one of the most common and easily preventable causes of line-of-duty injury and death among firefighters. A search of the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) Firefighter Fatality notices for 2010 conducted by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) identified six firefighter deaths so far this year resulting from five separate vehicles that crashed responding to or returning from an incident, two firefighter deaths that occurred in one vehicle crash that occurred while returning from a formal training event, and two other firefighter deaths in separate incidents involving vehicle crashes.
“It makes me sick to see all of these accidents involving emergency vehicles taking place, especially when people are killed,” said Kenn Fontenot, the NVFC’s Louisiana Director and Chair of the NVFC’s Health and Safety Committee. “There is a lot of good work going on out there to give fire departments the tools that they need to train their personnel properly and spread awareness about the importance of safe vehicle operations. We need to work harder to get buy-in from every fire department to take advantage of available resources and create a culture of safe vehicle operations that is understood and embraced at all levels of all agencies.”
The NVFC and USFA have developed an Emergency Vehicle Safe Operations for Volunteer and Small Combination Emergency Service Organizations guide, which can be downloaded for free at www.nvfc.org/evso. USFA’s web site contains an Emergency Vehicle Safety page that includes links to a number of resources related to emergency vehicle safety.

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