Vehicle accidents to and from the emergency scene are the second leading cause of deaths among on-duty firefighters. The U.S. Fire Administration, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have joined their efforts to find ways to decrease this statistic. The mechanism for doing this is the National Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative, a program jointly developed by the USFA, the DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the DOT/Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office.
Two forums were held as part of the project. At the first National Forum on Emergency Vehicle Safety, held in Virginia at the end of June, representatives of various national organizations1 analyzed the types of accidents that resulted in firefighter death or injury and explored ways to address them. The types of accidents studied included on-duty collisions involving emergency vehicles (including fire tankers), accidents that occurred while firefighters were responding to emergencies in their personal vehicles, and emergencies at which responders were struck by vehicles. The factors considered were human performance (driver), technology (vehicle design), operations (emergency response), and legislation (laws, regulations, and standards). Forum participants identified the core issues leading to the collisions, prioritized the issues, and initiated steps for mitigating the problems.
At the second forum, in Kansas City, Missouri, in August, 31 subject matter experts representing 23 national fire service organizations and allied federal agencies focused on prioritizing the recommendations to reduce firefighter fatalities identified at the first forum.
The recommendations included:
•Develop model legislation for fire apparatus operators and civilians based on information from the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances and the Model Uniform Traffic Code.
•Develop model SOPs and enforcement criteria.
•Develop model procedures for marking highway emergency scenes based on current standards and requirements (DOT, American National Standards Institute, International Safety Equipment Association).
•Encourage the use of reflective markings inside vehicle compartments and the interiors of vehicle doors.
•Develop a layered (modular) training program that includes specific training for all levels of an organization on their responsibilities related to emergency vehicle safety. Modules would be developed for responders, driver/operators, company officers and chief officers, as well as emergency vehicle technicians (mechanics), instructors, educators, and local government officials.
•Develop and implement a legitimate proficiency testing process to assess drivers’ performance.
•Develop a certification/recertification program as an extension of the layered training program and proficiency testing process. It could be based on the Commercial Drivers Licensing process and should be similar to the Redcard program for wildland certification.
•Assess opportunities to expand the use of traffic-control devices to enhance responder safety.
•Conduct research to assess the effectiveness of the following:
- orange or yellow seatbelts;
- seatbelt extensions and brightly colored seatbelt buckle receptors;
- seatbelt lights at the officer’s position and above an occupied but unbelted seat;
- remote-control exterior mirrors;
- lateral acceleration warning devices;
- vehicle visibility enhancements on apparatus; and
- retro-reflective enhancements to personal protective equipment, including traffic vests.
•Implement an awareness campaign to help motivate emergency service personnel about the seriousness of the emergency vehicle safety issues and the need for change in behavior and attitude. This motivation must take place at all levels.
Additional information about the National Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative is available at the USFA Web site at http:// www.usfa.fema.gov/dhtml/inside-usfa/vehicle.cfm.
- Represented at this forum, in addition to the FEMA/USFA and DOT agencies, were the American Ambulance Association, Congressional Fire Services Institute, Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association, Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association, Fire Department of New York, Fire Department Safety Officers’ Association, Glatfelter Insurance Group, General Services Administration Engineering and Commodity Management Division, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Fire Service Training Association, Medical Transportation Insurance Professionals, National Fire Protection Association, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, National Safety Council, National Truck Equipment Association, National Volunteer Fire Council, North American Fire Training Directors, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, Training Resources and Data Exchange, and the U.S. Army.