Roundtable: Fire Apparatus Driving and Data Collection

By John “Skip” Coleman

One of the most lethal, disastrous and plaguing problems in the fire service is when our firefighters and apparatus are involved in vehicular accidents. Anyone who has responded to a fire, has felt the “rush” that pulses through your veins while responding. 

As our great friend Billy Goldfeder continually points out to us in his “Secret List” notifications, firefighters all too often are killing or injuring themselves in vehicular accidents. This does not mention the harm and carnage we inflict on civilians in these accidents. 

Many fire service leaders have tried to address this problem. The 2009 (most recent) version of National Fire Protection Association Standard 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, places a mandatory requirement for all apparatus built under that provision to have a vehicle data recorder (VDR), similar to aircraft’s “black box,” that will record vehicle speed, acceleration, deceleration, engine speed, throttle position, anti-lock braking system event, seat occupied status, seat belt status, master optical warning device switch position, time, and date, among other data,.

City attorneys might argue on the wisdom of this requirement from both sides of the argument.  If the recorded information acquired after an accident confirms safe, responsible driving, then they would probably love the indisputable data.  If, on the other hand, the information pointed to irresponsible operation, then the opposite would be true. 

But let’s not miss the real point. As fire apparatus specialist Willie Peters tells us, “The key is: WILL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT MAKE USE OF IT as a training tool or just for punishment after an accident? They should do a routine sampling to see how the rigs are being operated when responding and while riding around town.”

That brings me to this month’s question: Are you using the information obtained from the VDRs in your apparatus? Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.

Skip Coleman: Firefighting RoundtableJohn “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008) and Searching Smarter (Fire Engineering 2011) and 2011 recipient of the FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.

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