By Frank R. Myers
If a regulator, government agency or lawyer shows up demanding on-the-spot documentation of current maintenance, fire departments need to be able to comply. What steps can you take to make sure you’re fully prepared? Documentation and preparedness without extended delay can speak volumes and shows that you are responsible and can access pertinent information when needed.
Based on my personal experience while working in the emergency response division and subsequently as a fire service instructor for driver engineers, two occurrences come to mind. One was being prepared for the “State” inspection to assure that we had all required equipment according to their guidelines. The second was providing regular information about all necessary certifications, training, and driver’s license checks.
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Once a year there would be an officer from my department delegated for a “special assignment” to assure that the mandatory equipment was on all the apparatus. This included aerial, pumper, rescue (EMS), and other specialty vehicles. Inadvertently, items get taken off trucks that are never used. But when the “State” inspectors would arrive, everyone would make a mad dash to assure that the mandated equipment was on the apparatus.
Certain types of hose appliances and tools, EMS gear (even though more improved ways and devices were being used), and other items that we would never use on a day-to-day basis, were part of the State requirements. We wanted to stay in compliance and always met the challenge when needed. These items would be readily available when the time came to place them on the trucks.
I recall that on several occasions, when assigned to the training center, I would get an unexpected call from the captain and chief to report to a meeting room. To my astonishment, there was the state inspector. I was introduced to that person by the command staff and was then asked to provide certain required documentation, training, and driver’s license checks for five selected random personnel assigned to our department.
I respectfully asked for some time (about 30 minutes) for me to produce the required items. Luckily our IT department had made a very convenient way to check licenses on the spot. I rushed back downstairs when the task was completed and provided the state inspector with the items he had requested. Then, to my surprise, he asked if I could show them how I go about getting the information for a member’s driver’s license. In the meeting room I had to sign into my account and show them how I checked every individual’s license through the DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles). Once they saw the method, they were satisfied.
Thank goodness IT had programmed a way to get a monthly “exception” report for anyone under the fire department umbrella—which included approximately 800 personnel. What a time-consuming task that would be every month if I had to do 800 driver license checks. That part I did not show them, just the five individuals requested.
Those days of scrambling at the last minute do not need to occur. With today’s electronic abilities, information can be acquired almost instantaneously or with little wait time. If the task is more complicated than that, then there are people, consultants, firms, etc., that can design electronic methods for anyone to obtain the information needed.
Rotating schedules can be programmed to assure that certain items are placed on apparatus when required. The only loophole is when authorities arrive unannounced. However, having the methods in place can assure that you are not caught “off-guard.” As the adage in the Fire Service goes, “If it was not documented, it never happened.”
There are ways of instantaneously uploading information, especially when it comes to abiding by legal requirements and to assure that the required documentation is kept up to date. Legal representatives for injured people, damaged property, etc. are not unaware. They know the ropes and do their homework and try to find any detail that can show negligence. When it comes to monetary compensation, they go for the “deep” pockets. Unfortunately, that can be the municipalities and governments we work for. Getting the right information, that is up to date, and meeting the required standards can go a long way. Responsible and quality people to foresee the probabilities of the “what if” can help prevent further legal action.
Frank R. Myers is a retired Lieutenant with the City of Miami (FL) Fire Rescue, where he served 32 years. Before his retirement, he served at the Training Center for six years as the Driver Engineer Instructor. He works as a consultant for PSTrax.com, provider of an automated digital system that schedules, tracks and documents vehicle, station, PPE, SCBA, drug and critical assets checks for fire departments. For more information: toll-free 888-330-6006; firstname.lastname@example.org.