Oregon Unveils New Tool for Fire Apparatus Driver Training

The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) is the home of the Fire Training and Certification Programs for the State of Oregon. Today, DPSST unveiled its newest fire service training tool, a 2016 Freightliner truck with a skid frame. This new resource became possible through an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This new tool will be added to DPSST’s Skid Avoidance for Fire Apparatus Drivers (SAFAD) Program that addresses the second leading cause of line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) in the nation’s fire service: driving emergency vehicles. 

Most fire apparatus drivers learn to drive expensive emergency vehicles on the streets of the communities they serve. Approximately 80 percent of the state of Oregon is served by dedicated volunteers who drive their personal vehicles to the fire station and then respond to an emergency incident with a multiton emergency vehicle with lights and sirens active, in some cases without any formalized training. 

To accomplish its goals, which mirror many of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/16-initiatives/), the DPSST SAFAD Program uses both classroom and hands-on training. The classroom training incorporates information from the various national programs listed above and begins to lay the foundation for belief, misconception, and consequence. The class includes a review of state motor vehicle codes and regulations, analysis of accidents involving fire apparatus, and basic driving instruction. Case studies are used throughout the classroom portion so that fire apparatus drivers understand they are accountable for their actions and that they play an important part in changing the culture of the fire service, both when responding to and returning from incidents in fire apparatus as well as personal vehicles. 

The hands-on portion is accomplished using a specially designed training platform. The platform is called a “skid truck” and mounts under the Freightliner truck that simulates a fire engine. The skid truck, equipped with lights and siren, has hydraulic cylinders attached to each corner that allow the vehicle to be lifted while in operation simulating a skid but in a controlled setting. Oregon’s geography, weather and population are diverse—from the high desert of Eastern Oregon, the mountains of Central Oregon, the urban and suburban communities in the Willamette Valley, to the Pacific Coast Highway (101) that follows the Oregon Coast. The SAFAD program is ideal in preparing Oregon firefighters for the driving and weather challenges they will encounter when responding to incidents across the state. 

Since DPSST implemented SAFAD in 2009, more than 6,000 firefighters have received the training program. Oregon has seen a marked decrease in the number of vehicle crashes involving fire apparatus responding to and returning from emergency incidents. Before the program was implemented, 10 crashes occurred each year on average involving fire apparatus. After DPSST’s SAFAD program was implemented, that number has been drastically reduced. More important, since the program has been implemented, there have been no line-of-duty deaths in fire apparatus in the state. While this change can be attributed to a number of factors including increased awareness by state and national fire service organizations and publications, we believe the SAFAD program has also played a major role in changing the culture of the Oregon fire service. 

In 2012 Oregon’s SAFAD Program was recognized by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Congressional Fire Service Institute which bestowed DPSST with its Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award. 

DPSST serves more than 41,000 public safety professionals of which approximately 13,000 are career and volunteer firefighters. On an annual basis, DPSST’s Fire Training Program reaches more than 10,000 firefighters through classes offered at the Oregon Public Safety Academy and through its regional delivery program. 

For more information on Skid Car and Skid Truck http://www.skidcar.com/.

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