Prince George’s County (MD) has become one of the only nationwide jurisdictions placing a new emphasis on firefighters wearing seat belts while en route to emergencies.
The College Park Fire/EMS Station has retrofitted a fire engine and ladder truck with ReadyReach seat belt systems and a second fire engine is in the process of having one added. The safety belt system extends seat belt straps for firefighters to easily put on even when in full fire protective gear and is located outside and above the seat, as opposed to behind it.
Mike Wilbur, a lieutenant with the Fire Department of the City of New York, created ReadyReach by working with Indiana Mills & Manufacturing Inc., a designer and manufacturer of advanced safety systems.
Wilbur has gotten know the command staff in Maryland through his son, Nick, who has been a live-in volunteer firefighter at the station for the past four-and-a-half years. This has led him to donate the seat belts to the College Park station and have them added to a fire engine and ladder truck last month.
Each retrofit costs anywhere from $100 to $1,000, but many fire engine manufacturers will begin installing these advanced seat belts as a standard.
College Park Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Corrigan said firefighters have no problem wearing ReadyReach seat belts as they are so easy to get on and off. He said ambulances will not need to be retrofitted, because personnel riding in ambulances and other smaller apparatus are not wearing full firefighter suits.
Nick Wilbur said he is excited that his father is doing something to improve the safety of firefighters and especially pleased that the station he works for was able to complete the retrofits.
“He had been noticing that in all the wrecks that were happening firefighters weren’t wearing seat belts so he started working on trying to improve the usability of seat belts,” Nick Wilbur said of his father. “He’s done a great job. He’s worked very hard. I’m happy and all the guys here are happy that he’s been able to do this.”
According to a 2011 U.S. Fire Administration report on firefighter injuries nationally, between 2006 and 2008 there were roughly 4,880 annual firefighter injuries that occurred while traveling in apparatus. There were 81,070 injuries overall, the report says.
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