|Chris Mc Loone|
As usual, the outlook from industry leaders is good. The various segments are expecting continued growth, albeit slow but steady, and no one is anticipating a year like 2008 when the economy tanked. That being said, anything could happen despite our best educated guesses for what the future holds.
All that news is good to hear. A healthy market means that companies can invest in research and development and reinvest in themselves to produce cutting-edge products that push the boundaries of ingenuity. A healthy economy in general means that firefighter inventors who consider taking a shot at creating a tool we can all use to make our operations more efficient and safer might be more inclined to take the leap because money will be available to them to invest in their projects.
My predictions for 2015 are a little different in that they revolve around our operations a little more.
First, apparatus operators across the board are going to slow down. Why wouldn’t they? It’s clear that driving too fast leads to preventable accidents, injuries, and sometimes death-both for firefighters and private vehicle operators. It’s so obvious that everyone will slow down, right?
To make sure that apparatus operators slow down, the company officers sitting across from them are going to firmly ensure that the safety of the crew responding to whatever the emergency is supersedes the adrenalin coursing through the driver’s veins and will order him to slow down. We hear it all the time that we don’t do anyone in trouble any good if we get into our own trouble en route to a call. The good news is that our officers are going to ensure drivers slow down.
The wild cards are the personal vehicle operators who have become so distracted that they fail to see even the brightest warning light systems, chevron striping, or scene lighting and manage to run into us while we are driving or when we are already parked trying to protect an accident scene. What this means is that during 2015, drivers and officers are going to be even more vigilant than they are now in making sure we are looking out for these distracted drivers to avoid collisions with them. We would all like to think that the moms and dads driving their kids to school, soccer practice, band practice, and other activities were paying exclusive attention to the road, but these days we know that this just not the case.
As we all work to adjust the behavior of current drivers, I predict that in 2015 instructors all over the country are going to enhance their driver training programs to ensure that tomorrow’s apparatus operators will get into fewer accidents and perhaps, more importantly, experience fewer close calls. Close calls are just that-close. And, they are that way only because of luck. Fewer opportunities for close calls should lead to fewer accidents, and I’m optimistic that 2015 will get us on the right track.
Is all that overly optimistic? I don’t think so. We have worked so hard in recent years to reduce injuries and line-of-duty deaths at fire scenes that it’s the logical progression to take a good look at the trips to and from incidents and identify where we can all tighten up. My first chief in the fire service used to say he was more worried about the trips to and from a scene and especially backing into the firehouse than the actual calls. For the leaders, don’t be afraid to take your operators aside to say, “Let me tell you something about driving an emergency vehicle: When you come to a traffic light, you stop.” Speaking from experience, it only takes saying that once to most new drivers to change behavior.
We should all be tired of hearing about preventable apparatus accidents, especially those that lead to injury or death. Let’s do everything we can in 2015 to get these trucks to where they are the most useful-at the scene of a fire where our men and women can perform their duties.