At the Fire Department Safety Officers Association’s (FDSOA) 28th annual Apparatus Specification and Maintenance Symposium, Jim Juneau kicked the conference off with a keynote covering how firefighters are treated by the law, particularly in cases where firefighters were involved in apparatus MVAs where firefighters, civilians, or both are injured or killed.
Juneau explained that firefighters know they are performing a dangerous job, but the dangers they most often consider are the dangers of the fireground: the fire itself, smoke, searching for victims above the fire, building collapse, getting trapped, etc. But, often they don’t think of the dangers of getting to and from the fire and the consequences of what may go wrong during the response.
Important for any firefighter to consider is that although they may have insurance or may work for a large municipality, there will be consequences if they are operating a fire apparatus and they cause an accident that leads to injury or death. Just a few of these consequences include being charged with criminally negligent homicide; being charged with felony vehicular homicide; a firefighter losing his job; and awards of $15,000,000 and $2,215,000 in an unlawful death law suit. The dollar amounts are staggering, and Juneau reminded everyone that no one has $2,000,000 laying around.
Juneau cited several case studies and the actions that led to various consequences. Some seemed almost unbelievable, yet these things to occur—even to the point of getting caught in a lie on an accident report.
Juneau wrapped his keynote by listing eight things that will get a firefighter in trouble:
- Ignoring national standards.
- Poor vehicle maintenance and inspection habits
- Not using occupant/equipment restraints
- Entering a negative right-of-way intersection
- Excessive speed or crazy driving habits
- Disrespecting railroad crossings
- Backing and maneuvering an apparatus without spotters.
- Intoxication on duty or ignoring it/concealing it.
He ended the presentation by reminding the audience that cost of these apparatus operating mistakes are not always in dollars, but could be in lives lost.