Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roadway Safety a Lost Art

Well, I guess its time for another installment of my thoughts.  One topic that gets plenty of attention (with high visability vests) but not enough attention on the emergency scene is that of roadway safety.  I feel like the most dangerous thing we do on a regular basis is operate on the interstate and roadways at emergency incidents.  There are so many variables that we can't control out there and many times I am terrified when operating on the interstate. Put distracted drivers, speed, and add some red lights and you have a great recipe for an injury or LODD.

We all have our wonderful high visability, retroreflective, break away vests that DOT requires us to wear and most departments require on all roadway incidents (not just on federally funded roadways).  However, those sometimes seem to be more like targets for drivers than a safety mechanism for us.  Firefighters, police, and medics continually underestimate the stupidity and lack of care that drivers have while passing through an emergency scene.  We have so many distracted drivers on the roads now a days that hardly ever do we run a call where someone doesn't almost cause a wreck while we are enroute to a call or while we operate on scene.  So why don't we protect ourselves better when on the roadways?

With all of that said, we still operate with such a sense of security while we stand around at accidents.  We often position our apparatus based on how we can get out most quickly, what is easiest, or where ever the police tell us to.  Too often we fail to consider personnel safety when considering apparatus placement.  We need to be looking at how to best protect the scene for our people.  The police may give you a hard time, but a hard time is better than having to knock on a door and tell someone that their husband, dad, or brother is dead or hurt.  In my area we have a generally good relationship with the HP and the PD, so this is never an issue, unless the incident is of an extended nature.

Last November, in my former department a firefighter was tragically killed and another firefighter was severely injured in a interstate incident.  If I laid out the whole scene for you and explained what happened, you wouldn't believe how a car hit them but it did.   Two trucks were positioned to protect the scene at proper angles and what one would think were proper distances, but a car somehow snuck in between the guardrail and the tailboard of an apparatus and struck two firefighters.  In speaking with some who were there, they weren't sure they could have done anything differently to prevent the incident, which terrifies me.  But we all know that our job is the only job where sometimes you do everything right and get killed, and that day was a testament to that.

The point of this post is to cause some conversation concerning roadway safety, to make sure if your department responds two trucks to interstate calls to use one to block traffic well ahead of the scene, and to ensure that no one reading this takes their safety on any call on a roadway for granted.  In case you haven't noticed people don't care about us, they are worried about facetweeting about how their day was so long and hurrying home.  They forget that emergency workers have families we like to go home to.  So next day you work, sit down and discuss how safety at roadway (interstate and others) incidents can be improved on your company, how can you deal with distracted drivers, and most of all how can we all make it home in the morning.  Take the time to eliminate the non chalante attitude on your next roadway incident, because complacency on the road could lead to a tragedy in your town.

Until the next time, stay safe and stay trained.


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