Government Fleet Top News

Department of Homeland Security Makes Vehicle Safety a Priority

December 15, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response (DHS) in October released the Fire Service Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative report.The report is the product of an initiative jointly sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the Department of Transportation´s Federal Highway Administration to enhance the safety of firefighters while responding and returning from emergencies and while operating on the roadway, according to Fire Chief magazine.In September, DHS announced that it had partnered, through the USFA, with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the National Volunteer Fire Council in its initiative to reduce the number of firefighters killed in emergency vehicle accidents, usually the second-leading cause of firefighter fatalities each year, accounting for about 25 percent of the death toll.“The vast majority of firefighter deaths while responding or returning are preventable. We must do everything that we can to provide our members with the information that they need to be safe,” said Harold Schaitberger, IAFF general president. “Our members face these risks every day, and this project will make them safer as they do so.”“As crashes involving privately owned vehicles are the leading cause of volunteer firefighter on-duty fatalities responding and returning, this is a major issue of concern to the NVFC and the volunteer fire service,” said NVFC Chairman Philip Stittleburg.The report contains detailed recommendations developed from this initiative regarding standards and standardized operating procedures, training, and technology that could be used to increase emergency vehicle operations safety, as well as the roadway safety operations of firefighters and other emergency responders. It also includes examples of best practices from several fire departments throughout the United States that have innovative emergency vehicle safety mitigation techniques and technologies.The recommendations address seatbelt use, driver selection and training, policies regarding alcohol use while driving, intersection safety, and fire apparatus and emergency vehicle safety design.As a follow-up, the IAFC, IAFF, NVFC and others plan to develop campaigns for their constituent groups of the fire service — career and volunteer, firefighters and fire officers — to attack the problem of vehicle deaths on every front, according the USFA.In the meantime, limited quantities of the publication are available for free by calling 800-561-3356 or 301-447-1189. It can also be downloaded at www.usfa.fema.gov via the “Publications” link. Requests for the publication also may be faxed to 301-447-1213. For more information about the report and other USFA efforts in emergency vehicle safety, visit www.usfa.fema.gov/inside-usfa/research/vehicle.shtm.

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