With EVOC courses being more and more common - just what is the responsibility of the driver ?

 Is it merely to get a rig to a fire - is it to pump water ?

 

 Is there any part of the course that teaches how to safely leave and safely re-enter the fire house ?

 

 Why put the new guy behind the wheel when you don't know how he drives in his own car ?

 

 Does the apparatus officer bare any responsibility if the driver is negligent ?

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just what is the responsibility of the driver ?

Responsibility is the safe operation and movement of the vehicle, to drive with DUE REGARD and to get the crew safely to the destination and back. They are responsible for checking the rig over at the start of their shift or be familiar with issues, checks, etc if at a POC or volly dept.

 

Is it merely to get a rig to a fire - is it to pump water ?

 

Much more beyond that. In fact EVOC and driver/operator are different courses. EVOC would be for emergency vehicle operations, police car, ambulance, chief vehicle, to fire engine or ladder truck. It covers the basic aspects of operating with DUE REGARD and stresses defensive driving, expecting the unexpected, etc. When it comes to pumping or aerial operations, EVOC stops, you are now into the driver/operator aspect of rig operations. EVOC is more involved with getting too and from, not hat is done on scene.

 

 Is there any part of the course that teaches how to safely leave and safely re-enter the fire house ?

 

For EVOC specific? Not any I've been through. Driver/operator, yes, but EVOC, no. Again EVOC is about driving the emergency vehicle, such a vehicle could be a police car or ambulance that may not be sitting at a station.

 

Why put the new guy behind the wheel when you don't know how he drives in his own car ?

 

That is a dept call. Quite frankly it would be stupid for a dept to put a new person behind the wheel unless they have been tested and checked off by the dept. EVOC is like taking the written test to get one's temps. Sure you can drive, but sitting through a course doesn't make one an expert, or even a trusted operator. They should still have practice driving the dept's apparatus.....this can be done at any time and should be done before alarms go off and there is a question about ability.

 

Does the apparatus officer bare any responsibility if the driver is negligent ?

Depends. Some would tell you the officer is ultimately responsible for the company including the driver, but it depends upon the situation. If an officer orders the driver to speed up and a crash occurs, yeah, they probably could be held accountable too. In fact an officer telling a driver to drive faster, speed up etc is an UNLAWFUL order and should not be obeyed. The driver is responsible for getting people to the scene, if they get beat in by other companies, so be it. However, an officer can and does have the responsibility to tell the driver to slow down, especially in adverse conditions, traffic, etc, if they believe there is a concern. Another issue would be if the driver finds something on a rig inspection prior to a shift and informs the officer. If the officer feigns off the concern and the vehicle loses control etc on a call, the officer could be negligent.

 

It depends upon the situations involved, but really if the officer is concerned about the driver, they can either have someone else drive, or get the person out there and do some driver training, they can and should set some ground rules and be the extra set of eyes for the driver. The officer can nag if they want until they are confident the driver is responsible and safe, because the safety of the company is both an officer and driver responsibility.

Thanks - so where can we find  "Driver/operator" regs, rules, procedures. Are there such thing in a fire department or does normal driving rules not apply in the fire services?

 I know if I hit some one with my car I am liable - if a fire truck hits some one when its just out cruising around - are they liable ?

Driver/operator is a certification course. Here in Wisconsin there is driver/operator for both engine and aerial, so I can't speak for other states on how things are set up etc. The courses are specific to the apparatus and more involved than EVOC. I would say to look into the rules and regulations for your state as far as minimum requirements.

 

As for normal driving rules, yes, they do apply. The issue is that the weight, handling, clearance, and so forth will be much different in a fire rig, or even ambulance, as compared to other motorists. Same rules apply, in regards to non-emergency driving, but with emergency driving, again, it is about DUE REGARD. For instance Due Regard does not mean one can just blow a red light because they have lights and sirens on, they still have to come to a stop and proceed when they see that cross traffic is stopped, etc.

 

As for liability in an accident, depends. Most departments will have an accident reporting procedue in place and I can say for ours, we are NOT to admit to liability to the other driver etc. We do have to tell the police what occurred, but are not to make any claims of liability on the scene.

 

I will say with certainty that we had a few rigs involved in accidents with varying degrees. On one call several years ago, I was riding backwards on an engine where we clipped the bumper of a vehicle that kept moving as we passed them and turned the corner. That issue almost went to court and I had to give a deposition, but was settled out of court.

 

On another accident, one of our ladder trucks was heading back to their station when a car pulled out and was hit by the ladder. The car driver mistook a school zone sign as a stop sign and pulled out in front of the ladder and the ladder was unable to stop in time. The driver was not liable nor ticketed or have any other issues. There was one with a response to an alarm and road conditions were bad and there was an accident, again the driver was not liable.

 

One of our "best" instances was an engine proceeding to a hospital to pick up personnel who transported a pt in the ambulance. The engine was hit by a car and the driver of the car was adament the engine hit him. When the police arrived the car driver was accusing the fire engineer of hitting him, running a red, etc, etc. The pump engineer pointed to the rig window and told the police there was a drive cam. The cam clearly showed the car running a flashing red with the engine having a flashing yellow......yeah, the car driver went to jail for DUI, too.

 

So I would say it is fair to say it depends upon the circumstances involved. You still have a responsibility to stop and ensure all parties are OK. If on a response, this means your response is over and someone else needs to take your place (more reason to drive with DUE REGARD). However, accidents happen, even if you hit someone else, it doesn't make you liable. As for personal driving records, an accident with an emergency vehicle doesn't neceissarly affect one's personal driving record.

Rick, How important is driver training? Do you pay attention to all the deaths and injuries there are a year involving fire apparatus. Here in New York you  need EVOC before you can drive a rig. We don't have a driver/operator coarse here that i'm aware of. The best driver training is done in your own department with your own rigs. Even though i have had driving tractor trailers, dump trucks and construction equipment for years i will do driver training in our department every year. I will also take our trucks out and drive them just to stay familiar with them. 

Being a lieutenant i normally don't drive. But my opinion is driver training is one of the most important training that needs to be done. The rigs do us no good if they don't make it to the scene. The taxpayers have way to much money invested in our apparatus to not make sure there is competent people driving them. I realize accidents will happen. $100,000-$500,000 or more pieces of equipment can be replaced. But to wreck them and kill or injure or own or someone else because of poor driver training is unacceptable. What value do you put on a human life? 

 I totally agree with all I have read so far - but it seems that if a in house accident happened - lets say backing into the house - the driver doesn't see some one inside and hits that person - is the driver responsible - do you guys use road guides - isn't there a procedure or rules for leaving or entering the house ? 

but it seems that if a in house accident happened - lets say backing into the house - the driver doesn't see some one inside and hits that person - is the driver responsible - do you guys use road guides - isn't there a procedure or rules for leaving or entering the house ?

Rick,

What is the crux of the issue here that you are trying to get at? Was there an incident and now questions at hand, or are you looking at trying to establish some criteria, etc? I get if you don't want to answer publically, but it seems you are asking for more of a dept protocol/policy as opposed to generalities involved with an EVOC course.

 

 

EVOC is the very basics, it really doesn't have much bearing other than essentially a glorified driver's ed course. Like driver's ed, only the basics are taught like defensive driving, watching what's ahead, knowing your clearnances, etc. Anything in regards to legalities tend to be general in nature and little if any time is spent explaining it in an EVOC course.

 

When it comes to driver training, EVOC is a nice little cert to make the dept's insurance carrier happy, but the real driver training is the responsibility of the dept. That includes training personnel in driving and operating rigs and have protocol in place like requiring spotters when backing, etc. That responsibilty comes down to the dept to ensure the people they allow to drive the rigs not only have the required certifications, but also show they can be trusted to drive and operate the rigs.

 

It seems you are asking more into things that essentially depends upon the case involved. When backing, it is prudent to have someone outside to spot you as you are backing. There is also a reason for the back up alerts on such vehicles to alert people there is a vehicle backing up.

 

One can watch any Youtube video of FDNY and see how personnel will clear the sidewalks and street as the rig pulls out and backs in. For us, we will not proceed out the apron until traffic is stopped. When backing, there will be personnel to spot the rig.

 

When it comes to what you are asking, essentially, yes, the driver IS responsible. The issue is as to extent as such scenarios are a dept policy basis. For instance if the dept has no policy on backing a rig and using spotters and there is an accident, it is tough to pin everything solely on the driver if there was no policy in place. Much of this stuff starts at the chief. I will say there have been incidents out there and degrees of discipline, or issues involved vary by the situation. Although, there is a difference on where the accident occurs if on dept property or in public.

  Thanks - there doesn't seem to be any true "standards" - I guess that's what I am looking for - I used to teach EVOC - Its a good "start" yet from what I've seen all to often is - at least in full time paid Departments - there seems to be no standard or rhyme or reason for the most part.

 They put the rookies behind the wheel and off they go. Instead of impressing the true responsibility - they create a situation of being untouchable - therefore no responsibility. If a truck is out "Training" and they side swipe a car - tear off a mirror - like the one poster here stated - "We are told to never admit fault" - damages to vehicles are ignored - that tends to build some bad habits - wouldn't you guys agree ?

I would say you're right about the lack of a "true standard" and my hunch would be is that is because the municipality or dept's legal would ultimately be in charge, not the dept.

I come from a paid dept and the last time I took an EVOC course was as a volunteer, and that is because EVOC is not required for employment, but driver/operator is to drive. I will honestly say that I have seen rookies placed in the driver's seat and if I'm in the officer seat, I understand the issues and will offer advice and take them out, just as it was done when I first started. As an officer it should be imperative the driver understands their role and to also be there to help guide them. For me personally, I hug the left line when driving, because I know if I'm there, the right side clears. I will also pass that on to others.

 

As for being "untouchable", I would disagree because the reality is such issues will tend to be a private converstaion as opposed to publically aired. I have known people who were put on probation etc because of incidents as well as other incidents that were looked into. I will state for fact that there is an "oh shit" factor for any driver, even on such an "untouchable" dept.

 

As for admitting fault, I was the one who said that. I said that because that is the city policy when in a city vehicle and such policy was put in by the city's legal dept. Essentially, the issue isn't about feigning fault or responsibility, but since (for us at least) this would be a city legal issue, admitting fault to the other driver can be problemsome legally. I did say that the employee is required to tell the PD what happened etc, but not to admit such things to the other driver. Most likely reason being is the possibility for lawsuit.

 

So when it comes to not admitting fault and building bad habits, I would disagree with your assertions. I was on a rig involved in an accident where there were legal proceedings and I had to give a deposition....wasn't fun.....so I can understand the legal aspect to not admit fault to another driver. The same could be said with one's personal insurance in their own vehicle, to not admit fault to another driver. They would have to tell the PD what happened, and let the PD do their investigation, but freely admitting fault could be detrimental, especially if there are other unforeseen factors. I think that is the reasonings you see such legal aspects involved, and has nothing to do with bad habits.

 

I will say the incident I was involved with and a deposition given, that I was ready to testify in court that the other driver did not yield to the rig and continued driving at a slow speed when the rig turned the corner. I was the only one who had the best vantage point to see this and had the rig driver admitted fault, there would be no room for argument.

There are standards. NFPA 1500 & 1002 cover Fire Apparatus Drivers. Each department should have in place policies & procedures that cover driver duties & responsibilities. If you don't, that could be an issue should someone backing into quarters hit someone. Assistance with developing policy can be found by research. There are several resources on line that can be used as a template to develop policies or contact your insurance provider. The NFFF website can be helpful as well as FF close calls.

Rick, after reading your profile i can understand your question a bit better. You and I both know here in New York there is no standardization hardly at all. I asked my buddy at the PESH office your question. He gave this answer and could only speak of New York. If i was to back up one of our trucks into our firehouse and hit someone this will be pretty much how it will go down.

He is going to respond to our department with me already being the guy responsible. He is going to do his investigation under the assumption there was no guide or writing policies in place. As far as he is concerned the driver will always be in the wrong. He will write his report on his finding the department may or may not get a fine depending on if polices were in place or not. If this is to go to court he is going to testify what his investigation relieved. He stated bottom line is if someone backs into a person in the firehouse driver of said apparatus is 99% of the time is going to be held liable. This doesn't mean the the Chief won't be held liable also. He stated bottom line is every department needs a policy for backing up fire apparatus. Spotters are needed and if no spotter is around; the driver needs to get out and do a walk around before backing up.

I hope this helps.

If an incident were to occur, lawyers will subpoena the training records for the crew, the department's SOP's, maintenance records and "black box" data if available just to start with. With that in mind, you could mentally play out the courtroom scene of various personnel being questioned. Worst case scenario:

Plaintiff's lawyer: So as the driver are you not responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle and the safety of the crew and other motorists?

Driver: Umm, I guess so. 

Lawyer: When was the last time you trained on said safe operations?

Driver: Umm, last year sometime, I think. (Things go downhill from here for the driver.)

Lawyer: So, Capt. Training Officer person, what did the class consist of? How do you train new drivers? How do you train existing drivers? How often?

Training Officer: Uhhh, we put on a class when there is enough interest. (And downhill for the Training Officer)

Lawyer: So as the officer on the truck, I know you are not physically responsible for steering the truck and operating the pedals, but do you ensure the driver is capable of performing his/her job to department standards?

Officer: We train on department SOP's once a year.

Lawyer: How do ensure the crew fully understands the SOP's?

Officer: I set out the station's copy of the SOP's in the lounge and ask everyone to read them when they get the chance. (Downhill from there for the officer)

Lawyer: So Chief, how often do you review SOP's to ensure training and operations meet currently accepted State and national standards.

Chief: You can't put that on me! I inherited this mess from the last Chief! (Wow, not just downhill, we're freefalling!)

If you can imagine this courtroom scene, you can probably imagine how many zeroes are on the check the defendants have to write to the plaintiff. Unfortunately nowadays, we can't ignore thinking of how we're going to defend our actions in court. If the best defense is a good offense, we should be proactive in every aspect of our department; training, operations, dispatching, equipment, water supply, etc. Yes some aspects are out of our control. If the city can't afford to buy a desperately needed truck, we need to show that the authorities above us were made aware of age, maintenance issues, etc.

I guess everything boils down to what I like to call the "Six O'Clock News Rule." Notwithstanding the media's occasional inaccurate/selective reporting of facts, I don't ever want me or my crew to end up on the news in a bad light having done something we can't defend. The taglines leading into some hypothetical stories on the Six O'Clock News:

"Coming up later, a local fire station is destroyed when a fire truck backs into it." (No spotter)

"Our top story tonight, a pregnant woman and her unborn child are killed when a fire truck runs a red light." (No due regard)

Rick, 

I'll try to answer line for line and then some suggestions I have seen in different departments:

   Like others have stated EVOC is a good start and should be a required minimum for any one wanting to operate your departments apparatus. Drivers responsibility is to ensure that all equipment, personnel and paint that were on the apparatus when you left the station is still on it when you return.

   This should read safely get the apparatus to the fire and operate all equipment on the apparatus.

   EVOC is divided (or should be) into classroom and driving sections. Classroom deals with vehicle dynamics, safe practices...etc. The driving section is supposed to be driving a timed obstacle course that is set up in relationship to the size of the vehicle. You should complete this section in the apparatus you are going to be operating. There is no portion of the course that covers coming out of the House, but there are a number of backing maneuvers that would mimic backing into the House.

   New guy should never be the operator until trained but this is best handled by department SOP's

   If the operator is negligent in operation of the apparatus and it results in an accident then the officer of the truck, chief of department, and potentially the town could all bear part of the criminal/civil responsibility.

 Now the suggestions:

Minimum requirement for driver training: Off of probation

                                                          EVOC Class

                                                        Minimum number of driving hours per piece of apparatus 

                                                  Demonstrate the ability to operate all equipment on the truck

                                                     Final authorization to drive given after check ride with Chief

A drivers training program I helped set up at one department required 10 hours of drive time per truck, with that time broken down for residential streets, highway driving, country roads and night driving. In addition you needed 2 hours of obstacle course driving prior to being allowed on the road. All of the time had to be split with a minimum of three driver trainers. Once the driving hours were complete the trainers would "vote" on whether the new operator was able to handle the apparatus. Simple majority won the "vote" and that information was passed onto the Chief. The new operator then had to show that they could operate the apparatus while on scene.

For the Engine the had to be able to obtain a draft, operate from tank water, and operate from a hydrant. All water operations had to be done with a minimum of 2 handlines in operation. For the Ladder (it had a pump so all engine operations were also included) they had to be able to set up for aerial operations, and smoothly move the aerial at the direction of a training officer. Once the Ladder was set up a 5 gallon bucket of water was attached to the end of the fly section by 10' of rope...that made the smoothness of operation real easy to watch. For the Rescue they had to be able to start on hydraulic motors for the Jaws, operate the light tower, get the generator running and operate the cascade unit. These were conducted on training nights or whenever we could get several people to assist.

Once the new operator demonstrated they could do all the steps to operate the equipment, they were then to have a meeting with the chief. The chief could then do a check ride with the person and require a demonstration of any equipment or the chief could accept the vote of the driver training officers.

All of our members had a card signed by the chief stating what equipment that they could operate. When you passed on a new piece of equipment you got a new updated card. The line officers would fill out an evaluation form, without the operators knowledge, at random times during the course of the year based on the way the operator handled the apparatus during emergency and non emergency runs. You needed to have at least 4 evaluation forms per year on any of the trucks and complete EVOC every other year to maintain the ability to operate the apparatus. 

These steps were all written into an SOP so that everyone knew what was expected and to prove that the standard did not change. The only exception was given if you took a pump operations class within a year and then it was the chiefs discretion to accept that for the Engine and Ladder (pumping section only).

All of these steps were set up to ensure that when the driver training officers and the chief said you were good enough to operate the trucks you actually had an idea how to operate them. As stringent as these conditions were we never had a shortage of people who wanted to become operators.

One last bit of advice...keep all of your apparatus and driver training files in a separate filing cabinet. If something happens you may lose access to the filing cabinet that they are kept in. A department near us was involved in a serious accident. Shortly after the accident the police department showed up and secured the files by placing a locking device on the file cabinet that they were kept in. All of that departments files were kept in the same file cabinet and it was sometime before they could access their letters, bills and other daily type of files.

Sorry its so long but hope it helps

Marc 

                                                 

 

   

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