Sunday, June 12, 2011

Front Seat Responsibilities; On Both the LEFT and RIGHT Sides


Front Seat Responsibilities Artwork by Paul Combs All Rights Reserved
Front Seat Responsibilities; On Both the LEFT and RIGHT Sides, Today's TKT post and insights are in response to the publication and media attention brought forward from Orange County (FLA) fire and Rescue with the releaseof a video clip depicting less that desirable defensive driving techniques and questionable public relations and sensitivity. The media clip shows Orange County (FLA) Fire Rescue Engine 58 while enroute to a reported MVA with entrapment becomes embroiled in a vivid example of fire truck road rage with a POV which almost contributed to an accident and loss of control of the apparatus and the potential for serious repercussions to the entire crew of the engine.

The mounted dash cam within the cab of the engine captures the entire event and provides a shining example of what NOT to do while engaged in emergency response OR what to emulate in the form of company officer leadership.
In the video, the apparatus drive and the company officer can be seen tailgating a car and continuously trying to alert the driver by using the horn over and over again, even with the sirens blaring.

Fire officials said the apparatus driver could have veered into the other two lanes, which were open, to avoid confrontation, but instead he tried to cut off the driver of the car while dash cameras caught officer flipping off the driver.

The Orange County Fire Department said Fire Fighter David Jordan and Lt. Thomas Veal were caught on the dash cameras of the fire truck driving recklessly, hitting a curb and giving a driver the middle finger. FF Jordan, the driver of Engine 58 who had been with the Orange County Fire Department for 22 years, was fired and Lt. Veal was demoted.

The Orange County Fire Department stated, "If this car in the video would have stopped he would have no choice but to run the vehicle into the back of the car," a fire official said. The Fire Department said it is apologizing for the bad behavior of the two firefighters. "It's at the point where he put the community at risk and his crew," the official said. A Division Fire Chief said it's the closest thing to road rage he's ever seen from a firefighter. "I don't know what the actual road rage definition is, but would I say it's overly aggressive? Yes. We're not going to tolerate that here," said Orange County Fire and Rescue Division Chief Brian Morrow. "(They're) very, very lucky (it was) a near miss. They didn't roll the truck and they never would have made it to the call."

The video also showed FF Jordan running over a curb at 40 miles per hour and then the fire truck swerving back into the lane as it continued to respond to the emergency.

"We are very lucky for what we call a near miss. They didn't roll the truck, and they never would have made it to the call," the official said. There was a compliment of a four firefighters on the apparatus at the time of the event. Officials said the video also showed Lt. Veal not wearing a seat belt. This was the second time the company officer was found not wearing his seat belt.


We often talk about the responsibilities of riding the seat; which is typically in reference to the right front or Officer's Seat. But in reality; Front Seat Responsibilities; On Both the LEFT and RIGHT Sides of the apparatus cab are paramount, integrated and shared. It is the ultimate responsibility of the company officer (assigned, acting or covering) to monitor, control and provide leadership in the conduct of all operations of the company; its crew, the apparatus and its subsequent operations and tasks.

It also is the obligation, requirement and duty of the Apparatus Driver (Chauffeur, engineer, operator) to operate, control and drive the apparatus safely with due diligence, defensively and conscientiously. What the driver does or doesn’t do will affect the entire riding crew as will the commissions, omissions and derelictions of the company officer.

It would be naive to think the occurrence depicted from Orange County Fire and Rescue is an isolated instance. This type of behavior and driving habits has occurred and is occurring in other organizations around the country to varying degrees.

Some under the radar and obscured; in others, obviously apparent and blatantly condoned. Just look at state and national firefighter injury and LODD statistics to see our track record related to apparatus response, operations and driving. More importantly; look at your own company, department or crew.

For the driver and officer of Orange County Fire and Rescue Engine 58; they just “didn’t get it”. In most organizations, the Company officer and Apparatus Engineer; “Do Get it”. The leadership of Orange County Fire & Rescue took prompt actions to address the seriousness of the issues resulting from this event.

Let’s learn from this incident, look for opportunities and ways to enhance and improve our Front Seat Responsibilities; from supervisory actions, accountability and leadership, to defensive driving, safety conscious behaviors and attitudes, safer emergency response methods and improved and directed responsibilities towards our entire crew and the public at-large. The next time you’re riding the seat or behind the wheel- think about what’s going on as you make your way in response to that incident or returning to quarters. What are you doing to maintain the safety of your company and contribute towards the safety of the public we are sworn to serve.
  • The Front Seat Responsibilities are on both the left and right sides of the cab and must be shared.
  • And, are also in the seats riding backwards (buckling up).
  • The question is; “Do YOU get it?”
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