More than 300 attendees participated in the 25th Annual Fire Department Safety Officers Association Apparatus Specification & Vehicle Maintenance Symposium in Orlando this week with a focus on safety, new technology and industry updates.
The apparatus symposium included 35 speakers and 26 topics focused on apparatus, technology updates and other related maintenance issues. The new venue of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista hotel was deemed a success by the majority of the attendees. The FDSOA board has already signed on for the 2014 symposium to be held January 19-22 at the same location.
One of the most popular programs was the pre-conference on Sunday afternoon by Jack Sullivan, director of training for the Emergency Responder Safety Institute. Sullivan said he first got involved in roadway safety in 1998 after a horrific highway crash killed an officer from his fire department.
"We used to call it highway safety, but too many people thought it meant an interstate," said Sullivan. "Now, we refer to it as 'roadway' safety."
Sullivan explained that too often we hear afterwards that the incident was 'just a routine call.'
"It's the routine day-to-day call we go to every day — a brush fire, a vehicle fire or other incident."
In the presentation filled with photos and videos of roadway accidents, Sullivan cautioned about the effect of secondary crashes.
"To some extent, we are creating a distraction for drivers on the roadway," he said.
Using one incident in North Carolina where three people were killed, Sullivan cited the lack of traffic control, pre-plans and cross-training with police and other responding agencies for the deaths. He said too often a lack of careful emergency vehicle parking also can contribute to accidents, as well as ineffective coordination and communication at the scene.
The goals for roadway safety should be responder safety and quick clearance of the incident. It's not as easy as it used to be. Sullivan recalled that in 1972, he could stop traffic by simply walking into traffic and holding up his hand.
"Today, however, that level of respect for the badge is not there," Sullivan said.
Incident size-up, protection of the scene, a unified command and advance warning of the accident site all contribute to a safe roadway response, Sullivan advised. In addition, police cars make poor blocking vehicles.
"If it's the only thing between you and the traffic, it's probably not enough to protect you from an accident," he said.
Sullivan also cautioned against D-Drivers: distracted, drunk and dumb.
In other news from the symposium, the keynote speaker for the symposium was Steve Raynis, chief of safety, FDNY. Raynis spoke about the changes to FDNY after September 11, 2001, as well as touched on some of the problems from Superstorm Sandy that hit the northeast late last year.
Raynis commented that safety is important in the FDNY and, since 9/11, every safety officer is a certified incident safety officer.
"We always have an opportunity to learn more," Raynis said. "We're all professionals whether paid or volunteer — we're all professionals. I believe that 11 years later, the FDNY is stronger and better than ever."
After 56 apparatus and chiefs cars were destroyed in the superstorm, it is estimated that it will cost $18 million to replace the apparatus and vehicles destroyed. Raynis explained how the department is recovering and preparing for the next storm.
"We have always planned for that superstorm because we're a coastal state," he said. "But no one expected it to be as bad as it was."
Raynis added that while they had injuries, the department saved a lot of lives during that incident because of pre-planning and heroic efforts.