Pros and cons of a driver always staying with the truck
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Depending on the manning for your department and/or your area of response, is it a good idea to have the driver always remain with the truck? Whether it is a routine movement, medical call, or staging area, there are pros and cons.
Let’s look at the different aspects to see what you feel works best for your department, and to possibly adopt it as a policy or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
For the most part, this article would apply to Fire Suppression Apparatus, and not the EMS/BLS/ALS transport units. This is because usually all crew members enter a home, office or facility for patient care and the truck’s compartments can all be locked to protect the different controlled substances on-board.
There is no doubt that one advantage of the driver staying with the truck is assure that no one will come and tamper with the truck or the equipment in its compartments. There have been instances where power tools and other items of value, that can be easily sold, have ended up disappearing. (Also keep your apparatus doors closed at the fire station.)
Having the driver remain with the truck also allows someone to be visible on the apparatus in case there are questions from the public. It can range from interest in the truck itself, equipment, gear, fire department procedures to a child wishing to see the truck, and more. Remember, when in uniform, we are always seen as public servants, and cannot come across as being "bothered" by someone having an inquiry.
I would also make it a point to take out a chamois, and start wiping down the truck, the chrome parts, compartments, organizing the tools and equipment, etc. This looks good in the public’s eye and shows that you care about your job, the truck, and the impression you are leaving on the public/people.
Being friendly goes a long way. As people pass by, it shows that the department is employing good people that care about others and are willing to give advice, converse, answer questions and engage with the public.
As an FYI, there also have been occurrences where fire department vehicles are stolen while on the scene of a call, and there is no one attending the truck. Also, there have been instances where the vehicle has been hit while parked or damaged, and no one knows when or why it happened!
There are times when the apparatus may need to be moved for whatever reason. Understandably, we have the right to position the truck anywhere we want when on an emergency. However, there are times when it would be “convenient” to move the truck to make it easier for others to get by, especially if there is an area where we can do so, in order not to cause too much disruption.
Another asset is that if there is a problem communicating with crew not in the truck because of being in an area where radios cannot transmit or receive, the batteries are dead, etc., the driver can assist by using another means of communicating with the crew. One possibility is via mobile phone when the department’s hand-held radios aren’t receiving or transmitting.
Some cons about leaving the driver with the apparatus are obvious. These include needing an extra set of hands to assist when there is a medical emergency like a cardiac arrest, moving a patient, assisting with controlling others that may be threatening the crew, and are becoming aggressive or violent, and other obvious reasons.
If the truck needs to be moved (as stated above), and there are no other department members around that can operate the truck, this can cause an unfortunate situation. The last thing you want to do is have the public complain about “not caring” because of the way we placed or parked the vehicle.
Another controversial factor that can go either way is whether to leave the truck “idling” the whole time when unattended. Among examples are eating lunch or dinner at a food establishment, dropping off a patient at the emergency room, and shopping for groceries for the station meals.
We need to realize that this is affecting the environment and increasing unnecessary costs in fuel consumption. On the other hand, it’s important to understand that the unit should remain running when on a medical call, therefore providing comfort for the patient if transport is necessary.
My point is that if the driver remains with the truck, there is no real need to have them “sit” in the truck burning fuel just because it is air-conditioned. Obviously, this would not be the case if there is inclement weather like rain, snow, sleet, hale, violent winds or frigid cold. Let’s all remember, the fire service responds in all types of weather 24/7/365.
Whether or not your department adopts a policy to have drivers stay with the apparatus, be aware of the drawbacks or advantages. Like always, we need to consider the legal aspects if a situation were to occur.
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