Earlier this spring (2017) I was part of a multi-agency tactical combat casualty care course involving the FBI, local fire departments and police, EMS, and our Department of Defense fire department. The training covered both on- and off-duty days for myself and other firefighters. It was strictly voluntary to be there, but benefited us for maintaining our National Registry of EMT continuing education credits and state EMS credits as well.
During the practical application part of the course, we were to respond to one of the older facilities at our military base for an active-shooter situation in our department’s second run engine. There were four crew positions on that truck: lieutenant, engineer, and two tailboards. The lieutenant was the only one on duty. I posed the question to the station captain before the training started making sure we were covered if we had any incidents, accidents or had to respond to a real-world event while being technically off duty, and he said we were covered. That’s all I wanted to hear; let’s train.
I sat left rear tailboard behind the driver, and had another tailboard member to my left (driver’s right). The seats are back facing and doors are hinged towards the front of the cab. Of all the four members, I had the most years (19) in the department on the truck. The least was the other tailboard, lieutenant, and then driver/engineer were next senior after me. It was a mixed crew with various experience, but no one was a rookie by any means.
We were called to the TCCC exercise site and responded non-emergency for the simulated active-shooter call. We drove approximately 1 mile from the station to the scene of the exercise. Upon arrival, our lieutenant advised us to stay with the apparatus until he checks with law enforcement to coordinate a planned response inside. I was on the medical bag side and advised my co-tailboard firefighter I was going to grab the medical bags.
The truck came to a stop, our lieutenant got out, shut the door and walked forward to the building. At the same time the driver said out loud he was going to “chock the wheels” and wait for instructions and stepped out. I stood up then and stepped down and opened the left side tailboard door.
When I opened door, I noticed we were rolling and that the driver had his head down and was walking to the rear wheel well where the chocks are stored under the frame.
I shouted out loud, “Hey, we’re rolling! We’re rolling!” The lieutenant somehow heard me over the engine running and turned to see the truck bearing down on him just feet away, and jumped clear of the path. The driver turned and ran back to the cab of the truck, pulled the parking break stopping the forward movement on the sloped parking lot. The truck was about 15 feet from impacting a parked truck (one of the TCCC instructors).
The lieutenant had a few expletives to shout at the driver/engineer and was a bit visually shaken for he had just missed being run over by his truck he was assigned to crew. I asked the driver if he applied the parking brake and his reply was I must have forgot. An oversight in procedure to say the least.
Lessons Learned: From this incident I take a few things.
I now shout out loud before were are coming to a stop and park any apparatus, no matter what crew position I fill (from lieutenant, driver and tailboard), to “set the parking brake.”
I double check that parking break and drive letter for neutral every time before I exit the vehicle if I am the engineer/driver.
I always exit the vehicle and do not cross in front of the rolling/driving path without first looking at the driver or making sure the motion has stopped.
Keep aware of vehicle motion, the sound of the parking break being applied (or not), and grade and slope of the parking area. If something isn’t quite right, sound off loudly.
Lieutenants and tailboard riders, put your smartphones down and keep aware and alert. Texts, Facebook, and surfing the web can wait when you are rolling in a truck. Need I say driver too? Unless it is response related, put them down.
It is unknown to me if any official talk was done with the driver with a supervisor about this incident after it happened. I now ensure when I am crewing as a lieutenant over this person and others, I remind the driver to set the parking brake and put it in neutral before we get out. It seems petty, but necessary. I want to go home after my shift, as should everyone else.