By Alan M. Petrillo, Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment
Three years ago, the University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health was awarded a $1.4 million federal research grant to study vehicular accidents in fire departments around the country and to find cost-effective, efficient methods to limit driving accidents when responding to fire calls. Preliminary data, says the study’s chief researcher, indicate that reductions in vehicle accidents can be achieved, depending on the interventions chosen by the fire department.
Jefferey Burgess, MD, MS, MPH, associate dean for research and a professor at the College, says the objective of the study was to use a risk management approach to reduce the number of fire service vehicle crashes for four participating fire departments, representing urban, suburban and rural geographies across the United States.
“Each of the departments had formed risk management teams from different parts of their departments,” Burgess points out. “We worked with the teams to review all their previous crash data, determine the frequency and severity of previous events, create a risk matrix, look at existing controls (standard operating procedures and driving instruction), and identify new controls to put in place,” Burgess says. “The individual departments selected the controls they wanted to implement, and we helped them measure the effectiveness of the interventions they chose over time.”
Burgess notes that while one department started with no crashes, and thus would have no changes during the study, he and his research assistant, David Bui, a PhD candidate and the study program manager, are still reviewing the outcome data and tracking the effectiveness of the interventions. Bui notes that “we expect to finalize that information some time in 2018.”
Preliminary results, however, Bui says, indicate that two out of three fire departments that had crash data saw reductions in their vehicular crashes because of the interventions that the departments chose to implement over the study period. “One department did a lot of interventions, like installing side and rearview cameras on ambulances, changing lights and siren SOPs for noncritical calls, and participating in a train-the-trainer driver enhancement course,” he says. “The department also sent daily messages to personnel about safety, and eliminated garage door closers from fire vehicles. The department showed a moderate reduction in vehicle crashes as a result of their various interventions.”
Another department also participated in the enhanced training through the train-the-trainer course, and applied that information to its personnel, Bui notes. “Within a year, they retrained all their drivers to the enhanced training standard and also used telematics technology to collect driver driving data remotely,” he says. “Using those interventions, the department was successful in reducing crashes and changing driver behavior, and was found to have some initial reduction in vehicle crashes over the study period, but we are still collecting data from this department.”
A third department had no reduction in accidents to date, Bui noted. “The interventions the department chose have not been associated with any reductions based on the data we have received from them thus far,” he says.
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