Training Pays Off

District 12

This is a little different article than you are accustomed to seeing from me, all the things that are going on in District 12 with a lot of pictures.  This time it is something that happened in District 12 back in September. 

We hear things on call responses from the people who call us frequently, “we never thought it could happen to us.”  Sound familiar?  Some of the mindset is bad things happen to other people until it doesn’t.  It’s the same in the fire service, bad stuff happens to the big city departments, it happens to someone else’s district.  We are not immune; we are in harm’s way more often than the average person by the nature of what we do.

This is a story of what happened to us.  Working in the most unpredictable, dangerous place for us to be; a motor vehicle crash on an interstate.  Everything we do in the fire service is risky to some degree but out on the highway, at least for me is the most dangerous.  People don’t see us, they may see what we are working on, that crash, but they most of the time don’t see us.  Even with the hi-viz vests, blinking lights, cones, and the precautions we take; their eyes get pulled to the vehicles involved like a moth to a flame.

We were working on a crash, not a terrible crash, not like some we have worked on, but a crash just the same. We had done everything we could do and were waiting on transport for the patient and tow company to remove a vehicle to get both lanes of traffic moving again.  I hear a horrific crash behind me, downstream of where we are working.  I see things flying through the air, vehicle parts; a secondary crash. As the incident commander, I know I have people in the area where this all just took place.

Everything kicks into high gear, radio traffic, checking the status of our people, and watching all the traffic come to a complete stop.  The sweetest sound to my ears after the heart-stopping sound of that crash was, that all were accounted for and were fine, but you need to come down here.  Momentum already had me headed that way anyway, I’ve got people down there and even though I hear everyone is okay, something isn’t quite right.

When I get to where the secondary crash occurred everyone is okay, just shaken up.  What they needed me to see was that the tanker we were using for blocking a vehicle had been hit and the car was in the median.  

No injuries, just a busted truck and a banged-up car. Not a good day but it could have gone way worse.

Again, we never thought it could happen to us, yet it did.  We have been on that interstate so many times, intersections of a major highway, county roads, you name it, and never had this happen.  Some of the key things that kept it from being a worse day were training and pre-planning.  The majority of our personnel had just been through traffic incident management training a few weeks prior, not one of those classes everyone gets excited about like ladder training, search and rescue, live fire; you know the stuff we get excited about.  That training kept us from having a worse day.  Working out scenarios in the classroom of how to set apparatus and work zones to protect us.  It paid off with the best dividend, we all went home.  Tanker 41 didn’t go home, it’s still not back in service, but it did its job that day; it kept us all safe, a little rattled but safe.

The conditions we work in are harsh and dangerous, train like your life depends on it; because it does. 

Out on the roadways are probably the most dangerous because of distracted drivers, conditions of the work area, crummy weather, the speed that traffic moves, and I can go on.  The moral of the story and the message is this; train and plan.  Some trainings don’t seem like they are that much fun or exciting but what you can gain from the time invested could very well be the one training could be the one that allowed you to go home at the end of the call.

Thank you for all you do to serve and help your communities and be safe out there.