Driver/ Operator, Engineer, Chauffeur, some of these titles may be used in your department; some of the titles might be an actual rank. In the end it comes down to this, you are the person responsible for that assigned apparatus, and not just that, you are responsible for those who are riding in it and for those around it.
For the sake of this article, we will use the term “Engineer”. Some may argue that the officer has the most responsibility on the fire ground. As I do agree to some extent, I believe the Engineer is right up there with him/her. Being a good Engineer is more than just driving the truck, it’s more than just passing a test. The Engineer is the most trusted person in the firehouse. That individual is the officer’s right-hand man/woman. They know the rules and what boundaries not to cross. They make sure the house is run tight. They are the go-to person for any questions or problems that may arise. Not only is it just a title, its a privilege. This 3 piece article we will be going over driving, fire ground operations, and being the gatekeeper of the house.
As an Engineer your department just handed you over the keys to a $500,00 piece of apparatus. To put that in perspective you are driving something worth more than a Ferrari. The weight of responsibility does not end there. You have the lives of your crew and the general public in your hands. We must understand that if we don’t get there we are no good to anyone. Before that apparatus leaves that bay the Engineer must ensure everyone is wearing their seat belt. I understand some circumstances deviate from what I just said. But going to pick grandma up off the floor and not being buckled in is just irresponsible. We are losing too many firefighters in vehicle accidents. A June 2016 NFPA report documented vehicle accidents as the 2nd leading cause of firefighter deaths in America. Buckle up!
When responding, the Engineer must display the self-discipline to operate in a safe manner. Rolling out of the bay and seeing that column of smoke gets all of our hearts racing, but like everyone in that truck, we must control our excitement. Responding at excessive speeds only increases the chances of a fatal accident, slow it down. Doing 50 mph in a 25 mph zone is not justifiable. Remember when approaching red lights and stop signs, we don’t have the right away. As an Engineer, you must come to a stop. Where I’m from its a state law. The last thing you want is to be on CNN for killing a family of four because you were in a rush. We must practice this self-discipline.
Not only do we have to be responsible for ourselves we have to be responsible for others. I don’t know how much more noticeable we can make ourselves. I mean we drive in a big fire truck, painted bright red, flashing bright lights, blaring a loud siren and federal Q, and still people don’t notice us. Oh now I remember, the radio, talking/texting on the phone, putting on makeup, or eating that big mac became a higher priority for drivers when operating a vehicle. We all see it. This leads us to my next point. As an Engineer, you must be a defensive driver. We have to assume the driver ahead of us is not pulling over but instead slamming on his brakes. We must assume that the driver is not going to yield to us at the intersection when we are approaching but instead blow right through it. Being defensive can be your first offensive approach.
So next time you get behind the wheel of your engine, truck, squad, rescue, battalion vehicle, whatever it may be. Just remember, it has your departments name written all over it. And you the Engineer representing it.