Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2009-08, 2009 Aug; :1-19
On February 23, 2009, a 34-year-old male volunteer/paid on-call fire fighter (the victim) was fatally injured and another fire fighter was severely injured in a single vehicle rollover crash. The crash occurred when the fire truck was unable to stop while crossing an intersection, swerved to avoid traffic and overturned into a utility pole. The fire truck was responding code 3 (lights and siren) to a reported brush fire on a two-lane paved road with a posted speed limit of 55 mph. The driver and the passenger (the victim) were not wearing seat belts and were found lying next to the cab on the passenger side. The victim died from his injuries at the scene and the driver was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include: non-use of seatbelts, an inadequate vehicle inspection and maintenance program, inadequate driver training and inexperience with this specific apparatus, an older apparatus with minimal safety features, and "lights and siren" response with an auxiliary apparatus not designed for higher-speed on-road emergency response. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding seatbelt use are established and enforced; 2. ensure that programs are in place to provide for the inspection, maintenance, testing, and retirement of automotive fire apparatus; 3. provide and ensure all drivers successfully complete a comprehensive driver's training program such as NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire Service Vehicle Operations Training Program, before allowing a member to drive and operate a fire department vehicle; 4. consider replacing fire apparatus more than 25 years old; 5. consider downgrading the emergency response code for auxiliary fire apparatus such as brush fire support vehicles; 6. be aware of programs that provide assistance in obtaining alternative funding, such as grant funding, to replace or purchase fire apparatus and equipment. Additionally, federal and state departments of transportation should consider modifying or removing exemptions that allow fire fighters to not wear seat belts.