A driver training simulator offered McMinnville firefighters a crash course in driving etiquette for emergency responders.
The simulator provided an array of obstacles emergency responders face when trying to reach the scene of an accident as quickly as possible.
“Emergency responders get a rush of adrenaline. They’re focused on getting there,” said Charlie Armstrong, fire instructor from The Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy. “We want you to get there, but we want you to get there safely. If you have an accident and can’t get to the scene, what good are you? Then, you’ve created another accident and more vehicles have to respond to the second scene.”
Armstrong offered the three-day training session with instructors Robert Lee, Kip Luttrell and Marvin Montgomery.
“We have lights, sirens and if you have an accident, it will throw you around,” said Armstrong. “We have five scenarios the guys have to do and each scenario gets harder each time.”
Officially called an Emergency Response Driver Training Simulator, it creates real-world experiences that enable drivers to hone their skills within a variety of challenging situations without being physically at risk.
“In the last 10 years, 829 emergency responders died driving vehicles to emergencies in the United States,” said Armstrong. “That tells you how dangerous it is.”
The simulator offers two options: a firetruck simulation and a regular emergency vehicle simulation, such as a patrol car. The scenes on the TV screens can be changed to fit the scenario (structure fire call, medical call, police chase, etc.), as well as the driving conditions with rain, snow, wind, day, or night.
Drivers can learn a wide range of tasks from basic vehicle operations to more advanced scenario-based tactical training for many different vehicle types. The training enables the individual to experience real-life driving situations without the logistical, legal or moral ramifications that would be attached to a mistake made on the streets.
To help prevent accidents, state law says emergency responders must exercise what’s called “due regard” for the safety of all persons.
“Due regard means, in my opinion, if something happens, it’s your fault because you did not exercise due regard,” said Armstrong. “As the professional, we have to act as such. We have to be in control. We can’t blow through an intersection. We have the public to worry about.”
According to data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the United States Fire Administration, firetruck accidents are the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths for firefighters. Over a 10-year period, from 2000 to 2009, there were roughly 31,600 accidents involving fire vehicles. About 70 percent of all firetruck accidents occurred while in emergency use, and rollovers account for 66 percent of all fatal firetruck accidents.
In 2005, the state passed the Vanessa K. Free Emergency Services Training Act which requires each emergency vehicle driver to take not less than two hours of training annually, and each vehicle driver shall take and pass a comprehensive examination every year. This act applies to all law enforcement personnel, firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, rescue personnel, including volunteer rescue personnel, and emergency services personnel.
The act was named after a UTC student who died on Nov. 17, 2002, when the car she was riding in was struck at an intersection of MLK Boulevard by a police cruiser going to a disturbance
McMinnville Fire Chief Kendall Mayfield says a grant was obtained by the city to fund the training.
For more information, contact McMinnville Fire Department at 473-6739.