By James R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors
The long warm days of summer and fall are gone and the bitter cold has arrived! The winter months present some real challenges to us as firefighters when dealing with emergencies and how we operate. We are faced with slippery, snow covered roads that are often our work station for hours upon hours. We are going to talk about some basics that can protect us through this season.
We all have large trucks and equipment that we respond to emergencies in, and there are some things that we should address. Most of our fire apparatus is equipped with either an engine or exhaust brake; it is a good idea to turn them off when roads are snow or ice covered. These brakes can cause the apparatus to slow too rapidly and essentially slide out of your control.
All of our apparatus at my department is equipped with automatic tire chains, and our first out medic is equipped with four wheel drive. These features are excellent when used correctly. The chains and four wheel drive can certainly increase traction when driving on snow or frozen roads, but neither effect the quality of braking. Do not get yourself in the mindset that you can stop any better than others!
How about salt and snow shovels? Keeping these items on your equipment is an awesome idea! How many times do you respond to a med run at a residence and find the path to their door covered in snow and ice? Being able to clear that path for your crew can reduce the likelihood of falls that lead to time off the job. Salt also comes in handy when the pump operator finds that they are standing on a sheet of ice due to loose connections or an overfilled tank.
The last thing that I want to discuss is the preparations that we need to make while operating at emergencies on roadways. Motorists operate less than ideally year-round, adding a slick roadway will not stop them! We need to make sure that we are keeping lanes of operation closed and staying away from moving traffic. Think about sending a second unit to the scene just to shield the emergency crews that are working. You can inquire about using your local or state police, and having barriers set if you are going to be there for a while.
I hope some of these basic thoughts and ideas help you in some way.
Stay safe and train hard!