I awoke this morning to note that once again there was frost to be found on the pumpkin on my front porch. As I went out on the porch to retrieve my morning papers, I quickly confirmed that it was indeed chilly. After reading the first paper I repaired to my office to post a number of new items to our Respondersafety.com website.
As I spent time reviewing a number of those items which I posted on our site recently, it came to me that I needed to share a few thoughts with you about preparing for the upcoming winter months. I will break this message to you into two distinct parts. In the first instance I will speak about those things you can do to prepare yourself and your operation for the dangers of cold weather operations. In the second instance I shall list a number of things which could happen, regardless of what you might do to prepare.
It is always appropriate to perform an equipment check. For those of you with dedicated fire police, be sure that everything is in working order. Check your retro-reflective vests for wear and tear. Those which are substandard should be replaced. Be sure that you have a sufficient supply of highway safety cones of the proper size and color. Make sure that your flashlights have fresh batteries.
In some cases, this equipment is not used for weeks or months at a time. When things are quiet out on the highways, these sorts of equipment can sit idle for great periods of time. You should develop a periodic review procedure so that you can be sure that your gear is always ready to do. We have a crew here in Adelphia which is responsible for checking the equipment on our dedicated fire police vehicle.
Let also suggest that one of your fall drill sessions should be devoted to the issue of highway safety for all your personnel. We have a number of videos available here on our website which can be used to educate your troops as to the dangers of operating in the highway environment. Other can provide you with a review of the steps which you should take at every highway-related incident.
One of the great learning theories is centered around the concept of 'recency'. Those topics which have been trained most recently will be more quickly remembered when the skills within the lessons are needed. Of course if is hard to accomplish all that you need to do because of the demands for time within the training schedules of your departments. Don't let that stop you. At least a fall highway safety session and a spring safety session should be conducted.
Let me now suggest a number of things which you should discuss with your folks during your training sessions. These are things which are beyond your control, but which can have an impact upon your personnel.
The first is weather. Think about the effects of rain, sleet, snow, fog, winds and freezing temperatures. A recent incident from the State of Maine reinforced the thought in my mind that it is not too early to anticipate 'black ice' problems in some parts of our nation. How any of you have seen what can be done by an out-of-control vehicle as it slides toward your emergency scene? We need to be sure that our personnel have been briefed on the acceptable blocking procedures within our agencies. Like my pal Bill Goldfeder is so fond of saying, we need to be trading metal for people when we are operating out on the highways in our communities.
We all know that the people around us are talking and texting on their phones as they travel the streets in our communities. Heck, I see it every day from my front porch as I sit out there puffing my cigars and pondering the ways of the world. They are also reading newspapers, eating, doing their make up and any number of things. This is the reality of life in the 21st Century.
Let me close with a prime example of what is going on around you. There was a recent example from California which speaks volumes about what people think they can do and not suffer any consequences. During a traffic stop, the investigating officer found that person who had been stopped was driving while using Google ® glasses. That person posted on their Facebook page that they thought this was outrageous. Many people apparently agreed. These are the people who are operating on the highways and by-ways of our nation.
Let me ask you to make a conscious effort to address this issue. Winter will come and so will the need to operate on the roads in your area. This is truly a 'better safe than sorry' message to you. Please work to get ready.