Dr. Harry Carter
Dr. Harry Carter
Editors Column- Saturday, Oct, 27, 2012

The View from My Front Porch

As I sit on my front porch I am privileged to see the world as it passes my doorstep in just about every type and kind of motor vehicle from the lowly bicycle to the roaring smoking tractor-trailers which carry the freight for our nation. I see a great deal among the passing parade which gives me pause to ponder. So it will be my job today to report to you those things which I see as I sit on my porch, puffing on a cigar and pondering the impact of what I witness upon our emergency service world.

Not only do I get to see the vehicles, but I am witness to the folks who are shepherding these mobile weapons along the county road which runs past my home. Why do I call them weapons? Just like any other weapon, they can be a force for good or a force for evil. Proper use of a motor vehicle minimizes the hazards to other vehicles and people. The improper use of a motor vehicle creates a dynamic weapon traveling the highways at a potentially lethal rate.

The issue of safety has grown in prominence over the past decade. As one who might be classified as an old-timer, let me state for the record that we in the fire service are paying a heck of a lot more attention to safety than was the case when I hung off the back of the fire trucks in the U.S. Air Force of the 1960's and the Adelphia and Newark fire trucks of the 1970's. As one who has fallen from the back step of a pumper, I am glad to see that we do not ride back there any more. But what was the price we paid to change the mindset of our people?

The reduction in our death and injury rates is quite admirable, but I still question whether our message of safety is traveling beyond the world of convention attendees, writers and lecturers. As a practicing cynic, I wonder how many among us are still paying lip service to the issue of fire department safety. However, rather than chastise these folks I will work to motivate them to join us on the safer side of the street.

I like to think that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Of course there are those among us who still choose to believe that you can catch more flies with bovine byproducts (BS to the fire lads and lasses out there). Thank you, but I will stick to the sweet honey of education rather than the negativity of BS and insults.

As I have often stated, I have enough trouble trying to control the actions of the large body which resides within the confines of the size 52 belt which holds up my trousers. However, that doesn't mean that I cannot share some thoughts with you in hopes of influencing how you work.

Yet as hard as we all work in the effort to train our people to operate safely, there is a major part of the world which lives outside the veil of our emergency service community. These are the people for whom our training has no impact. These are the people for whom our training has no impact or effect. My friends, I am referring to the general public: the people we have sworn to protect. More than that, I am referring to the people who travel through our communities. The people we may be called upon to rescue when they screw up and hit other people and vehicles with their motor vehicles. Sadly some of these very same people are the ones who end up hitting fire, EMS, police and other innocent people with their mobile missiles of destruction. .

It has been my privilege to be involved in a very important safety effort for well over a decade now. As the Editor for the Respondersafety.com website, it has been my privilege to be on the Board of Directors for the Emergency Response Safety Institute (ERSI) of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association (CVVFA). As regular readers of my column know, we are working to educate the emergency response world and the towing operator's world about the dangers of operating on our nation's highways.

We have worked to raise the awareness of the people who operate out on our highways. Our audience encompasses the world of fire personnel, EMS providers, police, and towing operators. On our website www.Respondersafety.com we have a wide variety of educational programs, tips, tactics, and training tools.

We also have the Respondersafety Learning Network where you can enroll to take our latest on-line training offerings. It is critical to train your people to work out there on the highways and byways of your response area. Why do I stress training so greatly? I do this for a simple reason, because there are so many millions of untrained people operating their motor vehicles on the roads around us.

Let's look at it this way. Even if my associates and I were able to somehow train every emergency responder, police officer, EMT and tow truck operator to the proper operational level that would only cure a fraction of the problem. These well-trained folks would still be out there operating on our highways and byways in the midst of literally millions and millions of untrained and largely impatient motor vehicle operating citizens.

What do I mean by this? Quite simply if the people that I see driving past my home are any indication of the total package of drivers across America, well my friends, you and I are in trouble. People talking on the cell phones, texting, arguing, zooming by other cars on the right shoulder, and screeching up behind cars that actually stop before making a right turn on red.

There are normally a couple of accidents a year at the intersection and this year there was a three-car wreck on my front lawn. Oh yeah it's real dangerous out there. I am also guessing that it is pretty much the same where you live. If for no other reason, this should stimulate you to insure that you do all you can to be sure that your firefighters are prepared to operate safely.

As the Editor for the Respondersafety.com website, it has been my privilege to be a member of the leadership team for the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association (CVVFA).

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