Fire and EMS stations are used to house apparatus, equipment and other items needed to support operations. They contain the bulk of the assets of any department or company.
In many locations, stations are also a community hub providing meeting space, fundraising and social activities. Like any asset, a station must be maintained to hold its value. In emergency services, we take great pride in our equipment and its ability to perform under the most adverse conditions. Why are we confident in our equipment? We regularly check it and maintain it to help assure it will work as intended when it is needed.
Are we taking the same level of care with our station(s)? Do we regularly inspect them to help ensure everything is working properly and that they are being maintained free of hazards? Self-inspections are a good way to document efforts to maintain a safe place to work and a safe place for our community and visitors.
Periodic safety and maintenance inspections of station buildings and grounds allows for the identification of potentially hazardous conditions. These inspections may help minimize property damage, limit liability claims and ensure the safety of members, employees and visitors.
These inspections may be used to evaluate:
If you are not sure where to start, or are looking to evaluate the program you have in place, VFIS can help. We have an award-winning distance learning class, In the Station: Best Practices in Station Safety, that provides guidance on areas to focus on during self-inspections.
Access this course through VFIS University (vfisu.com) free of charge for VFIS clients. VFIS also has a self inspection form that may be used to document self-inspections. This can be found under SafetyCentral, Property Management.
shop.vfis.com/By Scott Harkins, CSP, CPCU, ARM, Senior Vice President Risk Control Services (originally posted on www.vfis.com)
Most volunteer emergency service departments rely heavily on the ability of their members to respond to calls, either to the scene or the station, in their personal vehicles. While this is essential to the organization’s ability to react to emergencies in a timely manner, there are also inherent risks. The most significant risk associated with allowing volunteers to respond in their personal vehicles is that they may operate them as if they are emergency vehicles or disobey motor vehicle laws. All too often, this leads to accidents.
Motor vehicle laws
While motor vehicle laws vary from state to state, all states address the issue of response in personally owned vehicles similarly: personal vehicles are not emergency vehicles and are not permitted the same, if any, exemptions to motor vehicle laws. For example, while responding, licensed emergency vehicles may be allowed to exceed the posted speed limit, move against the normal flow of traffic and proceed through a negative intersection control device, however, volunteers driving POVs are required to obey applicable state motor vehicle code.
When asked why they volunteer, most members talk about providing a service to their community or helping their neighbors. Not following motor vehicle laws while operating a motor vehicle does not provide a service to the community or help your neighbors. In fact, it puts your neighbors at risk.
Some motor vehicle codes address the use of “courtesy lights.” These lights are a visual request asking other drivers to allow you to pass them upon your approach. They are not a demand for right-of-way, nor do they permit the driver to illegally pass or speed up to overtake any vehicle. Motor vehicle codes do vary, and an understanding of your state laws is important in determining how to manage this risk.
The response of your members in their POVs helps form the perception that your community has of your organization. Don’t you want that perception to be positive?
Your organization may wish to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with members responding in their personal vehicles by looking at alternative ways of getting personnel to the scene. For example, the creation and use of duty crews (members staffing predetermined shifts) would eliminate the need to have large numbers of volunteers responding to every call. A duty crew could staff a full first unit response to handle most calls. This would minimize the amount and the number of times volunteers are on the road in POVs.
Standard operating procedures
If your members are going to continue to respond to calls in personal vehicles, help minimize the risk of death or injury by developing and enforcing standard operating procedures (SOPs). These procedures should include, but not be limited to, the following:
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles must obey their state motor vehicle code with respect to courtesy light and siren privileges.
SOPs should not be more restrictive than applicable motor vehicle codes.
Volunteers are not to use courtesy lights as a license to operate their personal vehicles as if they are emergency vehicles. Have the department chief approve all courtesy lights and issue a written permit. The permit could include the “rules of the road” that apply.
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles should never exceed the posted speed limit.
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles are to come to a complete stop at all stop signs and red traffic signals, and must wait for normal right-of-way before proceeding.
Procedures for at-the-scene parking/staging should be included in SOPs.
Volunteers must have personal auto liability insurance with appropriate liability limits. This will help protect not only the volunteer but also your organization.
Once they are developed, include SOPs in new-member orientation and driver training sessions. After every member receives a written copy of your SOPs, have them sign off that they received them and understand them. In addition, develop written enforcement and progressive discipline guidelines for any member who violates procedures.
When volunteers respond to calls, they need to understand that, first and foremost, they must arrive at the emergency scene or the station safely in order to be of any help to the public. Leaders must set the example by responding appropriately because members notice what their leaders do and follow that lead.
Need help? VFIS has a training program, Privately-Owned Vehicle Operations – Answering the Call Safely that can be used as part of your new-member orientation and/or ongoing training program. Visit shop.vfis.com.
We are pleased to announce that effective October 1, 2016 our agency ownership has changed. Ted Regnier has decided to officially retire and has sold his interest in Regnier & Associates, Inc. Regnier & Associates was founded in 1982 by Cynthia Regnier and has been the Texas Regional Director for VFIS since 1985. We have had much growth and success over the past 30 years and we sincerely thank YOU, our customers, for the trust you have placed in us and the opportunity you have given us to serve you.
The new agency owners are Barbara Marzean, Stephanie Dew and Glenn Hastings, all of whom have been with the firm for many years. Along with this new ownership, the agency name is now WinStar Insurance Group LLC.
Many of you are very familiar with Barbara Marzean. Barbara has been with Regnier for more than 30 years and has served as the President since 2005. She will continue to serve as the President of WinStar. Stephanie Dew has been with Regnier since 2010 and has served as the Director of Sales & Marketing. Steph will serve as VP of Sales & Marketing for WinStar. Glenn Hastings has been with Regnier for over 15 years as an outside Sales Associate for the Houston area. Glenn will serve as VP and will primarily serve the Houston area for WinStar.
With this change, there is no change in staff or the way we operate and we will continue to do business as “VFIS of Texas”. We are excited for the future and we want to thank all of our friends and customers for your continued loyalty and trust!