It is something that apparently had not been done before in the San Antonio Fire Department. Following the rollover of a ladder truck on the way to a reported fire last November, two firefighters and their captain have received suspensions ranging from five days to 60 days because of the speed of the rig at the time of the crash and that seatbelts were not being used. A fourth firefighter, who remains on medical leave after breaking his neck in the crash, was not suspended. Chief Charles Hood told Eva Ruth Moravec at mysanantonio.com the firefighter’s injuries were punishment enough. The cab of the rig is scheduled to be on permanent display at the department’s training academy.
Here are excerpts from Moravec’s very detailed article (click here to read it):
“Seatbelt issues are cultural issues in the fire service,” Hood said in an interview at his office Wednesday. “I’ve never had to discipline for a driving infraction since I’ve been here, but a strong message needed to be sent to the members of the department.”
“I was taken aback, I was surprised, I was disillusioned, I was disappointed, he said, recalling his emotions as he approached the scene. “It was a surreal experience for me, looking at that truck upside-down.
“I thought, ‘Man, I’m glad they had their seat belts on,’ and as it turned out, they didn’t.”
Full disclosure: I produced this seatbelt message as part of my work for NFFF.
In the days after Ladder 35’s crash, Hood took other steps. Seat belt drills now are required, drivers are getting additional training, and all 1,674 operations employees were ordered to go take a look at the demolished fire truck.
Hood, who admits he didn’t always wear a seat belt as a firefighter in Phoenix, said the desire to get to a scene quickly may cause crews to forget to buckle up. Bulky gear makes it a hassle; firefighters often still are getting dressed while the truck is moving, he said.
But now, he said, the captain or lieutenant on a truck must ensure all firefighters are belted in before they leave, even if it takes an extra 30 seconds.