Work-place safety is a critical element of any fleet manager’s role – so think how important it is to get the right systems in place for firefighters. There is the safety of the crew, safety of other road users, the drive under time pressure – all before reaching and having to tackle a potentially life-threatening situation.
This month, Driving for Better Business talks to Leanne Player, a firefighter with Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue. She describes responding to a call as providing “a mixture of fear and excitement of the unknown”. Leanne attends regular driver training and remains competent and confident with the vehicle she drives, and that it undergoes a thorough pre-use walk around check before use.
The role covers almost 1,500 square miles and involves responding to over 6,500 incidents each year – more than 125 a week.
“We respond to a wide variety of incidents, including property and countryside fires, road traffic collisions, collapsed structures, water rescues, hazardous materials, and animal rescues. People may be surprised to know that only 25% of the incidents we respond to are fire related,” she says. She attributes 35% of call-outs to vehicle incidents so knowledge and understanding of current vehicle design and components is important. The growing number of EVs on the road presents new and different challenges.
When asked if anyone questions her driving ability as a female. Leanne says “I smile when I see the shock and surprise on people’s faces when they realise it’s me driving the fire engine! I’m treated no differently to my male colleagues. I’m trained to the same standard and have the same job to do. They trust me to ensure we all arrive safely. We must have that trust and mutual support and respect for each other. Being in the Fire and Rescue Service is like being part of a large family. We spend so much time together. Humour is just as important as empathy and understanding.”
Her messages echo the many resources available throughout the Driving for Better Business website. “Unfortunately, there are still many drivers who think they are invincible and don’t take responsibility for their own actions. They think nothing will happen to them. If I could, I would remind every driver not to take risks and put their lives as well as the lives of others at risk. It is just not worth it. Drink and drugs don’t mix with driving so don’t do it. Know the speed limit for the road you are travelling on and stay within it, after all it’s there for your safety. Also, don’t drive tired and drive according to the weather and road conditions”.
On how other road users should respond when they become aware of emergency vehicles, Leanne Player says: “Make sure you know how to respond safely when you see an emergency vehicle with blue lights on in their rear-view mirror. Keep calm, look, and listen. Don’t slam your brakes on, especially on a blind bend, junction or on the brow of a hill. Don’t mount kerbs and pavements as this creates hazards for pedestrians. Many drivers go into panic mode when they see blue lights and just stop. It’s much safer for everyone to carry on travelling until they can indicate and find a safe place to pull over with enough room for us to pass.”