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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


College of Public Health receives grant to research fire truck safety


Courtesy of the Tucson Fire Department

The Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health received $1.4 million in order to reduce vehicular accidents in fire departments. With this grant, the college will be working with the Tucson Fire Department to do research on fire truck accidents.

The Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health was awarded $1.4 million this year to research ways to reduce vehicular accidents in fire departments.

The study will work with fire departments across the nation to find efficient and cost-effective ways for firefighters to limit driving accidents on the way to emergency calls.

The nationwide study will use a risk- management process and data collection of speed, acceleration and brake patterns via black boxes to assess how firefighters are driving on the road.

Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research at the College of Public Health, said he believes that using risk management will help create a list of things to do to prevent the most likely crash scenarios.

According to Burgess, all fire department vehicles are required to have black boxes, which can show data on what the driver was doing that could indicate why the crash occurred.

“We are going to take a proactive approach,” Burgess said. “Through risk management, we can look at all the bad things that can happen to a firefighter while driving and rank them to see which areas need the most improvement.”

Last year, over 10 percent of firefighter fatalities were caused by vehicular accidents, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The Tucson Fire Department was selected to be a control group in the study due to the low number of accidents the department has had, according to John Gulotta, health and safety captain at TFD.
Gulotta said that the College of Public Health looked at TFD’s accident numbers and was impressed with how low they were. He said he believes that the low car accident rates are due to training programs the department has implemented.

Gulotta also credits the department’s success to its modern facilities and said he feels lucky to have state of the art training equipment for his use.

TFD also trains drivers how to react when a crash is unavoidable, because, according to Gulotta, many of the accidents TFD encounters on the road are caused by civilians. Gulotta said the study will make the public more aware about driving techniques when TFD is heading toward an emergency.

Gulotta added that some truck drivers need to be safer when they’re driving as well, saying that some drive 70,000-pound vehicles like they’re driving sports cars.

Barrett Baker, head of public information at TFD, said he hopes the study will help limit vehicular accidents and help departments do their jobs. He also said that if firefighters drive recklessly, it only adds to the chaos of the original accident. Baker added that one of the best ways to avoid accidents is to inform the public about how to drive when fire trucks are responding to an emergency.

“We rely heavily on the public to know emergency driving standards,” Baker said. “If we inform the public and they listen, departments will have less accidents.”

Follow Max Lancaster on Twitter @MaxLancaster9

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