When Wagon Drivers Ruled the World
Long before GPS and Google Earth, Wagon Drivers held the secrets of quick response.
In my department they were the informal leaders of the fire station. They sweated the details and enforced the rules.
Woe be it to the the firefighter driving the pumper while the Wagon Driver had to cover as the acting fire officer. You could never be smooth enough.
From 4th expected to 2nd arriving
To get to the far northeast corner of the fire company's box alarm district, the engine should be proceeding east on the highway another eigth of a mile to a major intersection.
Turn north and proceed up another highway that arcs west. Then turn east on a primary road.
Following those directions, the 3rd due engine would often be 4th arriving due to traffic and topography.
Cutting up this residential road would consistently result in arriving second to the box alarm.
It was more than the straighter road. The intersection was wide with excellent line-of-site. At the top of a hill.
Much easier to turn north here than down the hill at the major traffic-light controlled intersection.
The other side of the cut-through was also better, coming down a slight hill allowed drivers on the primary road to see the pumper sooner. You were turning on the primary road that took you to the incident.
Shaved more than a minute during rush hour responses.
The cut through is not as valuable now, the maximim width 2010 pumper restricts manuverability. The cut through was great with narrow 1970 era rigs.
21st Century Wagon Drivers
A colleague from a large city was lamenting the over-reliance on technology. The city used map books that were created at each fire station. Each rig has a set of maps covering their box alarm district.
He noticed that the ambulance was taking longer to get out on dispatches. The rookies were entering the dispatch address into their smartphone and could not leave the station until the phone processed the address.
The kids said it took too long to look the address up in the map books. My colleague responded by increasing the number of street drills for the younger firefighters.
There are situations where technology makes a big difference:
Chicago Fire Department placed GPS devices on all of their front-line and reserve ambulances. Each device pre-loaded hospitals and fire stations into the database. They have prepared additional GPS units that are provided to EMS units that are coming into the city to assist with special event standbys.
How do newer members learn your response district?
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
Also on FireGeezer…
- “Long-nosing” … a practice lost to technology – January 22, 2013
- When should Chief of Department take command? (update w/ video) – May 16, 2013
- Hot summer night … from digital to performance – June 29, 2012
- Cincinnati Steam Pumper explosion with LODD 1855 – May 5, 2013