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  • Ordered to remove speed limits from policy

    I figured this could be a fun thread. I live in one of those states where there are no speed limits for emergency vehicles. All the law says is that we have to drive at a "safe and prudent" speed. I've always felt uncomfortable with that, so I implemented a policy saying that no department vehicle would be driven at more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

    So, a week ago we get a visit from the city's loss prevention officer. He wants to look over all of our policies, as he does with all city departments. He's told me I need to remove my policy on the 10 mph speed limit because it's in conflict with state law. He says that if we have such a policy, and somebody gets in a wreck exceeding 10 mph over the speed limit, we'll actually incur more liability than we would have without it. I sort of see where he's coming from, but I think it's a leap. What he's saying is that if we don't have this policy, and somebody gets in a wreck going say 20 mph over the speed limit (which is allowed by law), we'll be in the clear as long as they can prove they were driving at a "safe and prudent" speed. If we have the 10 mph limit in policy, they'd automatically be liable because they were breaking department policy, even if they were driving at a "safe and prudent" speed.

    Just an example of more of the crap you get to deal with when they give you the gold badge. Ugh.

  • #2
    If you want to counter him, just adopt NFPA 1500's recommendations for driving apparatus. You'll have a speed limit (granted, it's the posted one), but also a national standard to back you up.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Catch22 View Post
      If you want to counter him, just adopt NFPA 1500's recommendations for driving apparatus. You'll have a speed limit (granted, it's the posted one), but also a national standard to back you up.
      Good idea and something I hadn't considered, but this guy has the full backing of the city attorney so it might not do any good. We're also not allowed to have physical fitness tests or CPAT as part of the testing process due to liability "concerns," so you can see the mentality I have to deal with.

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      • #4
        Roy,

        There are times that you cannot go the posted speed limit. That being on city street during heavy traffic conditions. At best you can just creep along as if there isn't any place for the private vehicles to go to allow the fire apparatus to get through, you have to go only that reduced speed.

        Most apparatus engine's are govern so they can't go over 70 MPH if that.

        Limited access highways, have speed limits ranging from 55 to 70 depending on where it is located.

        I've been on them with the aerial truck responding on calls going full speed, 65 MPH, and vehicles where passing us!

        Take a good look at the 1500 standard and used that as your basis for implementing your rules. Do you guys accept NPFA as guidelines??
        Stay Safe and Well Out There....

        Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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        • #5
          Wouldn't it be easier to just enforce the 10mph rule, and as a result there won't be any crashes where the speed is in excess of that? Seems that would be the much more prudent way of preventing legal liability. Typical lawyers.
          Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by CaptOldTimer View Post
            Roy,

            Take a good look at the 1500 standard and used that as your basis for implementing your rules. Do you guys accept NPFA as guidelines??
            We do, but it's only stated. We don't have an official document or policy around here that says we've adopted NFPA, but we reference specific sections of it in certain policies. Such as "the department's policy concerning X will be in accordance with NFPA Section Z."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
              Good idea and something I hadn't considered, but this guy has the full backing of the city attorney so it might not do any good. We're also not allowed to have physical fitness tests or CPAT as part of the testing process due to liability "concerns," so you can see the mentality I have to deal with.
              That's interesting.

              Here's a little more ammo for you. If your department opts to apply for an apparatus through the AFG program, they are now wanting you to conform with NFPA 1500, having protocols that mirror that standard. So what the RM and CA are saying is that though the federal government accepts driving restrictions, there is some sort of liability for you to do the same?

              Your CPAT thing baffles me as well. When you look at the amount of litigation going on, it seems clear that having some kind of standardized, validated test is appropriate. Our career department went through a process several years ago to adapt a validated physical and written test procedure and formed an "alliance" with a number of other departments to avoid liability.

              If you look at situations like New Haven, who have validated testing, it's not the testing in questions, it's the application of the results. With CPAT, they already have that validation, you just have to stay within their standards and policies.

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              • #8
                Catch 22- Apparently what happened was several years ago (before I was hired) an applicant failed the department's physical agility test and then got a lawyer and insisted the city produce documents showing that all of the current firefighters are able to pass the exact same test. The city couldn't because there was no such system in place. Thus the brilliant minds in legal decided the best way to fix it would be to eliminate the requirement entirely.

                After much pressure from me, I did get the legal department to approve us using CPAT so long as somebody else was running the test. The problem is that there are no private agencies in our state doing CPAT certifications. One of our big cities does it and we could theoretically partner with them, but they only hold a test once per year. If it didn't coincide with an opening we were trying to hire for it wouldn't work too well. Their only other option is to drive about 4 hours out of state to find a CPAT certification site.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by nmfire View Post
                  Wouldn't it be easier to just enforce the 10mph rule, and as a result there won't be any crashes where the speed is in excess of that? Seems that would be the much more prudent way of preventing legal liability. Typical lawyers.
                  From a liability standpoint, it's easier to deal with "reasonable and prudent speed" than a set increase over the posted limit.

                  Personally, I agree with the loss prevention officer. Although it's easier to just say speed limit +10mph, it's far more difficult to manage effectively from a risk standpoint.

                  There are times when even driving the speed limit isn't "reasonable and prudent" in or out of emergency mode. There are also times when it's perfectly reasonable and prudent to drive 40mph in a 25mph zone. Making those decisions is part of an experienced driver's job (and something monitored by a good officer's judegment).

                  If you're going to pin your SOPs on a number, the only number you should ever choose is the posted speed limit. The long and short of it is that, if you're driving in emergency response mode and get involved in a collision, the investigation will start with the presumption that you weren't driving at a reasonable and prudent speed no matter how fast you were going. You don't want to hurdle any more specific limits than you have to.
                  "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
                  sigpic
                  The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
                    they only hold a test once per year. If it didn't coincide with an opening we were trying to hire for it wouldn't work too well.
                    Sure it would.

                    "The candidate must succesfully complete CPAT within one year prior to the application closing date. A valid CPAT card must be produced prior to written or oral testing."

                    If a next annual CPAT date is approaching, you always have the option of pushing the application date back just far enough to allow prepared applicants to take the new test.

                    If the last annual CPAT date has just passed, your applicant pool is going to be limited to the people serious enough about getting on the job to be taking CPATs on their own initiative.
                    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
                    sigpic
                    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
                      Catch 22- Apparently what happened was several years ago (before I was hired) an applicant failed the department's physical agility test and then got a lawyer and insisted the city produce documents showing that all of the current firefighters are able to pass the exact same test. The city couldn't because there was no such system in place. Thus the brilliant minds in legal decided the best way to fix it would be to eliminate the requirement entirely.
                      I can certainly understand the concern they have, as that's a legitimate argument.

                      What worked out well for us and several other departments is that they created an alliance for the testing procedure then hired a company to come in and create a validated test. They interviewed/surveyed a large portion of the current personnel on what we felt were important and repetitive tasks for our job. They then created a physical agility test that everyone had to go through. They used those times to create the benchmarks for the testing. They did their thing and validated that test.

                      The written test is similar, but they utilize various testbanks to create our hiring and promotional tests.

                      Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
                      After much pressure from me, I did get the legal department to approve us using CPAT so long as somebody else was running the test. The problem is that there are no private agencies in our state doing CPAT certifications. One of our big cities does it and we could theoretically partner with them, but they only hold a test once per year. If it didn't coincide with an opening we were trying to hire for it wouldn't work too well. Their only other option is to drive about 4 hours out of state to find a CPAT certification site.
                      DM offered a couple potential solutions. Do your testing once or twice a year and require CPAT within the last year. If they have a CPAT, they can sit for the written test then create a list that's good for one year. When you have an opening(s), call the top x-number of people on the list and offer then an interview.

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                      • #12
                        Just put a governor on your vehicles. Most of our trucks won't go over 65 mph.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by downstate_firefighter
                          Just put a governor on your vehicles. Most of our trucks won't go over 65 mph.
                          A governor won't control the problem. Most trucks that CAN do 65+ have governors. Those that can't, don't need it.

                          The problem is whether it is safe to go 55mph in a 35mph zone. Some areas/streets, that would be fine. Not so good on others.

                          If our Anti-Firefighter council woman knew about CPAT, she would use it against them.

                          FM1
                          I'm the one Fire and Rescue calls, when they need to be Rescued.

                          Originally posted by EastKyFF
                          "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

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                          • #14
                            We don't have a maximum speed limit in this state for Emergency vehicles so long as they drive "with due regard". The Fire department I'm on falls back to the state standards for driving, but the private ambulance service I work for says 15 mph over or 75 mph whichever is the lower number so long as traffic and driving conditions permit. Schools zones are another exception, we have to drive the speed limit in all school zones irregardless of time of day and come to a complete stop at all cross walks, whether they are occupied or not.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KanFireman View Post
                              We don't have a maximum speed limit in this state for Emergency vehicles so long as they drive "with due regard". The Fire department I'm on falls back to the state standards for driving, but the private ambulance service I work for says 15 mph over or 75 mph whichever is the lower number so long as traffic and driving conditions permit. Schools zones are another exception, we have to drive the speed limit in all school zones irregardless of time of day and come to a complete stop at all cross walks, whether they are occupied or not.
                              Yikes! Every crosswalk or just crosswalks near a school? If it's everywhere it sounds like overkill. I have this vision of a ladder truck stopping at every crosswalk on the way to a fire at 0300. I'm reminded of my school bus driver when I was kid who would stop at a set of railroad tracks every morning on the way to school. Never mind the fact that the tracks were pulled out on both sides of the road 20 years before (there was even a business built on one side), leaving only the tracks in the pavement.

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