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Answer to Homemade vs. Purchased

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  • Answer to Homemade vs. Purchased

    Here is a great question about fire department liability when using 'homemade' tools. Everybody has them but what's the liability?

    The original question from a Washington State fire department-

    Hi Ron,
    I have a question for you and I'd like your opinion. I had a telescoping metal shoring system made by one of our city mechanics about a year ago (saw some blueprints in Fire Rescue magazine). Looks very much like the Crutch made by Alpha Rescue. They've been used several times in training but not yet on an actual call.

    The question was brought up in our last equipment committee meeting, as to whether we're exposing ourselves to liability if we used them on a call and they 'failed', since they're not 'certified'.

    My response was that :
    1.As long as they are employed and maintained properly, the chance of mechanical failure is slight, operator error would be more likely. 2.We will definitely be liable if we fail to properly stabilize a vehicle and it tips over. 3. There are no certification standards or agencies for this family of equipment.
    4.The only difference between our units and the commercially available ones is what it cost us to make them.

    Please give me your take on this issue and how you would address it.

    My Reply-

    I agree with all you considerations regarding your buttress stabilization vs a manufactured set. Many deparments think that buying a tool gives the fire department immunity but it doesn't work that way. What I have found from my court experiences as an expert witness is that you as the user of the tools have the ultimate liability and responsibility.

    You have actually minimized your chances of ever being in court because you have a system to stabilize a vehicle that is far better than just cribbing alone.

    I'm on your side. Homemade tools, well built and maintained, used by properly trained and
    responsible personnel is your best defense against something going wrong. I'd place those buttress stabilization tools of yours in service as soon as you can document that your personnel are trained and proficient in their use.

    Ron Moore
    Fire Training Manager
    Plano (TX) Fire Rescue
    (214) 728-6776

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