By Chief David Denniston
Loss Control Training and Education Manager
Emergency Services Insurance Program
Are you feeling lucky? That is what I and 182 other passengers were asking each other on the five hour flight from Philly to Vegas on Friday night. We all had different reasons for going to sin city. There was a group of eight girls from Jersey out for a bachelorette party, two couples getting married, four couples celebrating divorces, several people headed for trade shows and conferences, and the rest of us just looking to relax for a few hours. We all however had one goal in mind, to pull a lever, flip a card or roll the dice and come home just a little better off than when we left. The plane ride was exciting, people singing; chanting and making new friends, after all we were headed to Vegas, what did we have to lose?
The excitement level was almost that of the emergency tones dropping. It seems like every call is for a different reason. Difficulty breathing, motor vehicle crashes, automatic alarm or the royal flush of all calls, the structure fire, they all have their own level of excitement. We jump on the rigs and fly across town, all with the same goal, to hopefully make someone’s life a little better off than it would have been if we never left the station. After all what do we have to lose? I never realized how much a trip to Vegas had in common with an average day at the station, until I realized at both we were simply taking chances.
Most of us come to Vegas to play the odds. We all know the odds are stacked against us; after all they haven’t built these mega fancy hotels and attractions by allowing people to go home with more money than they came with. They rely on most of the money getting left right there. Many of us however think we are clever and look for that machine that hasn’t paid out in a long time, the team that just can’t lose, or for that dealer that looks like they are having a bad day. Yes, we all seem to think we are smarter than the system, but when it’s all said and done, most of us come home a loser.
Many of us feel the same way every time we board a fire truck or ambulance. We all know that accidents involving emergency vehicles are the second leading cause of death in the fire service, and yet we tend to think we can beat the system. Hell, we are all great drivers and we have those shiny lights and blaring sirens on our side. I don’t need to stop at red lights and stop signs; I can avoid a wreck if someone pulls out in front of me. I don’t need a seatbelt; we are never going to crash and I can always brace myself if we do. Real men and women don’t need spotters; we always know what is around our vehicle and would never hit anything. Right? Wrong, once again, most of us are not as bright as we would like to believe.
Here are some stats my friends, do with them what you may. Several studies have shown us that we are 41%-46% more likely to get in a collision with the lights and sirens on then we are without them. Studies also indicate that we are 15 times more likely to be killed in crashes when we are in emergency mode. James Madison University tells us that one out of five adults will be in a vehicle crash this year. Seventy percent of those killed in the collisions will not be wearing their seatbelt. Across the country we continue to back over our own people and innocent bystanders when we don’t use properly trained and positioned spotters, and yet, we continue to roll the dice every day. I am beginning to think we are betting against some pretty poor odds.
Well here it is Monday morning and you guessed it, I am coming home from Vegas with less in my wallet then I left with on Friday. But the good news is I’m coming home alive! Far too many of our brothers and sisters play the odds responding every day, Far too many of them never get to come home alive. Are you feeling lucky? I’m not. I don’t have any tips for Vegas, but here are a few for your next emergency run. Please, please, please limit “emergency” responses, use a spotter, stop at red lights and stop signs, wear your seat belt and slow down. Together we can improve the odds and make sure “Everyone goes home”. This is one game that is way too important to lose!