Behind the wheel: BCFD personnel climb into driver's seat of simulator
by Jessica Loeding
Aug 16, 2013 | 1822 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Driver Training Class
Bartow County Fire Department Battalion Chief Sandy Turner gets behind the wheel of the simulator during Thursday’s driver training class. Participants — including fire, EMS and county personnel — tried their hand at various scenarios in a simulated fire truck, ambulance or police patrol car. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Two bicyclists. Two utility vans. One SUV. Four firefighters.

While it sounds like the makings of a complicated accident scene, the vehicles and bikers were the digital casualties of a Public Safety Driver Training program involving Bartow County Fire Department.

Midday Thursday, BCFD Sgts. Cody Little and Shane West, Capt. Marcus Warren and Firefighter Brad Jones enter the decision-cased driver simulator presented by Local Government Risk Management Services, an organization of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association.

In two repetitions behind the wheel, each firefighter climbed into the driver’s seat, maneuvering through a response scenario in the digital fire truck. Through the second course, the two bicyclists and three vehicles were struck as each driver maintained 32 mph and dodged moving vehicles and erratic drivers.

BCFD Division Chief for Training and Special Operations Dwayne Jamison said the training taught personnel from fire and emergency medical services various driving techniques.

“We are teaching them defensive driving techniques, how to operate emergency vehicles, when it is an actual emergency situation when you use due regard when responding, different safety precautions when running emergency with larger vehicles like fire trucks or ambulances,” he said. “Everybody crashes just about. That’s just part of the learning experience. ... It’s better for them to do it here in the simulator because they teach different techniques than what you would think about steering, different situations, braking techniques.”

Preceded by a two-hour classroom session, the simulator appeared to be popular among the department.

“Our guys seem to like it. Most of them play video games anyway and it’s like a big, giant video game to them so they enjoy it,” Jamison said.

Before a firefighter can pilot a vehicle in an emergency, the department lays out requirements that must be met.

“We have a driver training packet. It’s initially a minimum of 60 hours of initial driving, non-emergency driving. They have to do the driving with an approved supervisor that has the approved license,” Jamison said. “There is an extensive package they have to finish up before they are ever allowed to get behind the wheel and drive our vehicles in an emergency.”

Once complete, BCFD requires drivers to have 12 hours of driver safety training each year, and EMS personnel also must meet driver training goals.

Because the program, which ran for two weeks at the joint training facility on Paga Mine Road, is approved by the state, Jamison said, “it’s helping us in more ways than one achieve some of our training goals.”

According to a press release from LGRMS, the simulator allows a driver to see everyday driving and emergency response situations, covering emergency response driving, vehicle-handling characteristics and physical driving conditions.

“... ACCG and GMA’s Risk Management workers compensation and property/liability self insurance funds are financially supporting this program because of the unique and high risk driving situations that local government employees, specifically law enforcement and public safety personnel, may be involved with on a daily basis,” the release stated.

“We are very fortunate to have this. It’s been about seven or eight years since the last time they were here to be able to do this with the driving simulators,” Jamison said. “... Because the county has their insurance with ACCG, the training is free to us. ...

“It’s been a real positive experience for our folks.”