During the Association County Commissioners of Georgia’s annual conference in Savannah April 11-15, Bartow County was recognized with the ACCG Safety & Risk Management Leadership Award. The accolade stemmed from a two-week driver safety rodeo in September modeled after the county school system’s bus driver rodeo. The first county in the state to hold such a training, Bartow put drivers through their paces in parking, backing, slalom, turning, spacial awareness and other skills.
“[Bartow County Roads Director] Randy Gray first mentioned it to me that he would like to know, you know, get the drivers out on the same course [as the school system] and find out who had the best skills as far as driving skills go, who needed some help,” Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said. “... We thought it might help us as far as insurance claims go. Then, if the road department is going to do it, why not the fire department? Why not EMS? And then we said, ‘Hey, anybody that drives a county vehicle, why not involve them too?’”
With Bartow County Fire Department answering an estimated 8,000 calls per year, safety is paramount to the men and women behind the wheel of the engines.
“... A lot of our employees, once they go through it, they had an ah-ha moment. ... Watching their coworkers go through it they're driving it themselves, they thought maybe where they had a shortcoming or maybe where the guy they work with has a shortcoming,” said BCFD Deputy Chief of Administration Bryan Keeling. “... In our business if we don't get there we're not going to do anybody no good, then we're just part of the problem. So it is very important for our people not only to get to the scene of an emergency or somebody having a disaster in their life at that particular moment, but the safety of our employees, that's the most important thing is our employees — we need to keep them safe.”
Saying the award was the result of efforts by county staff to make the course a success, Taylor said with numerous departments taking to the roads, the county makes every effort to improve safety awareness.
“... Of course insurance is important, but the real importance is keeping folks out of accidents and there could be some serious injuries. That's the real reason for doing it,” he said. “As you know, everybody is liability conscious nowadays and we want to do everything we can to sharpen our skills out on the roads. We've got several hundred vehicles out there every single day, and we want to make sure that if there's somebody out there driving a county vehicle, especially a fire truck or a big dump truck or an ambulance, if they need some training, then we need to be there to help them get it.”
Dan Beck, director of Local Government Risk Management Services Inc., said in September that his agency would look to use Bartow’s driver’s safety course as a pilot program across the state.
“This is a tremendous best practice. … It takes a lot of resources to put this event on, but I think it’s very, very valuable from a long-term perspective,” Beck said previously. “Historically speaking, safety is always graded based on trailing indicators. Someone will get in an accident. There’s an accident here and then everyone puts their resource there, and then there’s an accident there. This is a positive approach, so it’s preventative instead of reacting to things. It really gets the people out there; it’s hands-on training, much better than classroom training. It’s everybody aware. Most importantly, it makes sure everybody knows this is very, very important to the county, the county commissioner.
“… Hopefully there will be a tremendous amount of success in regards to results. I think immediately there is an amount of success from the culture perspective. It says the leadership is so very concerned with your safety they are going to spend this amount of resources.”
To be held biannually, the county will host the next driver’s safety course in March 2015.