Driving fire apparatus is one of the most dangerous tasks performed by fire department members. Every year a significant percentage of firefighter fatalities are the result of driving fire apparatus. Personal research of 100 fire department motor vehicle collisions for an Alabama fire department revealed that 65% of those who had accidents were not compensated as apparatus operators. In other words, even though apparatus operators drove apparatus most of the time, they had fewer accidents than those who drove on a periodic basis. There were contributing factors-unfamiliarity with the apparatus, unfamiliarity with territory/terrain, inexperience, anxiety/excitement, lack of situational awareness, but most importantly, the wrong attitude. Attitude cannot be taught in a class; it must be institutionalized over time. Operating fire apparatus entails responsibility not only for production of fire streams, but just as important, getting emergency responders to and from incidents safely. Apparatus operators understand and embrace this very fact. This is the reason, in my opinion, they drive with due regard for the safety and well-being of responders and the public, they do what is necessary to learn the specifics of their job, and they have fewer accidents.

Developing well-founded introductory education, training, and experiences for newer members of our departments is critical to safe, efficient, and effective operations. Because emergency vehicle driving plays such an important role in fire departments it is necessary to clarify a few points regarding the Emergency Vehicle Driver (EVD) course offered by the Alabama Fire College.

Course Delivery Methods

  • Traditional delivery is typically conducted on-site with face-to-face interaction between the instructor and the student on a scheduled basis.
  • Hybrid delivery may have fewer in-person meetings than a traditional course, a portion may be delivered online, and students must have access to a computer. Students are responsible for the same competencies as in the traditional delivery. Hybrid courses allow students and instructors to overcome the constraints of time, geography, and other commitments. The hybrid delivery typically allows for more personalized, one-on-one instruction and allows the instructor (and crew) to proceed at a pace that is tailored to the student’s aptitude, skill, and capability. This course is not designed to be completely independent or self-study. The expectation is that a seasoned instructor, apparatus operator, or crew will answer questions from the academic material as necessary and guide and direct the training of the student during the practical and driving skills.

Instructional Materials

Instructional materials for the EVD course are available through AFC Online (for free):

  • For instructors to use to teach the course: the syllabus, driver practical skills sheets (including a diagram and layout of the driving course), lesson outlines, presentation materials (PowerPoints), review tests, and quizzes)
  • For students to use as a resource to study at their own pace

The textbook for EVD, FAO Pumper, FAO Aerial, and FAO Mobile Water Supply is IFSTA’s Pumping and Aerial Apparatus Driver/Operator Handbook, 3rd Edition (available for purchase from the AFC Bookstore). EVD course materials come from Chapters 1, 2, and 3.

Skills Requirements & Final Assessment

  • The National Fire Protection Association 1002, Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications requires that the items covered in Chapter 4, General Requirements, include preventive maintenance, driving/operating, and fire department communications are covered for the specific course being taught: Pumper, Aerial, Mobile Water Supply (MWS), or Airport Rescue Fire Fighter (ARFF).
  • The initial EVD skills may be completed on any type fire apparatus, but preferably a pumper. Students should practice driving a/n pumper, aerial, tanker, or ARFF apparatus when they take each specific FAO certification course. One of the EVD skills will be tested during the course for each specific type apparatus.
  • In order to successfully complete the EVD prerequisite, training must occur on the six Job Performance Requirements (JPR) skills sheets for the EVD course, and the instructor must sign the JPR skills sheets indicating the student has satisfactorily completed the driving portion of training prior to attending any FAO certification course.
  • The EVD course is not a certification course but leads to certification in other courses. The curriculum in the EVD course includes testable material and is a NFPA requirement before proceeding to all FAO certification courses, including: FAO Pumper, FAO Aerial, FAO Mobile Water Supply, and FAO ARFF.
  • The final assessment (cognitive) must be proctored by the course instructor, a training officer, or AFC Regional Coordinator/Proctor. The exam should not be provided to the student outside of the presence of one of those listed above. The final assessment is available to the instructor in AFC Online. If a paper version is needed, contact your Regional Coordinator.
  • Approximately 20% of test items on subsequent FAO certification exams will be from the EVD materials.
  • The Instructional JPR Verification Sheet must be provided to the Certification Division to prove that the training/evaluation has been completed. The six skills sheets and Instructional JPR Verification Sheet can be uploaded into AFC Online.
  • At least one JPR skill from the EVD course will be performed for each certification level to meet testing requirements.

Because of the potential implications associated with apparatus operations, I implore you to continue to train daily, model a culture of safety, hold each other accountable for abiding by established laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, adhere to Alabama Fire College guidelines, and provide positive practical experiences for junior members of your departments. If you do these things, we can collectively reduce the monetary and human costs associated with apparatus accidents and the Alabama Fire College can continue to provide you with quality programs which provide a great experience in the least intrusive, most economical manner possible. If you have any questions, please contact your Regional Coordinator or the Training Staff at training@alabamafirecollege.org.

Matt Russell, Executive Director