Fire Chief Buckling Down On Making Firefighters Buckle Up After Crash

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 An accident between two Tulsa fire trucks in September revealed most firefighters don’t wear seat belts.

News On 6 found someone had disabled the buzzers that remind firefighters to buckle up, not just on one or fire engines, but on the vast majority of Tulsa Fire Department’s fleet.

Two fire trucks were unknowingly on a collision course downtown, both going 25 miles an hour through a blind intersection. Though both had cameras onboard, one was pointed down until the collision.

The firefighters were not hurt, but the fire chief considers that just luck.

“I know, for me, it was very sickening to see it, first thinking we would have hurt firefighters or citizens involved, but thankfully that wasn’t the case here,” said Tulsa Fire Chief Ray Driskell.

The internal investigation of the accident determined four of eight firefighters onboard were not wearing seatbelts. What’s more–the seatbelt alarms had been disabled on purpose. The chief demoted two men and disciplined three others involved in the accident.

11/7/2013 Related Story: Records Show Tulsa Firefighters Involved In Crash Disabled Seatbelt Monitor

Then, a wider inspection found most trucks had been tampered with, so firefighters could go without seatbelts without hearing the alarm.

“I don’t think we want to spend the man hours and resources trying to find out who did what, but I sent out a stern email saying, if anyone is found to tamper with any safety device, a ladder truck or whatever, there will be some action taken against those people, because we won’t tolerate that,” Driskell said.

The damage from the crash doesn’t look severe, but the department believes repairs could top $200,000.

Because of the potential loss of life and intentional violation of safety rules, the department now dispatches a seatbelt reminder with each call.

“And that’s the message we’re sending to the field is that we won’t tolerate this kind of activity when you’re putting firefighters or citizens lives in danger,” Driskell said.

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