Is your check engine light on?
Many times before that annoying orange light on your dash goes off, your vehicle may give you warning signs that something is wrong. Sometimes it just pops up out of nowhere. You drive it to the nearest auto part store to check the code and await the damage, hoping that its something minor. With all of the electronics in today's vehicles the problems can range from a cheap sensor or a more costly problem. If the check engine light on the dash is flashing, we are told to pull over immediately, as something major is wrong.
We are all familiar with preventative maintenance on vehicles in an attempt to prevent major problems from occurring. By doing this we are attempting to stay ahead of the almighty power curve. Some people may take this to a high level and change their oil every 1000 miles. These people are going above and beyond what the owner’s manual states, (even though it is not required) and good for them! There are plenty of other preventative issues that we perform on our vehicles to ensure that they will operate efficiently and keep our loved ones and ourselves safe. By not performing preventative maintenance we can set ourselves up for disaster. For example: If the oil runs dry, the engine will seize and not function properly.
Preventative maintenance in the fire service for fire apparatus is just the same. We have criteria that we follow to ensure that each apparatus is in proper working condition and is safe for all occupants. Much of this is done everyday through apparatus checks in the morning. For items such as oil changes or brakes, some departments take their apparatus to a city maintenance shop, while others may use a private company for all of their maintenance needs.
How else can preventative maintenance assist us!
Another form of preventative maintenance is TRAINING, TRAINING, and TRAINING! When we are constantly performing training, we are performing preventative maintenance for our customers, our family, our crew, our department, and ourselves. I’m not talking about checking to make sure your SCBA is working properly, because this already gets done everyday! Right? Here I am talking about company drills, single firefighter drills, reading new books, blogs, eating healthy, exercising, and the overall personal effort that is put into the job. By training we are attempting to prevent a disaster from unfolding by being prepared. We raise ladders frequently to ensure that we can function efficiently on the fireground. We deploy attack lines to ensure everything is working properly, the list goes on and on. If we only raise ladders once or twice a year, is that task going to run like a well-oiled machine?
This also refers to maintenance of the mind. There are so many options in today’s fire service for performing maintenance of the mind. The Internet is loaded with free information for us to use. This is why we read LODD reports and near misses. This is why we read books and articles to maintain current knowledge of today’s fire service. Then, we can take what we have re
ad, and put it to use on the training ground (If it works for your department) and ultimately the fireground.
So, how is your fire service engine running? Is your check engine light on? Is your check engine light flashing? Were you recently assigned a task on the fireground or drill ground that did not go as smoothly as you would have liked? This is your check engine light going off! Do you very seldom perform a thorough daily check, and then sit at a desk or in a recliner all day? THIS IS YOUR CHECK ENGINE LIGHT FLASHING! Do something about it, just don’t sweep it under the rug and hope that your never faced with the same task again! This is the same as clearing a code on your vehicles computer in hopes that it doesn’t return again. Do not wait for your check engine light to flash when you are needed the most on the fireground! Fix the issue/s that are causing problems back at the firehouse or the drill ground, as this is where we can afford to make mistakes and also clear the check engine code.
Do the preventative maintenance and train, assuring that your engine is running properly, and prevent that annoying light from going off or flashing can save a customers life, a fellow brother or sister, or even your own! Every little piece of preventative maintenance that we do benefits all parties involved: The citizens, your family, yourself, your brothers and sisters, and your department. Remember, keep those hands dirty!
Here are a couple links to some training drills for you and your crew to perform to keep that engine running smoothly.
Forest Reeder Drill ideas for the new year.