By Gina Mace
Special to the Beacon Journal

POSTED: 08:26 p.m. EDT, Jun 06, 2009

CUYAHOGA FALLS: A 1996 Falls emergency medical squad is being traded for advanced driver training for nearly half of the city’s firefighters.

Driver Training for Firefighters

Fire Chief Paul Moledor said the squad was put up for sale a year ago at $35,000, but there were no takers.

The price was dropped to $19,000, but still no nibbles.

Driver Training for Firefighers

Driver Training for Firefighers

So the fire department has struck a deal — with the blessing of City Council — to trade the truck for $16,000 worth of advanced training from Falls-based Drive Team Inc.

Moledor said the barter is a better deal for the city than holding onto the truck with hope that someone will eventually buy it.

”They get what they want — a squad for their firefighter training — and we get what we want,” he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Fred Jackson, who is in charge of training, said it will be in addition to a state-mandated 16-hour, in-house training and the basic driving instruction for beginning firefighters.

Jackson said he is excited to finally be able to send at least 40 Falls firefighters for additional training.

Ken Stout, Drive Team president, and his instructors have backgrounds ranging from engineering to vehicle dynamics and testing and even auto racing. Many of the instructors are former police officers, firefighters or large-vehicle operators. All are certified by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Stout said the Falls firefighters will use the company’s 15-acre training course to learn how to react to a variety of situations.

”The [fire department] vehicles have hydraulic outrigger tires on them,” Stout said.

”By [remotely] controlling the tires, we can make the vehicle skid. What we’re able to do is teach firefighters a very high-end dynamic of operating this equipment in a controlled environment.”

The U.S. Fire Administration reported in 2002 that traumatic injury — most from traffic accidents — is one of the leading causes of death among firefighters. In 2009, 11 of the 41 line-of-duty deaths in the United States were a result of vehicle collisions.

To bring those numbers down, Stout said, his team has created instruction on how to handle big vehicles like firetrucks and rescue vehicles.

”They face crazy people at intersections and people who don’t pull over to the right and [firefighters] are dealing with a 20-, 30-, or 40,000-pound vehicle,” Stout said.

”They have to know weight transfer and steering control so they know what to do in the case of the person on the road who doesn’t know how to get out of the way of the firetruck.”

While Drive Team instructors are training Falls firefighters over the next several months, students in the University of Akron’s emergency response firefighter course will be driving the old Falls squad as part of their coursework.

Jackson said he hopes this is just the beginning of a long relationship between the city and the company.

”Driving [the equipment] is one of the more dangerous things we do,” Jackson said.

”If we can save one person from an injury or fatality, it’s worth it.”