Not only is there risk inherent in all three jobs, but there is the added risk of vehicle accidents to both responders and the public. When you add in factors such as inconsistent seat belt use and training budget reductions based on recent economic hard times, the toll both psychologically and economically can be devastating.
For example, according to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 42 percent of police officers who died in vehicle crashes in the past 30 years were not wearing seat belts or other safety restraints. Another recent study reported that in 2010, fatal traffic incidents have been the leading cause of police officer deaths for 13 straight years.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), in a May 2011 report, found that more than 700 police officers lost their lives from 2000-2009 because of an automobile or motorcycle crash (or being struck and killed while outside of their patrol vehicles). In 2010, there was a significant increase in the number of officers who died in the line of duty (LOD) because of these types of incidents.
Budget-wise, more than 55 percent of respondents in a separate IACP survey said that the recent recession presented "a serious or severe" problem to their agency, with more than 85 percent of agencies reporting that they were forced to reduce their budget over the last year. As a result, one outcome has been the elimination of special programs, including safety training for drivers.
Ariel Jenkins, senior risk control manager at Safety National, the U.S. market leader in excess workers' compensation and a significant writer of multi-line large casualty business based in St. Louis, Mo., said that motor vehicle accidents for emergency responders have emerged as a serious financial threat for public entities, which have been one of Safety National's core markets for a number of years.
"When we looked at the statistics, our focus was on how we can positively impact this trend in the most cost-effective way possible," Jenkins explained.
Safety National initiated an in-depth analysis of losses, using it as the focus in formulating a plan to help insureds reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Safety National spent months on its search, examining a number of vendors who offer fleet safety programs that would be adaptable to first responders and the special driving needs and risks that they face every day.
"We wanted subject-matter expertise and looked for a partner that could address the issue head-on," he said, noting that Safety National eventually chose Applied Simulation Technologies (AST), an engineering company in Murray, Utah.
As Safety National sifted through the data and research, it found inconsistencies with how emergency responders are trained to negotiate intersections at high speeds. Combined with recent law enforcement in-vehicle distractions, including computers, printers, GPS, cameras, radar, personal cell phones etc., the risks of accidents have increased.
"There is a long list of distractions. When you add them to an emergency response scenario, combined with congested traffic and factors such as inconsistent seat belt use, it's easy to see why accident rates and the severity of resulting injuries are climbing," Jenkins said.
Those increased risk factors compelled Safety National to take action and try to provide a resource with the reach and substance for their public entity and health care clients, giving first responders the immersive training that can make a difference.
"The assumption is that anyone who has a license and who has never been involved in an emergency response related vehicle accident inherently knows how to drive under these conditions, but that's not the case, and that's where the gap is," he said. "Especially for an emergency responder, negotiating the right of way requires keen defensive driving ability, and you can't assume or force it. There is a skill to it that must be taught and practiced."
Safety National and AST partnered to launch Safety: Emergency Responder Vehicle Education, or S:ERVE, a driver simulation product for policyholders with emergency responder (the topic will be the focus of a webinar in April - check Safety National's website for details).
Jenkins explained that S:ERVE is an online, easy-to-access driver simulation and curriculum created to educate law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and other emergency responders to drive at their safest in emergency response scenarios. S:ERVE guides users through a series of situations in which decision making is critical. Users prioritize their vehicle handling and emergency task activities while experiencing situations related to typical emergency response or pursuit operations.
S:ERVE meets the standards established by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation. Early indicators are that the use of the platform upon which S:ERVE is built resulted in a 67 percent decrease in errors per intersection and a 25 percent reduction in overall accident rates.
"We began offering S:ERVE through our MAP Client Services program in February," Jenkins said, noting that MAP Client Services offers various resources to help Safety National policyholders improve workers' compensation management, analysis and prevention efforts. On a limited basis, S:ERVE will be provided at no additional cost to Safety National's policyholders.
S:ERVE includes five core lesson plans:
-- Intersection Approach -- Select appropriate methods for maximizing vehicle control when approaching intersections and recognizing the risks associated with improper intersection negotiation.
-- Intersection Assessment -- Learn to recognize, categorize and prioritize all potential hazards.
-- Clearing the Intersection Basics -- Decipher appropriate techniques and recognize the dangers associated with improper intersection clearing.
-- Clearing the Intersection Advanced -- Review and reinforce awareness of risk factors when clearing intersections and how to avoid common mistakes when doing so.
-- Intersection Departure & Course Summary -- Learn the steps for safely departing an intersection, then complete a comprehensive course recap of all key concepts.
"Our target markets for use of S:ERVE are insureds that have emergency responders on the payroll," Jenkins said. "We've done substantial research from both a safety strategy and financial standpoint, and believe S:ERVE offers tremendous ROI potential."
"There is already a buzz and demand for it, and early adopter feedback has been strong," he concluded. "Most of all, it's about keeping people safe and healthy, using economies of scale to positively impact two insurance lines -- workers compensation and auto liability. It's very clear to us that S:ERVE also offers both social responsibility and economic impact."
March 7, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications