By Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden, 15th Wing Public Affairs
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- An Emergency Vehicle Operator's Course took place on JBPHH March 24-28.
The training course prepares Airmen and Sailors to operate police, fire and emergency medical service vehicles in emergency situations.
According to police Capt. Edward Silva, the course is a requirement before first emergency service personnel can respond to a scene using their flashing lights and sirens, otherwise known as "code."
"It is a privilege to get behind the wheel and drive one of these vehicles," he said. "We are accountable, responsible and obligated by law to follow host nation traffic codes. This is serious business ... when you're driving a 3, 000 pound vehicle inappropriately it's a weapon and there can be consequences to not doing it right. We have to protect ourselves and other drivers on the road."
The 40-hour course teaches the students driving techniques such as evasive maneuvers, proper lane changes, how to handle radius turns and breaking. Additionally, the students are educated on the importance of route planning.
"You have to be familiar with the area you are driving in, and that's when route planning comes into play," Silva said. "You have to consider the elements. Things such as peak traffic hours, construction and big events can slow you down. The shortest route is not always the fastest or safest."
However, Silva said one of the most important lessons the students learn in the course is when they can report to a scene in code mode--it's not as simple as jumping in the car and flipping on the lights and sirens.
Silva said in order for code to be used, there must be a "true emergency" which is defined by law as a situation in which there is a high probability of death or serious or significant property loss. The driver must also give due regard to whether or not "a reasonable, careful person performing similar duties and under similar circumstances would react in the same manner."
"Not every situation will require emergency driving, but when it does, it's important to be prepared ... to know what to do and how to do it," he said.
A large emphasis is also placed on safety.
"Emergency responders need to get to the scene fast, but without becoming a casualty or creating another accident," Silva said.
With that in mind, EVOC students are taught to use different driving techniques than they might use while driving personal vehicles. For example, Silva said, the three and nine hand placement on the steering wheel is taught. Palms facing up, using the push and pull method for steering gives the driver more control over the vehicle in the event that the airbags are deployed.
"Emergency driving techniques are different and we try to teach the students good driving habits," he said. "We make sure the students know their limitations and the vehicle limitations so we teach hand positioning and vehicle positioning."
Petty Officer 2nd Class Ebony Washington, JBPHH security forces, said class was definitely beneficial for first time emergency drivers.
"We learned a lot of different driving techniques, but I definitely learned how to depend on my mirrors and use them more effectively," she said. "The class definitely teaches you how to multi-task because there are so many things you need to be able to do at once."
Washington said she considers herself to be a "pretty good" driver, but learned to let go of her old driving habits to embrace the new techniques taught in the class.
Though picking up on new driving skills is a definite plus, Silva said it's all about being prepared for unpredictability.
"We want to instill confidence in our drivers," he said. "When they know what they can do behind the wheel and what their vehicles can do they can put all their focus on the situation they are heading into."