LIFESTYLELifeCan You Afford Not to Follow Your SOGs?

Can You Afford Not to Follow Your SOGs?

By Michael Baker, CRM, CPCU, AIC, Director VFIS Client Risk Solutions + Member of the fire/EMS community since 1989

Not everyone understands the gravity of ignoring your fire department’s guidelines.

Your senior operator has just finished up his apparatus check, hops in, buckles up, and begins backing the vehicle into the station—just like he’s done an infinite number of times before. But this isn’t just like any time before. Unbeknownst to the operator, a local family stops into the station to bring some cookies to the crew and they’re right behind the apparatus. Luckily, another member realizes the vehicle is starting to back, gets in the operator’s line of sight and signals the operator to a stop. No harm, no foul—right? Not in this field. 

The problem is there were likely several standard operating guidelines or procedures (SOGs and SOPs) that were created as safeguards for situations like this. For instance, had the operator used a spotter or, at the very least, walked around the vehicle prior to backing, he would have seen the risks involved and everyone in the area could have been alerted to the moving apparatus. Further, a near-miss report should have been filed to investigate the incident and hopefully prevent similar events in the future. 

Your fire department likely has countless written policies, procedures and guidelines that provide tactical steps and best practices for your operations, including backing and incident reporting. However, simply having a stack of papers, stuffing them into a binder and hiding them in a cabinet isn’t guiding or protecting anyone. Your policies need to be seen as living, breathing documents that are continually practiced, reviewed, maintained and trained upon. If not, their lifelessness could result in your team running on auto-pilot, missing the basics and ignoring your guidelines all together—and the impacts could be costly. 

Ignoring a single step in any of your vehicle-related SOGs and SOPs—whether they seem big or small—could easily end in minor vehicle damage. But it also could end in extensive and expensive damages that leave your vehicle out of operation for months on end and require you to partner with a neighboring station to serve your town. And, worst case scenario, it could end in tragedy—and a team member or community member could pay the ultimate price.

It’s up to each of us to do it right every time to minimize the risk to all of us.

The truth is, it could be easy to overlook examining your simple policies and everyday tasks in the wake of more glaring and glooming risks. However, when you’re in the fire service, you can’t afford to do so. It’s important for every person in your department to understand that all of your policies and guidelines exist for a reason and that you’re never immune to experiencing the most severe consequence of any operation. We’re in a field that requires us to get it right, every time. 

About VFIS

Emergency responders serve vital roles within their communities and VFIS is committed to protecting the resources of emergency service organizations and promoting the health and interests of their members with an unmatched level of understanding and dedication. Learn more about VFIS’ holistic protections, responder training, and safety-forward resources at

Contests & Promotions

West Broad Contest
Fire Science Nutrition Contest/Promotion
Burn Box promotion/contest