What’s Working: Fire Apparatus Driving Simulator

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Safely driving a fire truck is a skill that has to be studied before it can be mastered.

Mississippi is home to the most advanced Fire Truck driving simulator in the whole world.

Heavy traffic, narrow side roads, low hanging power lines, those are just a few of the challenges a fire truck driver faces.

Driving a fire truck comes with responsibility. Just last year there were four accidents, and two people died. A nearly $400,000 FEMA grant covered most of the cost for this Fire Apparatus Driving Simulator.

Mike Chaney is the Insurance Commissioner in Mississippi. He’s also the State Fire Marshal.

“It’s like using a flight simulator if you are a pilot. It’s a little different, and it’s for people to understand what it’s like to drive and what’s at risk when you are driving one of these rigs,” Chaney said.

More than two-thirds of Mississippi firefighters are volunteers. The mobile simulator can come to them.

Reggie Bell is the Executive Director at the Mississippi Fire Academy.

“Our goal is to teach and enforce emergency driving techniques to all firefighters in this state that have the opportunity to be behind the wheel, whether it’s in the urban setting or the rural setting,” Bell said.

A fully loaded fire truck can weigh about eight tons and cost more than $400,000.

“OPur goal is if you are going to make a mistake, driving a fire apparatus, make it in this vehicle right here,” Bell said.

The simulator can play out more than 100 scenarios.

“Could be gravel, dirt,” Bell said. “This simulator will project all of that, rain, snow, darkness, fog. It can all be programmed into this computer.”

That can make fire trucks and all of us who share the road with them, a little safer.

Commissioner Chaney credits Senator Thad Cochran, Senator Roger Wicker, and Representative Gregg Harper with pushing for federal grant money to buy the Fire Truck Simulator. It’s been here in our state since last month.

The simulator can also be programmed scenarios that can be used to train ambulance drivers and police officers.

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