Collaborating on Traffic Incident Response: Building Relationships with Your Tow Operators

In the world of incident management, working together as a cohesive team results in a protected work environment for responders and safe, expedited scene clearance. That's what traffic-incident management (TIM) is all about: Each responder has a key role to play.

The towing industry is a private-sector responder. As private business owners, we bring a different perspective to the scene. Our experiences and resources are a result of the varied jobs we perform on a daily basis. We must be prepared for the unexpected and know where and when we can access unusual tools for those unknown variables. Because we operate with diverse resources, we must think outside the box. This makes us a valuable asset to the team.

Towers bring a variety of skill sets with them to any scene. We can assist with victim extrication, disaster response, roadway clearance and so much more. Oftentimes, the tower isn't included in preincident planning or post-incident critiques. Towers would welcome the opportunity to share their many years of experience, training and knowledge with other disciplines.

In return, the tower gleans valuable information from the group. This sharing and networking eliminates misunderstanding and limited direction on scene. There's no substitute for solid performance driven by an established working relationship between responders. Everyone benefits, especially the public we all serve.

An example of this type of cooperation involved a group of fire personnel trapped in a burning silo during a fire incident. During the operation, their exit route collapsed and they were beyond the reach of a ladder apparatus on scene. The department contacted a local tow facility for assistance after a failed attempt to reach a crane company. The tower didn't have equipment at base to reach the trapped men but they immediately accessed their network of relationships and were able to contact the owner of a nearby crane company to help. Within half an hour, the crane was on scene to assist the fire department for a successful rescue. When time is of the essence, we must work together and combine our resources.

This reinforces the necessity of including towers in incident-management planning. By working with the local towing companies, fire, rescue, law enforcement, transportation and other agencies will have a ready knowledge of the towers' equipment and capabilities and their ancillary service availability. This relationship building is invaluable.

The Towing & Recovery Association of America (TRAA) has been a long-time supporter and participant of incident management. Communication is vital to the success of TIM on a local grassroots level. We encourage fire, rescue, law enforcement, transportation and other agencies to reach out the towers in their communities. Share resources and training opportunities. We know firsthand that many towers have been cross training in their communities for years.

Safety is a priority for TRAA and we encourage and recommend training and certification to all towers across the country. TRAA led the way with the development of the National Driver Certification Program, funded in part by a federal grant in 1995. The TRAA National Driver Certification Program is the only nationally recognized certification program for towers. We're proud to say that we have successfully certified over 15,000 towers in light, medium and heavy-duty categories. TRAA strongly supports TIM training programs to accompany certification. We hope to continue to work diligently with our responder partners to foster a safer, more efficient environment for all on our roadways.

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