Backing Procedures for Fire and Rescue Companies

Have you ever tried to back a large pumper into a small apparatus bay?  Even with a spotter, the process of reversing a 75-foot vehicle is difficult.  Almost every Firefighter I have spoken with either has backed a truck into their station, or knows someone that has.  Most of the time, these result in minor damages to vehicles, or buildings; and, major damage to the driver’s ego.  However, sometimes the damage can be severe, even fatal.  Proper SOPs for backing is an essential “Best Practice” for every Fire and Rescue organization.

What needs to be in the SOP for Backing Procedures?  A written backing policy needs to be signed by all drivers and spotters.  Include specific responsibilities for both the driver and spotter.

Sample Spotter Responsibilities:

  • Survey the area on all sides of the vehicle for hazards – “Circle of Safety”.
  • Communicate with the driver about observed hazards.
  • Check overhead clearance.
  • Stop the Driver if any hazards are observed.

Sample Driver Responsibilities:

  • Do not be in a hurry.
  • Use a spotter if possible.
  • Make sure you can see and hear your spotter. If you cannot see or hear the spotter, STOP!

This is just a short sample, but where do we find additional information?  The first place to check is with your insurance company.  I hope that you are insured with VFIS, because they provide access to the best risk management material available.  VFIS is one of the few insurance companies that specialize in providing insurance for Emergency Service Organizations.  Many of their employees are Volunteer Firefighters and EMS Technicians, so they truly understand your needs and challenges.  The next place to look is with your local Firefighter Association.  The Maryland State Firemen’s Association is an excellent resource for Firefighter safety information.

If you would like to discuss additional backing procedures, or learn more about VFIS, please give me a call at 301-948-5800 ext 115 or email me at

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