Each ATV class is approximately 9 hours long and consists of: Winch
Operations, Wildland Fire Operations, GPS usage,
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ATV / OHV Rescue News:
Posted: December 1, 2009
"Not All UTV's Are Created Equal"
By: Kimball Johnson
In recent years, the big brother of ATV's, known as the UTV,
have seen a rapid rise in use by emergency services organizations across the country. Fire, Police and EMS are now recognizing
a wide variety of uses and applications for these UTV vehicles including wild land firefighting, emergency medical evacuation
from remote locations, police search and rescue operations, crowd control, SARS urban interface just to name a few.
As President and owner of one of the leading manufacturers
of medical and fire skid units built specifically for these specialized vehicles, I get calls daily from chief officers and
administrators from across the country inquiring about the suitability of one type of make model UTV over another. The ones
that haven't purchased a UTV yet are in luck. It is the organization that has already purchased a UTV with the mistaken notion
that the particular make/model they purchased will be adequate for the needs of the emergency services they lead who are sometimes
There are many UTV makes and models to choose from on
the market today. Some are much better suited for emergency services work than others. Some UTV's have no business being utilized
by these organizations at all for emergency services work. The Polaris Ranger 6x6 and 4x4, Kubota RTV 900, Kawasaki Mule 3010
and 4010, John Deere Gator 6x4 and 4x4, Cub Cadet Big Country and Volunteer, the Buffalo 6x6 and the Argo amphibious ATV are
all units that are very popular and seem to be the best suited for emergency services work. There are many other makes and
models that deserve tighter scrutiny to insure they will be useful for the mission they will be expected to fulfill.
Emergency services organizations need to put just as much time, effort, thought
and due diligence into the purchase of their UTV as they would for their next ambulance or fire truck. First, we need to outline
mission objectives, types of typography/geography in the main response area (hilly, steep versus swampy, moist environments)
and ultimately the primary mission of the UTV in the organization, medical transport, wild land firefighting or a combination
of the two. Once these questions have been answered, then the organization can look at the specifications of the different
type UTV models available that best meet the mission objectives. Second, safety must always be high on the list. Most UTV's
provide seat belts but make sure the UTV model you are interested in comes equipped with them (and then write proper SOG's
or SOP's to insure your organization follows the seat belts always rule) as well as having ROPS (roll over protection structure)
which is essentially a roll cage that protects the occupants of the seated areas in the UTV. Third, is the overall weight
carrying capacity of the entire unit but more specific the carrying capacity of the cargo bed is of utmost importance. This
is where many departments get tripped up. They go out and purchase a unit that cannot meet industry-carrying requirements
of these skid units but find out too late.
When considering the purchase
of a UTV, I am certain that true 4x4 or 6x6 drive train capability is a must for your organization. Again, check the make/model
specifications carefully. Some claim to be 6x6 (which they are, almost) but looking closer you will find that only 4 of the
6 wheels on the vehicle are really true drive wheels. The other two wheels are just freewheeling. Test drive the units while
looking at turning radius on the 6x6 versus the 4x4, or is the payload requirements of your mission dictates the 6x6 over
On cargo bed requirements for a medical type skid unit,
I have a rule of thumb that the UTV you are buying should be rated to carry at least 650 lbs. in the cargo bed of the unit.
We get to this number by adding the weight of the base skid unit (usually 150 lbs. or less) by the average weight of an attendant,
patient, trauma bag, O2 bag and bottle and other necessary items. There are UTV's out there that are rated to only carry 400
lbs. in the cargo bed, which is way below the 650 lbs. mentioned above. If it is a wild land firefighting skid with water
and gear that you are interested in, that number can jump to 900 lbs. and above for a required rated cargo capacity. When
doing your due diligence and getting specifications, the web sites of all the manufactures mentioned above is a great starting
place. For instance, the Polaris 6x6 Ranger has an overall rated vehicle payload capacity of 1750 lbs. with a rated cargo
bed capacity of 1250 lbs. The Kubota RTV 900 has similar ratings at an overall payload capacity of 1653 lbs. and 1102-lbs.
cargo bed capacity. The Polaris Ranger 4x4 has a vehicle payload capacity of 1500 lbs. and a cargo bed rated capacity of 1000
lbs. As you can see, the relationship between the make and models specifications and rated capacities soon helps you narrow
your search for the right UTV for the mission you expect it to undertake. Most UTV skid manufactures are starting
to standardize the size of the skid units. The cargo bed of the UTV should be at least 49" wide and 54" long. UTV
units with smaller sized beds will potentially restrict you as to how many skid units you have to choose from and could drive
the price up substantially if a customized skid unit needs to be built to fit your particular UTV.
Remember, as a chief officer of an emergency services organization, you do not want to be put in the
unenviable position of having to answer tough questions by a high priced litigation attorney seeing your organization because
you placed the wrong UTV into the wrong mission area resulting in an accident. We must give these vehicles the same respect
and due diligence when deciding which unit to purchase as we do when we buy the larger vehicles. These vehicles can harm our
personnel and our patients just like if we have an accident with the larger units. It is imperative that we do everything
to prevent an accident by purchasing the right UTV for the mission.
closing, the point of this article is to get you to consider your options of makes/models of UTV's very closely before you
make the final purchase. I also want to say that I am not a fan of the use of ATV's in use by emergency services. I bought
one for my small rural department but soon felt that the unit did not provide enough safety protection for my firefighters/EMT's.
First you ride up on an ATV like on a motorcycle instead of inside a UTV like a car. Second, there are no seat belts on ATV's
where there is almost always seat belts on UTV's, and finally the ATV can be very unstable in many conditions. ATV's should
serve limited mission roles in emergency services organizations. Remember that cheaper in terms of cost is not always best
when it comes to our national motto for firefighters "Everyone comes home".
Kimball Johnson, Kimtek Corporation
ATVSI Operator's Course (5 hours), ATR Rescue
Trailer Ops, and on-highway "Tow Vehicle Operations."
Off-Road Res-Q ATV /
OHV Rescue News:
Posted: August 1, 2007
Critics say "ATV Design Still Too Dangerous"
They're supposed to be fun, off-road recreational vehicles for adults. But the ATVs
that zip through fields, wooded trails, and even on roadways throughout Michigan and beyond, have become death machines
for many. Friday, an 18-year-old Whitehall boy became the state's
latest ATV fatality. A talented three-sport athlete, the young man was not wearing a helmet when
he was killed while driving a friend's ATV in Kent County. He is the seventh area person known
to have died in an ATV accident since 1982, when the off-road vehicles were first built. Last year, two area deaths
were reported. Through 2006, Michigan ranked seventh in the nation
in ATV deaths with 280. Thirteen people died last year in ATV crashes on public roads in Michigan.
Government statistics for ATV fatalaties this year are not yet available, but Friday's victim was the first central
Michigan area person to die on a four-wheeler in 2007.
Nearly 20 years
ago, the federal government declared ATVs an "imminent hazard" and forced manufacturers
to drop unstable 3-wheel models in favor of the 4-wheelers sold today. Regulators also compelled the ATV industry to
adopt safety warnings and offer rider training to reduce accidents. Since then, federal
officials have done little more than tally the dead, and the failure of their approach can be seen in the grim body
counts coast to coast. The rate of injuries per ATV has barely budged from where it stood after
the government acted in 1988. Though death rates initially plummeted as 3-wheelers disappeared, there's been scant improvement since.
the past decade, ATVs have soared in popularity, with 7.6 million in use. The result: Record
numbers of riders end up in emergency rooms and morgues as ATV accidents kill about 800
people a year and injure an estimated 136,700. "This is one of the worst examples ever of a government agency failing in its fundamental
mission to protect the American public," Stuart M. Statler, a former U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission member,
said of the agency's inability to significantly reduce ATV deaths and injuries during the past two decades. Nearly 8,000 people have died in ATV
crashes since the commission began counting, and 2 million have
been seriously hurt. Fully, a quarter of the dead and nearly a third of the injured are children.
Safety risks haven't dented the allure of ATVs. Over the past
decade, sales tripled to $5 billion a year as companies introduced
bigger, faster models. Though companies have added new features such
as four-wheel drive and power steering, they haven't eliminated a long-standing problem:
overturns. The machines flip over with punishing
regularity -- smashing faces, breaking necks,
crushing chests. Major manufacturers -- Honda, Polaris, Yamaha,
Kawasaki, Suzuki, Arctic Cat and Bombardier now CanAm -- insist their machines are safe and stable if operated properly.
They fault riders for accidents. "The safety issue is with the
appropriate use," said a lawyer for ATV market leader Honda. "It's
how people use the machines."
reckless riders are only part of the problem. The federal government has not extensively tested ATV stability since
at least 1991. An engineering firm hired by The Oregonian newspaper of Portland, Ore., tested the stability of
four popular ATV models and concluded they were dangerously
prone to overturns. The newspaper also analyzed fatal crashes and
reached a surprising finding: "Overturns were as common among
riders who appeared to be obeying basic safety warnings as among those who didn't." Together, the results point to the role that ATV design plays in many crashes, yet regulators have largely
ignored it. Meanwhile, abundant evidence shows that riders don't follow the warnings and
decline free training programs, the key tenets of the government and industry approach to safety.
Federal records show that more than half of those who die on ATVs perish in crashes where the machines roll over sideways or flip forward
or backward. In some cases, overturns happen after the ATV hits something or tumbles off
a steep drop. But about a third of the time, the government data
show, rollovers are only the first known event in a fatal crash.
And as ATV companies make heavier machines, overturns pose an increasing danger. ATV companies are quick to point out the large number of crashes in which riders ignore
warnings. That is true more than 80 percent of the time in the government's database of fatal crashes.
But failure to comply with warnings doesn't explain all rollovers. ATV manufacturers don't dispute that their machines can roll or flip. Instead, they argue ATVs are a special breed of vehicle they describe
In other words, according to the manufacturers of these vehicles, "it's up to ATV operators to keep the ATV from overturning" by shifting their body weight from side to side, or front
to back, as the trail or road conditions require.
Now, let Dad explain the importance of this concept to the 6-year-old he just placed
on the seat of a 250cc Sport ATV. Oh sure, when asked "Do you understand?" he'll
nod his head and say "Yes Daddy."
Does he understand the consequences
of not getting it right?
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