“Are rules meant to be broken?”

En route to a cardiac arrest call, the crew members of a heavy rescue squad faced a difficult decision: should they cross a bridge knowing that their vehicle is over the posted weight limit?

“We were dispatched in our heavy rescue (20.4 tons) for a code arrest. Enroute we realized that we would be required to cross a bridge that was not rated for the weight of our truck. The bridge limit is 20 tons. Normally, we would have switched into our engine which is lighter than the bridge weight limit but we did not realize where the call was as we were leaving the station. As we approached the bridge, the realization was made that we were over limit. We consulted with the acting BC, who was enroute behind the rescue. The acting engineer, the acting captain and acting BC decided to cross the bridge as we had done many times in the past in order to reach the scene without delay. After the call, we discussed what happened and realized how bad things could have gone. We made several key mistakes: 1) Failure to accurately identify the exact location of the incident to ensure we took the correct truck prior to leaving the station. We took the truck which was identified by dispatch instead of verifying for ourselves. 2) The engineer, captain and BC were all acting up. None wanted to make a bad decision in their acting role and failed to make the hard decision not to cross the bridge. 3) Failure to follow posted bridge weight limits. 4) Failure to follow department memo which had previously identified the bridge as having a limit that was not sufficient for the heavy rescue truck.”

Check out the full report which contains the specifics on this near-miss incident as well as offering takeaways, discussion topics, and other training resources:


  1. What would you have done in this situation?
  2. Would your answer change if the call was a fire with reports of people trapped? How about a fire alarm?
  3. Can you think of any other options the crew could have taken?
  4. Does your stated vehicle weight include a full crew of firefighters, their gear and a full complement of tools?
  5. Does your dispatch center have these pre-defined hazards as part of their communication protocols?

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