POLICE Magazine

MAY 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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P O L I C E M AG .C O M 37 AVOIDING DANGER Roll-away dangers exist at all tow- and recovery-related scenarios. Knowing this information can save you from be- ing injured or killed while conducting simple police services involving vehi- cles being impounded, recovered, or towed away from wrecks. Vehicles being winched from any lo- cation during tow-related winch/recov- ery scenarios may disengage from free- spool, disconnect, or cable separation. When vehicles are being winched onto flatbed carriers, even during the most routine of impounds, they're prone to letting go when the tow operator hasn't confirmed the winch's spool was re- locked. Carrier operators are trained to apply a top-side safety strap or safe- ty chain to hold a vehicle's weight in the event of cable separation, V-Bridle (chain) break, or any other mechanical failure involving the carrier's winch. So it's important that officers remain safely away from winch-on winch-off operations. Unfortunately, officers are often the worst violators of this safety practice. Some routinely, sometimes nonchalantly, stand directly within dangerous roll-away zones and are vir- tually oblivious to potential roll-away dangers as they and or police service personnel prepare impound reports and write traffic citations. Always be aware of what is going on during a towing operation, especially when tow operators are in the process of winching, loading, and off-loading vehicles. In any environment where a tow truck winch is actively working, unannounced disconnect or cable sep- aration can happen without notice, re- sulting in great bodily injury or death, even when the activity is typical and mundane to you. Don't stand or work behind or near any tow truck that is actively at work. And don't expect the tow truck driver to see that you are in danger. While tow operators are trained to remove anyone from a dangerous winch zone, they may be concentrating on their towing and recovery duties and not see persons re- entering an active roll-away zone. As an additional level of precaution during impound operations on city streets or highway shoulders, I recom- mend that you park your police vehicle directly in-line and behind the vehicle being loaded, if there's room to do so. If a vehicle detaches (for whatever rea- son), the roll-away vehicle will roll only as far as the front end of the police vehi- cle and not into locations where persons or pedestrians are standing or working. is protocol could be a life-saving con- sideration. Tow operations safety is a topic of training not typically covered in law enforcement academies. But I urge all police department managers assigned to traffic enforcement, parking control, abatement, vehicle impound, and pa- trol, to be extremely aware of the dan- gers that exist during towing operations. Remind your personnel that if a tow truck's winch is actively engaged and working, the potential for accidental roll-way is always dangerously close. Randall C. Resch is the former editor of POLICE Magazine and a 12-year veter- an police officer who served with the San Diego Police Department. For 23-years, he has been operations editor for Amer- ican Towman Magazine and Tow In- dustry Week online, writing more than 550 monthly safety and training articles for the towing and recovery industry. He regularly trains law enforcement officers in towing operations safety. He can be reached at rreschran@gmail.com. Don't stand or work behind or near any tow truck that is actively at work. And don't expect the tow truck driver to see that you are in danger. PHOTO: R ANDALL RESCH

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