VIDEO: Firefighters during vehicle extrication training with new cordless, battery-powered Hurst “Jaws of Life” tools at Hillside Towing on University Drive (18:08).
The most dramatic and frequently occurring firefighter operation in Arlington Heights and many suburbs of Chicago is the vehicle extrication operation. Sure, firefighters train for trench rescues, high-angle altitude rescues, and dangerous fire scenarios; but the rescue that frequently occurs is the vehicle extrication rescue. Arlington Heights firefighters spent much of the day last Saturday learning to use new extrication tools and how to avoid hazards at serious crash scenes.
The highlight of the training involved two new cordless, battery-powered Hurst Jaws of Life tools. Arlington Heights Fire Department plans to place the two new tools in a far north fire engine (Engine 4 at Station 4) and a far south fire engine (Engine 3 at Station 3). The new Hurst Tools (Model Combi SC 350E models) can pinch, bend, spread and cut steel without firefighters dragging hoses connected to a remote power unit. The new Hurst tools run on rechargeable batteries, and the power unit is within the case of the new Jaws of Life. The tools weigh about 42 LBS. Firefighters learned the nuances of the batteries — how long they perform and how many charges they get in the life of the battery. They also learned how to connect the new Hurst extrication tool to a remote adapter in case they run out of batteries. Firefighters will still have the traditional Hurst extrication tools, which will be located on rescue squads and other fire department vehicles, such as the ladder tower truck. The additional equipment saves time, and results in trapped victims getting freed in less time.
Rollovers. Most of us would probably be surprised to learn how frequently crashes involve vehicle rollovers. Fortunately, vehicles are designed so well, that many serious injuries and deaths are prevented. However, serious injuries and fatalities still occur related to accidents that trap people in their vehicles. If victims are bleeding or require emergency surgery, time saved during extrication can be lifesaving. Rollovers are common causes extrication crashes, as are high speed head-on crashes, and crashes with fixed immovable objects, such as trees and bridge abutments. These crashes sometimes only trap an uninjured person in the car, but other times steering wheels can cause serious crushing chest injuries, or brake pedals can be pressed into the lower leg — causing serious fractures. There’s even a tool designed just to cut away brake pedals that have impaled into lower legs. Firefighters practiced with that tool, too.
Airbag that don’t ‘go off’ during a crash can present serious hazards to rescuers. Airbags are already universal from the dash, and more common from the side. A new center curtain airbag is planned to prevent vehicle occupants from knocking heads during a crash. But those airbags present hazards to firefighters during rescues. A static charge, an intrusion that causes disruption in electric charge, or a ‘false’ move by a rescuer can set off an undetonated air bag — a traumatic experience if your face or body is right on top of the airbag in a vulnerable position while rescuing an accident victim in the vehicle. In car fires, exploding airbag canisters, which produce the inflation of the airbags, can shoot 30 yards away out of a vehicle. Firefighter training included recognition of how to locate airbags, how to expose them, and how to disconnect power. Many vehicles now have two batteries in order to keep computers and circuits powered.
Training also emphasized new stabilization techniques for vehicles. Firefighters learned how to use Paratech struts, which take advantage of positions involving strength points and mass areas of the vehicle, and uses a ratchet and strapping system with the strut to form a triangle that converts a teetering vehicle into a firm, stable object.
Firefighters also learned about breathing hazards while cutting glass. Often during extrication, the windshield and sunroof glass might need to be cut. Glass fibers that go airborne can be inhaled and cause serious lung problems years later as lung tissue forms nodules around glass fibers.
Firefighters also learned to keep their tools organized in a staging area. And they learned how to remove hazards out of the workplace. No two rescues are exactly alike, but firefighters learned to turn a chaotic crash scene into a professional, organized workplace.
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