Cutting Up A Car

I had an interesting morning.  I had an opportunity to watch our Fire Department personnel testing new extrication equipment, commonly known as the “Jaws of Life.”  As a police officer I’ve been on many, many scenes of traffic crashes where this type of equipment was used.  Basically fire departments use these cutting and spreading tools to take apart vehicles when rescuing victims of traffic crashes.  Maybe you never thought about it but in traffic crashes where people are injured emergency personnel must rescue the patient with as little contortion of their body as possible.  More contortion can exacerbate their injuries.  It is not uncommon in a crash, the doors are jammed shut and the roof crushed so it is very challenging to get to one or more patients with serious injuries. 

FF Tony Randolph looks over the equipment

A new twist for me was listening to the company representative point out that this type of equipment can be used to cut rebar in a trench rescue or building collapse.  They showed us a hydraulic ram device that can be used to stabilize something for a rescue.  I had never thought of the application in this type of scenario. Not much is left of the vehicle when they are finished but the patient has a higher likelihood of survival with the use of this type of equipment.

Getting to work on the test car. In the background you can see Public Safety Advisory Committee Chair Kay Sendegas and Committee Member Chet McFadden watching the testing.

We are testing it because we have requested to buy new sets to replace our current jaws which are about 13 years old.  With the changes in the newer, lighter and tougher metals used in vehicles, our older tools just aren’t doing the job for us anymore.  FF Gary Chapman was telling me that we have less than 1/3 the cutting power with our old tools compared to the new ones. 

Our 2012 Approved Budget allocates dollars for us to purchase new tools but we need to determine which equipment will do the job we need, develop specifications and release a bid seeking the best prices we can.  We expect to have made our decisions and request a purchase from the City Manager and City Council by mid summer. 

Watch this short video of  our fire fighters using the equipment.  (Sorry for the shaky video — I took it myself with my cell phone.)

Firefighters Using Extrication Tools