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SFRD firefighters learn basics of extrication during exercises

By Staff | Mar 23, 2011

Members of the Sanibel Fire & Rescue District underwent three days of extrication training last week at Fire Station #1. Here, the roof of a vehicle is pulled back, allowing access to victims trapped inside.

Last week, members of the Sanibel Fire & Rescue District underwent three days of extrication training at Fire Station #1 on Palm Ridge Road, learning some of the latest techniques in rescuing victims trapped in damaged vehicles and going over tried-and-true methods that have proven most safe and effective.

According to SFRD training officer Tim Barrett, extrication is the removal of vehicle, metal and debris to disentangle entrapped victims of vehicle collisions. The training included making sure the vehicle is stabilized before emergency crews attempt to pull any victims from wreckage, using various equipment — including cutters, spreaders, busters, rams and the “jaws of life” — to gain better access and learning what problems to look for in a number of scenarios, ensuring the safety of both victims and rescue personnel.

“All of our personnel are encouraged to attend,” said Rob Popkin, who led Monday’s exercise. “It’s not only important to review this training as a refresher, but it also helps to instill confidence. The guys get more comfortable using these tools and working together as a team.”

On March 14, the SFRD shift including Brian Howell, Shane Grant, John DeMaria, Chris Jackson, Mike Martin, John Murray and Brian Hornberger learned how to cut the roof off of a vehicle, peeling the top back to access a trapped “victim” — a full-sized rescue dummy — and pulling it to safely.

The week prior, other shifts attended an extrication class in Fort Myers, on the grounds of Alligator Towing. However, Popkin thought the on-island training would be even more beneficial to his team.

Firefighter Chris Jackson, right, asks a question during Monday's exercise.

“We’re a small staff, and everybody has to be proficient in everything we do,” he added.

Among the other aspects of extrication the SFRD crew took part in were prying open doors, cutting and removing the vehicle’s dashboard and windshield, manipulating other parts of the vehicle to safely access trapped victims and “cribbing,” a stabilization method in which the tires are blocked.

“That’s very important because you don’t want the car moving when you’re working on a patient,” said Popkin. “Our primary goal is to do no harm.”

According to Safe And Fast Extrication, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, properly training emergency workers is essential in reducing confusion at any crash scene involving entrapped victims. Despite the progress in improving the safety of passenger vehicles over the past several years, motor vehicle crashes result in more than 40,000 fatalities and three million injuries annually in the United States. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of children. Surviving a motor vehicle crash is dependent on the severity of the crash and the injuries incurred, but it is also dependent on the access to a highly trained rescue team.

As vehicle technology advances, methods for vehicle extrication lag further and further behind. No two crashes are the same, and each crash can pose unique challenges for the rescue personnel. Therefore, it is critical that emergency personnel be properly trained to save time during a vehicle extrication rescue and can make the difference between life and death.

Rob Popkin, right, explains the basics of cutting key areas of a vehicle in order to access potential victims.

The SFRD team takes part in all aspects of rescue training throughout the year in order to remain in top condition, ready to respond to any emergency should they arise.

Firefighter/EMT Shane Grant cuts away an opening using the "jaws of life."

Lt. Chris Jackson uses a crowbar to open the front hood of a vehicle, which may have been damaged upon impact.