State Fair Fire Department first responders displayed the techniques used in the trade of saving lives during a mock vehicle accident Friday afternoon at the Missouri State Fair.
“We are performing victim extrication and a mock motor vehicle accident,” said State Fair Fire Department Public Information Officer Lt. Joe Jennings. “We are going to cut the cars up and pull everybody out.”
The exercise was as close to a real incident as is possibly could be. At 1:30 p.m., dispatchers issued emergency tones and called for equipment. Seconds later around a dozen firefighters and paramedics converged on the scene to rescue the “victims.”
“It’s very important to train because these are one of the most common things that we run into. We did a lot of training yesterday on this. It is an opportunity to show the public how much, and how hard it is to get people out of a motor vehicle one there is a collision,” Jennings said.
According to Jennings, periodic training allows first responders to provide a more timely response, gain familiarity with the tools used in the process and work as a team. During a typical accident, it takes approximately one minute for dispatch to send out emergency tones, accident location and instructions. It can take anywhere from a few to several minutes for first responds to arrive on the scene depending on location.
“On a normal incident scene, medically, we have what is called the ‘golden hour.’ From the time a person is injured, we have one hour before we want to get them on an operating table in a trauma center,” Jennings said.
In the extrication process itself, first responders usually remove the doors first and then if necessary they remove the roof. In some cases, where a victim is pinned inside the vehicle it is necessary to remove or uplift the entire dashboard.
Another extrication process used only in extreme situations is the “roll-top removal,” a method for when access to the sides of the vehicle is blocked. In the process, responders cut away the front roof supports near the windshield. Firefighters use an ax to beat a crease in the roof and then simply roll back the roof as if a sardine can.
After cutting away parts of the vehicle to gain access, emergency personnel enter the vehicle through the opening with equipment such as backboards, extrication collars and oxygen if needed.
“Every accident is different. As soon as a car is involved in a collision, it’s a different scenario in every situation of how we are going to be able to cut that car up to get the people out,” Jennings said.
Getting a victim out of a damaged vehicle usually entails the use of hydraulic equipment such as spreaders, cutters and rams, collectively known as the Jaws of Life. A hydraulic pump, giving them literally thousands of pounds of cutting or spreading pressure, powers the tools.
“We are going to be using hydraulic tools— basically the Jaws of Life is what everybody recognizes them as—cutters, spreaders, reciprocating saws everything that we would on a normal incident scene,” Jennings said.