SIDNEY — The Jaws of Life were used Wednesday morning on a van sitting at Wreckers Towing & Transport on North Stolle Avenue. The vehicle was cut, spread and busted apart during the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services’s training exercises.
Fire Lt. Jason Truesdale instructed the department’s four new firefighters, Jared Pleiman, Ken Battiston, Joshua Waugh and Ross Kohler, and existing members, firefighters Collin Hable, Jeff Simon, Quinten Pence, and Lt. Ryan Heitman, on how to extricate a trapped person from a vehicle that may have been involved in a crash.
“This is our orientation process, and we are doing training with these new guys. So the new guys are going to get geared up and we are going to do a vehicle extrication today. Later in the day, we are flowing water into the (Shelby County) Jail and doing a (practice) evacuation of the jail,” Truesdale said.
The salvaged 2005 Honda Odyssey was donated by State Farm Insurance company. Wreckers donated the time, manpower and gas to pickup and tow the van from Dayton to the business’s property for Sidney Fire to conduct the training.
While leading the group through the exercises, Truesdale also further explained to onlooking members of local State Farm agencies, Andrew Shaffer, Ashley Himes and Jessica Hammaker, the reasoning for the methods they were practicing.
“State Farm has a great program where we try to help out in the community as much as we can and we want to support the fire department in many ways. And when talking with Jason, he said they were about to be hiring and do training for the city of Sidney. I said we would love to try to help you out with a vehicle for extrication training. And so we worked hard to find a car to utilize for training purposes. And so, here we are today. This is the fruition of about six months of work,” Shaffer said of how State Farm got involved.
Firefighters who were actively training were fully suited up from helmet to boot. Other firefighters were in uniform, but stood by with fire apparatus parked nearby ready to respond to an emergency.
Truesdale first directed first responders how to work together to stabilize a vehicle using blocks near each wheel, clear away any hazards and to make sure the vehicle is off and in park, if possible.
Firefighters then practiced the most effective and safest way to bust windows out of a vehicle with occupants inside. They experimented using various tools to break out windows and remove a windshield using a windshield saw. The men also learned how to cut and open a vehicle’s hood based upon where its latch may be located, in the event the engine was on fire. They worked to remove doors, the van’s roof and back hatch using the Jaws of Life battery and hydraulic operated cutters and spreaders. Then, with the help of a ram, firefighters learned how pop and pull out the steering column and also roll back a vehicle’s dashboard in case a person’s feet needed to be freed from the gas and brake pedal area.
Aside from protective gear worn and the Jaws of Life, firefighters also used several other tools, such as various types of saws, a ram, window punch, and a multi-purpose prying tool to pull pieces off of the van, inside and out. Truesdale instructed the men to be aware of safety hazards for themselves when working to free vehicle occupants. The main goal is get patients freed within 20 minutes.
“We shoot for 20 minutes. We want to get the person out of the vehicle, on a cot, within 20 minutes to the hospital. But sometimes it’s a lot less; we get in and get out and done in 10 minutes,” Truesdale said. “Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it’s very complicated traffic where we have multiple vehicles, or a semi, where we under-ride and there are a lot of different safety things that we have to work with to get to try to get access to the patient.”
Also wearing protective gear, Shaffer and Himes also got a hands-on opportunity to see how difficult it can be to break a window or cut off a door.
“We are just hear to represent State Farm and just wanted to show that we support our first responders and our emergency rescue team. That’s so important for what we do. And show that State Farm cares about our local town and about supporting our first responders. Be like to be part of this and be the ones to say yes and get it done,” Himes said.
Shaffer noted the Jaws of Life was much heavier than he anticipated. He also noticed the hydraulic set attached to the fire truck by a set of power cords affects how quickly first responders can maneuver the tool. The cords can present an additional hazard in a chaotic rushed scene.
Truesdale told the onlookers he also wants the guys to make mistakes during training so they remember the most effective and quickest way to achieve the goal.
Heitman noted the training is good because all vehicles are built differently, so there is not one set way to extricate a trapped person.
“It’s really rewarding,” said firefighter Mike Utz, who was looking on, “and it’s a huge sense of relief when you can get someone out or their family out. It’s an immediate sense of relief.”
“This is just the beginning of our partnership,” Shaffer said. “This is the first year of doing this. We are going to try to keep this going. One of our goals is to get a hybrid-type vehicle so they are training with the newest and latest technology out there. And the better they are trained the better prepared they are when an actual emergency happens.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.