Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fire Department Equipment - The Wise Choice of Obtaining Hydraulic Rescue Tools Part I

Is your fire department active in vehicle and accident rescue? If so, you might consider requesting rescue tools from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant in 2012.

An excellent set of equipment in this category should consist of all hydraulic rescue tools. Be sure to include at least a 28" spreader with no less than 57,000 pounds of spread force. A good set should also include a very large cutter with 121,000 pounds of force. Additionally, it should have a mini-cutter with at least a 1.5" opening, a ram set, a pulling and lifting accessory kit, and multiple sections of color coded extension hose. Do not forget to request all mounting brackets so that your department can properly affix the equipment inside of your vehicles. You will also need to purchase a power unit or generator.

Your department should budget about $32,000 for the equipment and about $11,000 for the power unit or generator.

Why would you consider purchasing this equipment? There are many possible reasons for the request, but first and foremost would be the improved safety offered to entrapped victims. The second reason would be for the safety of firefighters responsible for freeing victims at accident scenes.

Let's start with the tools' ability to free victims. If your department has no such tools and uses sledge hammers and crow bars, then these may have worked for you in the past. Certainly they did not make rescues easy, but they sufficed if that is all you had. Today this is not a possibility. Why? The high grade steel used for automobile manufacturing today is not able to be plied open with crow bars. The cage construction will not allow such tools to effectively get to a victim for medical care. They are not easily extricated from vehicles. Within an entrapment a victim cannot be properly treated, and there is always the potential for fire. The longer the victim remains untreated or only with partial medical care, then the greater the chance for complication.

Now for firefighter safety. Every minute that a firefighter spends on a roadway, there is danger of being hit by a passing car or truck. Every time a firefighter operates equipment, there is strain on muscle and back; this can lead to injury. So herein lies the argument for good equipment. It is lightweight and easy to operate. Many older hydraulic tools require two firefighters to operate. These two firefighters must attend to the victim. If the space is confined no one can help the victim while the entrapment is being resolved. Treatment time is lost.

Most older units weigh well over 100 lbs. Injury to rescuers is always a concern and we will have firefighters end up with major back injuries. Certainly, many have already had minor ones on many occasions and this could lead to greater issues.

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