Scouts learn about vehicle extrication and “mechanical assist”

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[September 10, 2014]  LINCOLN - While the burn room was cooling off on Saturday morning, the members of the Boy Scout Troop 11 and their guests moved on to see an extrication exercise conducted by the city of Lincoln firefighters.

Chief Miller offered up explanations of what was happening. Firefighter Weakly, with assistance from Assistant Chief Dahm and Captain Larry Spurling, demonstrated two different means of breaking into a vehicle.

In the first exercise, Miller explained that the passenger door, while open, was not open wide enough for rescue workers to get inside and assist a person in the front seat. In order to make more room, Weakly would use a “come-a-long” to pull the door away from the vehicle. A come-a-long is a cable and pulley device that can be used by only one person to pull quite a bit of weight or resistance. Using the ratcheting device, Weakly pulled the door back until it was completely against the front side of the van. Miller then explained that with a wider opening, there was room for firefighters or EMT’s go get inside the van with the victim.

Chief Miller also told the scouts that with a number of people, they could do virtually the same thing with a rope.

Chief Miller then took the opportunity to talk to the kids about what to do if they come across an accident on the road. He said that rule number one is stop. He explained that many times people will pass an accident, call 9-1-1, but keep on rolling down the road. If dispatch asks where the accident is and the caller doesn’t know, the phone signal could be used by 9-1-1 to locate the incident. However, if the caller didn’t stop, then it will take longer for EMT’s and firefighters to find an accident.

After calling 9-1-1, check on the people in the car and see if you can offer assistance. At the least, you may need to call 9-1-1- again. For example, if there are three or four injured people inside the vehicle, multiple ambulances may be needed.

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Miller was asked what came first, victims or fire, if a vehicle is burning. He said the vast majority of the time, the fire gets put out first. However, if the people inside the car appear to be in imminent danger from the fire, the process could be reversed.

Weakly also demonstrated what most people refer to as the “jaws of life.” There are actually two pneumatic devices involved, both run by air pressure from the fire truck. One is a cutter, and the other is a spreader. Cutters are used to cut away metal to free a jammed door. Spreaders can be used to create a gap between the door and vehicle frame. Weakly demonstrated how the cutters can be used with a third piece of equipment to pull the vehicle apart.

Using the cutters, he chopped through the door frame at the front windshield. He then placed a hydraulic cylinder in the door frame. Again using air pressure, the cylinder expanded, pushing the windshield and front part of the vehicle away from the rest of the car body.


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