Firefighters get more practice with Jaws of Life

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 29, 2006

A pair of donated cars were cut up and pulled apart by membersof the Brookhaven Fire Department Wednesday morning to providetraining on equipment often used to save lives.

Nearly 20 firefighters representing all three city stationsparticipated in the Jaws of Life training, said Chief BobWatts.

“It’s very educational,” said Firefighter Stanley Dixon. “Ascars and technology advance, we have to keep up on the trends. Whenyou get on the scene you don’t have time to contemplate (on thebest way to free a person), you have to know it.”

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Aaron Welch, a young firefighter, said he appreciated theopportunity to work with the equipment without the distractions andtension inherent to a rescue scene and when time is critical. Heindicated proper training could mean the difference between thelife and death of a crash victim.

Welch said he has responded to two vehicle crashes where theequipment was needed to free a victim.

“You can’t ever run out of training,” he said. “It’s invaluableon the scene.”

Firefighter Caleb McCaffery agreed.

He said firefighters could only learn so much from book work anddemonstrations of the equipment. The hands-on training would makethem much more prepared for an emergency.

Watts said training on the Jaws equipment is crucial in savinglives.

“Ninety percent of those runs has someone at risk,” he said.”When a firefighter saves someone from a fire it’s big news, butsaves using the Jaws are far more common and don’t tend to get theattention.”

Firefighters were also taught a new extraction techniqueWednesday.

Instructors said the new technique is a much faster way toextract multiple victims from the front and back of a vehicle.However, it could not be used on newer model vehicles because itwould expose firefighters to potential injury if the side air bagswere to deploy during the process or while removing thevictims.

“It’ll be quicker in the right situation,” McCaffery said. “Itall depends on what the situation is – what you can get to and howyou can get to it.”

In extractions, each recovery is different, firefighters said.The damage to the vehicle, trees and other obstacles, the potentialinjuries of the victim and the method of approach are only a few ofthe considerations firefighters must evaluate within moments.

Familiarity with the equipment and firsthand knowledge of itsuse are key ingredients in making the best of a bad situation.

“There’s always something new you learn when you do theseexercises,” Dixon said. “You can never learn too much when it comesto this kind of work.”

Watts said the fire department holds Jaws training classes aboutonce a quarter using junk cars or trucks donated by localbusinesses. The cars for Wednesday’s exercise were donated by DavisAuto on Industrial Park Road, where firefighters conducted thetraining exercise.

“Just about anyone who has junk cars has let us come cut some upor have even brought them to us,” he said.

The next training class will likely feature two old school busesoffered by a local business, he said.

“As far as I know, those will be the first buses we’ve had towork with,” Watts said. “That will give us good experience in howto handle an accident involving a bus.