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Firefighters harness skills during accident simulation

Members of several local fire departments braved chilly temperatures Saturday morning to participate in vehicle extrication training. According to supervisors on the scene, 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.  

“Perfect training makes for perfect execution,” said Jason Stam, Assistant Chief at Park Hills Fire Department. “If you train right, you get faster. It’s just like a professional football or baseball player. They have to train every day. We try to train once or twice a week.”

During Saturday’s exercise, responders also practiced trunk style extrications. Only used in certain extreme situations, the technique can prove invaluable in the case of a rollover type crash where access to the sides or top of the vehicle is restricted. In the technique, responders cut away parts of the trunk, sub-frame and rear seats.

“This would be used if we couldn’t get to the front or the drivers or passenger side door. Say the victim was in a gully of some sorts and everything was collapsed, this would be our means of getting to the patient. It’s really good practice,” said Stam.

After cutting away most of the trunk, emergency personnel enter the vehicle through the opening with equipment such as backboards, extrication collars and oxygen if possible. They secure the patient to the backboard and slide them out through the trunk.

In the extrications process, responders usually remove the doors first, then if necessary they remove the roof. In some cases, where a victim is pinned in 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.”

This method is used in case access to the sides of the vehicle is blocked. In the process, responders cut away the front roof supports near the windshield. After the cuts are made they use an ax to beat a crease in the roof. Once the crease is made, they simply roll back the roof like a sardine can.

“We will actually stand them straight up on the backboard and lift them out of the seat. It’s two cuts versus six to get a patient out so this can be a great technique when time is crucial,” said Park Hills Firefighter Brad Weiss.

Firefighters also trained in the use of high pressure air lifting bags. The bags have several advantages over a standard jack in emergency situations. They require less than one inch of clearance between the ground and the vehicle, can lift several tons on the air contained in a portable tank and are extremely lightweight. Because of their durability and lifting power the bags are used mostly in heavy equipment accidents.

Members from Park Hills, Desloge, Leadington and Leadwood Fire Departments attended the training. The vehicles used in the simulation were provided to the departments free of charge by Buckley’s Towing.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in 2010, Missouri had a total of 151,353 traffic crashes. A total of 821 persons died in Missouri traffic crashes. One person was killed every 10.7 hours. A total of 54,875 persons were injured in traffic crashes. One person was injured every 9.6 minutes.

Pat Pratt is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 172 or

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