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Sturdy Cars Make It Harder for Rescuers

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iMONITOR

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Sturdy Cars Make It Harder for Rescuers
Mar 19 02:00 PM US/Eastern
By MITCH STACY
Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Capt. Clint Roberts makes his living cutting accident victims out of hideously mangled vehicles, but even he could hardly believe it when two people in a 2007 midsize car survived a head-on crash with a full- sized pickup last year.

The Ford Fusion's reinforced steel construction probably saved the lives of the 18-year-old driver and his 16-year-old passenger. But Roberts said it gave his Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crew fits as they tried to free them last November.

Because hydraulic cutters couldn't shear the roof posts, rescue workers had to turn to heavy-duty electric saws, replacing blade after blade as they dulled on the rugged material.

"It was just beating the snot out of the tools," adding minutes and delaying medical treatment, Roberts said.

There is no question that today's cars save lives by cocooning motorists in reinforced alloys, impact-absorbing crumple zones and as many as a dozen air bags.

But in interviews with The Associated Press, rescue officials and experts from around the United States said the new technology is also hindering extrication of injured people, increasingly forcing crews to work deeper into the critical "golden hour" between accident and treatment by emergency room doctors. On many 2005 and later cars, an extrication that once took 10 or 15 minutes can now take twice that or longer.

To catch up, counties and cities are spending tens of thousands of dollars—if they can afford it—to buy more powerful equipment that can cut through newer cars' reinforced steel and the lighter, tougher exotic metals used in roofs, posts and doors.

Then there are obstacles that endanger rescuers' safety. Pressurized gas canisters that inflate air bags can explode if pierced by cutting tools. Rescuers can be blown from cars when air bags suddenly inflate. Hidden battery cables in hybrid cars can deliver a powerful shock.

To protect themselves, workers now have to peel away the ceiling and interior plastic to see what's underneath before they can even start cutting.

Experts cannot say for certain whether the delays in getting these victims to the hospital have resulted in people dying. But that's the fear.

"We build more fire stations, we make faster fire trucks, we've got helicopters to get you to the hospital," said Roberts, an expert who teaches extrication to colleagues around Florida. "But what's slowing us down are these vehicles that are harder for us to get into."

The problem has rescue workers scrambling to update their tools and explore different ways to attack cars with their cutters, spreaders and saws. Some agencies with equipment more than a few years old are arriving at accident scenes and finding out that it will no longer do the job.

"Because their shearing materials had been so successful for so many years, some agencies hadn't developed a Plan B," said Tom Hollenstain, who works to educate rescuers about new auto technology at the State Farm Insurance vehicle research center.

Leading hydraulic-tool makers such as Hurst Jaws of Life—whose namesake George Hurst introduced the first hydraulic extrication tools for auto racing in the early 1970s—must keep putting more oomph into their equipment, making it heavier and more expensive. A single Hurst cutter and power unit runs about $25,000. Add hydraulic spreaders and other tools and the price rises quickly.

A fire crew in Bonita Springs, Fla., discovered the problem last year when it rolled up on a 2007 Lexus that had overturned. Hydraulic cutters only a few years old wouldn't shear the strengthened steel roof posts, so the crew had to move quickly to cut other parts of the car. A job that should have taken a few minutes required 20 minutes of cutting and sawing to remove the driver.

Assistant Chief Ken Craft said the incident led the department to buy new heavy rescue tools costing $54,000—a sizable expense for a city of around 40,000.
"If the automakers roll out something new next year, we could be right back where we were at," Craft said. "That's the problem we're confronted with."

Mike Ader, a volunteer firefighter in Rockville, Md., recalled the layered-steel roof post from a 2008 Toyota Camry that wouldn't budge under the blades of a hydraulic cutter after a broadside crash Jan. 2. The patient, whose injuries were serious but not life-threatening, finally had to be maneuvered around the post.

Ader used two types of saws and numerous blades to remove the post after the patient was removed. The department quickly decided to buy a new, more powerful cutter.

The flip side, of course, is that more people are surviving horrific crashes that would have killed them just a few years ago.

The Fusion's passenger, for example, was hurt but conscious and joking with Roberts as the crew worked to get him out. The driver of the other vehicle—a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup—was dead at the scene.

With about three people hurt in car crashes every minute in the United States, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Rae Tyson said he is comfortable with the trade-off. Rescue workers, he said, will have to work harder to keep up with technology, just like everybody else.

"The fatality rate for passenger vehicles is the lowest in history," Tyson said. "That, to me, is a pretty good news story."

One problem for rescue workers is how to get the latest technical information about newer cars and how to deal with them.

Later this year, the nonprofit group COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance, with cooperation from automakers, is introducing a single Web site that will offer schematics and safety specs for most cars on the road. Rescue workers could flip open a laptop computer on the way to a crash scene to find out about the construction of the car, placement of air bag canisters and other details.

Automakers say they are doing more to make safety information available to rescuers and tool makers before new models come out. For instance, Ford is already offering a look at the skeleton of the 2009 F-150 pickup, built with the strongest steel construction the company has ever used.

"We want to facilitate the discussion as much as possible, because we understand the critical nature of their work," Ford spokesman Wesley Sherwood said.

-source-
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8VGLAMG1&show_article=1
 

hoser147

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Toughest one I ever encountered was a Volvo it had been hit by a CV and ended up into a brick planter around a sign post. Took about twice the time as anything else I ever chomped on...............Hoser
 

AZScanner

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GreatLakes said:
Sturdy Cars Make It Harder for Rescuers
...Rescue workers could flip open a laptop computer on the way to a crash scene to find out about the construction of the car, placement of air bag canisters and other details....
Suuuuuuuuure... Flying toasters will also respond to the scene, providing the means for a tasty snack while the treatment sector waits for the extrication sector to peel the patients out of the crumpled cars!

I've been an eyewitness to enough extrications to know that until you get on the scene you have no idea what the hell you're going to be dealing with. Ask any fireman (or newsie for that matter) and they will tell you what you hear on the radio and what you find once you get there are most often two very different things.

Plus, with all the other crap going on (most crash scenes are little more than controlled chaos), command sector has enough to deal with without fiddling with the MCT trying to get it to browse to some website over the already slower than dial-up data channel while the rest of the crew stands around and goes "Holy crap, is anyone still alive in there?"

This article did however just give me a dandy idea which I'll have to play with and research. More on this later. :)

-AZ
 

iMONITOR

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AZScanner said:
Plus, with all the other crap going on (most crash scenes are little more than controlled chaos), command sector has enough to deal with without fiddling with the MCT trying to get it to browse to some website over the already slower than dial-up data channel while the rest of the crew stands around and goes "Holy crap, is anyone still alive in there?"

-AZ
I think it's going to become a necessity as more and more hybrids utilizing alternative fuels such as Hydrogen, high voltage, etc, are entering the mix. Simply hacking away at the vehicle without specific knowledge could get you, or the occupants killed.
 

AZScanner

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GreatLakes said:
I think it's going to become a necessity as more and more hybrids utilizing alternative fuels such as Hydrogen, high voltage, etc, are entering the mix. Simply hacking away at the vehicle without specific knowledge could get you, or the occupants killed.
I agree, hence the idea I had. Comcare's approach is good, but not very practical in the field. The idea I have is a bit more low-tech and easier to use for responders in the field. The information is already out there, each manufacturer has created it already. Unfortunately, getting into the hands of the responders is one problem, and providing it to them in a way that they can understand has also been problematic. This is what has prompted Comcare to embark on the project.

All well and good, but they are forgetting that mobile computing is still in it's infancy in public safety. Even a large metro department with millions of dollars at it's disposal is not going to easily be able to "web enable" the entire fleet of emergency vehicles. Rural departments often go without all but the most basic of the basics so the idea of providing them with laptops and broadband internet is pie in the sky. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea, but only for departments with mobile internet access AND the time AND the knowledge to actually use it. If you conquer all that, THEN you have to account for the what if's... What if you're out of broadband range? What if the computer crashes? What if the internet is down due to a terrorist attack or natural disaster? Etc.

Nope, I've thought of a better way but I need to see if some folks I know with the funds and knowledge to make it happen want in on it. That's probably already more than I should publically say at this point. ;)

-AZ
 

slicerwizard

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AZScanner said:
All well and good, but they are forgetting that mobile computing is still in it's infancy in public safety. Even a large metro department with millions of dollars at it's disposal is not going to easily be able to "web enable" the entire fleet of emergency vehicles.
You don't need "web enabled" fleets - just do weekly updates to their onboard copies of vehicle data. If they don't have laptops, just make printed binders for them to carry. Next problem?
 

kb2vxa

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"Next problem?"

Heh heh heh, shhhhuuuuurrrrre!

If the auto industry takes it to the next level you wouldn't have to cut cars apart. What we need is to replace the SUV with the SAV, a suitably armored vehicle won't go squish and it'll mow down anything that gets in it's way like little old ladies doing 40 in the passing lane.
 
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