Faux pileups still hard work for joint firefighters’ extrication drills
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 30, 2012
Although there were only four vehicles involved, the scene could have been described as a massive pileup that required the work of almost two-dozen firefighters to free numerous trapped victims. Everyone escaped without injuries but with plenty of knowledge when a multi-agency auto extrication training and drill was held Sunday at City Yard, where the Santa Paula Fire Department played host to the extensive exercise in saving lives.
According to SPFD Captain Steve Lazenby, both of SPFD’s on-duty engine crews - eight firefighters - attended the drill, as did another four off-duty personnel. Ventura County Fire had two engines and a squad with eight crew, and Ventura City Fire sent an engine and three firefighters.
Lazenby said the drill was set up and organized by the SPFD, with the training provided by Ventura County Fire Department personnel.
It wasn’t all hands-on rescue: the training started with 90 minutes of classroom instruction “covering a variety of vehicle extrication skills and safety issues” that must be adhered to, to ensure the best handling of not only those trapped but also of the rescuers themselves. The actual hands-on drill was conducted at City Yard on Corporation Street, where for about three hours firefighters worked on four vehicles and different crash scenarios.
One was a minivan rolled over onto the passenger side, with the driver and four passengers trapped and so severely injured they would require backboards once they were removed. In addition, Lazenby said, “The vehicle had to be secured so it wouldn’t move and then the roof of the vehicle was completely removed so that the patients could be accessed safely.”
Another vehicle was on its roof, crushed to the dash, with the doors trapping two people that had to be removed. Lazenby said the rescue entailed lifting the vehicle about 12 inches above ground using the rescue tools and cribbing so the doors could be removed to allow access to the victims.
The most elaborate “accident” involved two utility vehicles carefully placed so that although one had remained upright the other vehicle had landed on its hood, “with only the two tires on the driver’s side touching the ground.” Lazenby said the simulation involved victims in both vehicles who had to be stabilized before firefighters could begin the rescue.
“Both vehicles were stabilized using Rescue 42 struts,” used to secure vehicles, buildings or any other objects that may move or shift position and become a danger to the occupants and/or the rescuers. Lazenby said the upper end of the strut is “securely embedded or driven into a solid spot on the vehicle and the lower part has a wide foot that is placed on the ground,” with the struts then held in place with straps and chains. The structure then provides “a strong triangular force that holds the vehicles in place” for the rescue.
During the drill firefighters used several sets of hydraulic rescue tools - commonly known as the Jaws of Life - as well as saws, webbing, pry bars, cribbing and the rescue struts.
SPFD Captain Gil Segovia organized the drill, noting that many aspects of the exercise were not much different than what the firefighters experience: “We do this on a daily basis and we do go on mutual aid together,” the latter the main reason the particular engine companies drilled together. The different units work together on a regular basis, often responding to accidents on Highway 126.
Segovia said Sunday’s ambitious training exercise is an annual event, although less extensive joint training is also held monthly on a schedule to ensure that all shifts take part in the drills. The November 25 exercise “was bigger and nicer than most,” including the contribution of VCFD Engine 27 Captain Jeremy Bowers and Firefighter Hector Garcia, who did the presentation.
Coordination is important, noted Segovia, as “we all agreed... and with 25 guys you’re going to get 25 different ways of doing it.”
And the exercise could not have been done without outside help: “The cars were provided by Pick a Part on Mission Rock Road,” and Segovia said Santa Paula Chevrolet and McCoy’s Towing not only delivered the vehicles and set-them up, they also picked them up all at no charge. Said Segovia, “We really want to thank them all for their ongoing support.”
Following the exercise everyone enjoyed a BBQ lunch provided by the Santa Paula Firefighters Association.