Wednesday, 28 January 2009 18:13

Hey Toby 10---Helping out the Firefighters

Written by Toby Chess

In October of 2007 I was invited to participate with about 80 fire fighters for extrication training in Medford, Oregon. The 4-day class was developed and presented by Todd Hoffman of Scenes of the Accident. 

    The last day of training consisted of a series of extrication exercises on vehicles that were 20–30 years old. Nearly all of the fire fighters had no understanding of vehicle construction, which caused them to take longer to make their extrication cuts.
    The following month at the CIC meeting during NACE week in Las Vegas, I was taking with Roger Cada of State Farm and telling him my experience at Medford. Roger introduced me to Bob Medved of State Farm and gave me the cell phone number for Ron Moore of McKinney Texas Fire. Ron is a Battalion Chief for the City of McKinney, TX, and a leading guru of extrication in the USA. I called Ron and told him my qualifications as an I-CAR instructor offered him my services at any of his training seminars. He invited me to San Diego in February, 2008 where I addressed about 60 fire fighters about ultra high strength steels and the challenges that they present to fire fighters. After 2 days with these gals and guys, I was hooked.
    I started doing research of extrication and with the help of Ron and Todd, I put together a presentation for fire fighters that dealt with hydrid safety, air bag safety, vehicle construction and how all relate to a faster and safer extrication. I made a modified presentation at the I-CAR annual meeting last July in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bob Medved arranged for two cars to be delivered to the hotel and Ron introduced me to Captain John Dean of the Phoenix Fire Department. Six fire fighters demonstrated to the 250 CIC participants how they go about performing various vehicle entry procedures.
    After the meeting I was contacted by Jordan Hendler, the executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association and she asked if I would put on a training seminar in Virginia and I said yes.
    The second week in September of last year I conducted 4 nights of training in 4 different cities. State Farm donated late model vehicles, Kent Automotive supplied the food and 4 different body shops (Virginia Beach, Mechanicsville, Alexandria and Baltimore, MD) hosted the event. Two hundred and sixty first responders attended this free 3 hour seminar.
    Three weeks later I was in Las Vegas to help Ron Moore teach another group of first responders. John Dean was also present (he is an instructor for Ron) and I told him of my experiences in Virginia and he asked me if I could do the same for Phoenix Valley fire departments. Of course I said yes.
    While driving back from Las Vegas, I contacted Mike Quinn of 911 Collision and Dick Valentine of the Van Tuyl Automotive Group and asked them if they would like to host at their facilities a night of training. It took about 15 seconds for each man to say that it would be an honor to be a host. I also contacted Craig Oliveira, the western regional manager of Kent Automotive as asked him if he would sponsor the four nights of dinner and without hesitating said “yes”. The first night was on December 15, 2008 in Tucson. Pat O’Neal (Mike’s partner) emptied out the shop, set up tables and chairs and started barbequing tri tips.
    70 first responders showed up for the evening and by 10PM they had cut up 2 cars.
    Night 2 was at 911 Collision center in Scottsdale, AZ. Pat again did the cooking and Craig did the serving. Nationwide provided the vehicles for cutting and Hertz supplied a Toyota Prius for display.
    Over 80 first responders attended the class.
    Night 3 moved to the Van Tuyl Group’s Collision Center on Peoria. This was the largest number of fire fighters in attendance (112). Progressive supplied an ‘07 damaged Toyota Prius (for extrication training) and the dealership supplied 3 damaged cars for cutting. At 4:30 PM Jerry Pena, the center manager, was pacing the front lot like an expectant father. I asked him why he was so nervous and he said “where are the fire fighters?” I told him when you tell a fire fighter 5:00 PM, they will be there at 5:00 and don’t worry they will all come at once. At 4:45 the first fire truck arrived and within 10 minutes there were 11 trucks on the property.
    I showed everyone how to shut down the power on the donated Prius prior to deploying all six air bags (2 frontal, 2 side and 2 seat, but not all at once. I might add that I used 2 “D” volt batteries in series) to deploy each air bag. It only took 3 volts for deployment. Think about this, your cell phone can deploy an air bag.
Here are a couple of pictures from night 3.
    Night 4 we moved to Bell Honda Collision Center. I arrived at the shop early and one of the vehicles donated (Dodge Durango) did not lend itself for training. I convinced Jake Ritter, the center manager, to place another vehicle on top of the Durango (shop had a fork lift) and when everyone arrived it was the center of attention.
Again we deployed air bags on another donated Prius and everyone (over 90 fire fighters) was able to work on all the cars (we had 4 stations that night).
You can see by the picture that the first responders removed both “B” pillars and doors, “jacked” both sides of the dash and tunneled into the vehicle through the trunk.
    Some final thoughts and comments:
    Captain John Dean asked the audience at the CIC meeting in Scottsdale (January of this year) how many of the members of the audience drove 1980’s vehicles (a couple of hands rose), 1990’s (a few more) and after 2000 (nearly everyone else). He told the audience that most first responders are experts on cars built before the year 2000 and had very little experience training on later model vehicles. Most training vehicles are provided by local tow companies and have very little salvage value. It’s like trying to operate your shop using a 20-year-old computer.
    There are over 1.1 million fire fighters in the US and 80 percent are volunteers.
They need up-to-date training, but with tight budgets it is not happening. They need our help. Shops in Reno, NV, Prescott, AZ, Denver, Co, Oakland, CA, Duarte, CA, Rohnert Park, CA, Beaverton, OR and Kona, HI to name a few, have offered to host a night of first responder training.
    Think about this, we trained over 300 fire fighters in a week. Insurance companies like State Farm, Nationwide, AAA, and Progressive; Vendors like Kent Automotive, Hertz, Enterprise and LKQ Corp, I-CAR and body shops all came together for 4 hours for the good of our local communities. Nearly every fire fighter came up to me and shook my hand and said thank you.
    Get involved. You will love the feeling.

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