You drive by the scene of a car accident and see a mangled car embedded in a telephone pole.
There must be fatalities, you’re thinking, or seriously injured victims.
Then you’re amazed to discover the driver walked away safely.
You can thank the auto industry and its application of technology to create safer vehicles, such as air bags and crumple zones that absorb much of the impact in a collision, thus better protecting the vehicles’ inhabitants.
But this technology can create challenges for first responders when extricating people from a wreck, said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, Public Information Officer for Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
For example, cutting into the wrong section of a car could inadvertently deploy the airbag, injuring a victim in the vehicle.
So when the National Auto Body Council invited the agency to its trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center last week, AF&R took advantage of the opportunity.
“In the late-model vehicles, they are so well designed for protection that it makes them extremely technical to get into, because you have multiple air bag systems and hydraulics for the doors and the hoods and everything else,” Wyatt said. “You can set something off that can either further injure the patient or injure the firefighter.”
With dozens of members of the collision industry looking on, Cpt. George Rangel, Engineer Brian Pennock and Firefighter/Paramedics Jason Buchanan and Nolan Karns, all from Truck 3, cut into a late-model Nissan Altima as part of the extrication drill.
The firefighters used heavy-duty cutters, spreaders, axes to dismantle the roof and remove doors, and cut an opening through the windshield.
The drill gives an opportunity for professionals in the auto body industry to see how firefighters get into these newer vehicles and gives the rescuers a chance to practice in a static environment, Wyatt said.
“So we benefit from it,” he said. “Everybody benefits from it.”
The drill also gives industry professionals a chance to provide feedback to fire personnel on the most efficient methods for performing the extrication, said Kim Kimbriel, marketing manager for the National Auto Body Council.
“Our members are body shops, insurance companies and tow companies,” Kimbriel said. “With a lot of these late-model cars, the folks in the industry know the technology. A lot of times (first responders) don’t have late-model cars to practice on.”
State Farm Insurance donated the four-door Altima, which looked like a convertible with missing doors after firefighters finished the drill.