The firefighters participated in the First Responders Emergency Extrication (FREE) program, which incorporated classroom and hands-on instruction, including demonstrations of vehicle cutting techniques.
While firefighters practice vehicle extrications routinely, this training, given by experts from Holmatro, a rescue equipment manufacturer and Shipman’s Fire Equipment Co., brought an opportunity to learn important differences when dealing with newer vehicles.
"Air bag technology is always changing," said South Windsor Fire Chief Kevin Cooney. "One of the concepts when people are injured in automobile crashes is to remove the car from around the patient. In order to do that, we need to know where those airbags are. If we cut in the wrong spot, we could be deploying the air bags."
The session also focused on safe extrication from hybrid vehicles,
"The other part of it was the hybrid technology. The wiring in hybrids is always very high voltage so we have to be careful of that. The newer cars also have stronger metals… it’s been a great opportunity for us," Cooney said.
“First responders such as firemen require the most current vehicle information to be effective,” said Pete Gutska, owner of Pete’s CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts. “FREE helps keep them up to date, which is more important than ever given the rapid onslaught of advancements in vehicle design.”
Late model vehicles, donated by Progressive Insurance and area used auto parts companies, are usually hard to come by, Cooney said.
Finding the space to conduct such a training can be a challenge, too, Cooney said but since moving to the larger building at 459 John Fitch Boulevard, Gutska had offered Pete’s CarStar for the training. Both men said they look forward to collaborating on more events in the future.
"It gives us an environment that’s better than we’re used to having and can be used no matter what the weather is," Cooney said. "It’s a huge plus for us to work together with a business person and get to host other departments as well."
Firefighters from South Windsor, Vernon, Ellington, Manchester, Broad Brook, Warehouse Point, Bloomfield, and Windsor participated in the event.