Last issue I talked about the extrication class in Whiteville and how they worked a final scenario of a van on top of a car. The students from the class did finish the exercise, but it did require some thought and planning on their part. They tried several techniques that would have eventually worked, but were time consuming. We covered some ways of accomplishing the lift that made it easier and faster, and they proceeded to raise the van so the roof could be removed. A job well done.
The class was teaching how to use basic equipment, limited equipment, and a limited amount of rescuers. Your department can hold the same types of training that will challenge each and every rescuer. As the economy gets tighter, it will get harder for some departments to acquire vehicles to train on. This means you have to make the most from what vehicles you can get.
With the onset of new car technology coming out each year, and our inability to keep up with all the changes in all the vehicles, make sure you stay abreast with the basic technologies that are emerging. Know about airbags in general and how to deal with them. This would include where to cut and where not to cut. Another big item is the new hard alloy steels that are out. In the beginning, these metals were only used in certain parts of the vehicle, but we are seeing them used in more and more sections of the vehicles. It is important that you know if your hydraulic cutter will cut these metals or not.
I have run into departments that have told me their hydraulic tools will not cut the boron and high alloy strength metals. This is not what you want to find out when you are on a call.
As we all know, our tools play a major and important part in our extrication capabilities. If you still have the literature that came with the tools, go back and see what the specifications say on cutting. If you no longer have the paperwork, or can’t find it, make a call to the manufacturer and see what they have to say. I would recommend going to the manufacturer rather than the dealer, as the dealers are not always as schooled on the tools as the manufacturer would be. Unfortunately, not all folks, dealers or manufacturers, are as upfront as we would like them to be.
The best way to determine if the tool is capable of cutting these newer metals, is to arrange to visit a salvage yard and actually cut some of the boron or high alloy steel with your tool. Another option, if that does not work, is to check around with some of the body shops and get a scraped or damaged piece to cut. Either way, this is the best way to know just what your tool will do.
Now, if you find out your tool cuts the newer steels with no problem, all is great with the world. If you find out it will not cut the metals, then “Houston, we have a problem.” You are not left with many options, except to look at replacing the tool. I am not aware of any upgrades for any of the hydraulic tools on the market that will allow you to improve the capabilities of the unit. Replacement is going to be your only option. You can always keep the tool for a backup unit and used for older vehicles. You may have to set it aside or you can send it to a department overseas, where the metals are not so much of an issue. When looking at a replacement tool, make sure that it will cut the newer metals.
Most all of your full size cutters, regardless of the manufacturer, will cut the steels. However, some of the combination tools will not cut the new metals and this should be a consideration when making the purchase. Make sure they specify and stand by the fact that the tool will cut boron. If there is anyway you can have them demo the tool and actually cut a piece of the newer metals, that is even better. Make sure you shop smart and you buy smart.