As I sit and write this article, the holidays are upon us. Christmas is only a few weeks away and then we will move into another year. However, when you read this, the holidays will be over. Sometimes I wonder where time goes. With this time of year more people are on the roads and highways traveling to visit family and friends. With more traveling comes more motor vehicle crashes. The fact is that drinking while driving, along with texting and driving, will play a major role in these crashes. We as rescuers should take it upon ourselves to try and educate young and old about the hazards and consequences of doing this. If we can prevent just one crash or fatality, we have achieved a great thing. Also keep in mind that this time of year is for family and friends. We spend a lot of our time training and looking after others, so we need to set aside family and friend time as well. As we get older we have time to ponder the past, and how it effects the present and future. I have come to realize that we are put here for others, not ourselves. If everyone realized this and worked accordingly, the world would be a better place.
We have covered a lot of ground in past issues on heavy vehicle rescue, and I have some really good pictures for you to look at from several classes I was just involved in. We know that we have multiple challenges when working with heavy vehicles that include dealing with the weights and sizes of the vehicles themselves. The fact is, over 85 percent of all injury and fatal crashes involve passenger vehicles. So in most cases, we have to stabilize and lift the truck off of the smaller vehicle to perform an extraction.
There will be occasions that the truck driver will have to be extricated from his or her vehicle. We talked about removing doors and having to work at elevated levels. You may have to work from ladders or if possible use a rollback.
During the class we ran for Climax Fire, they had the chance to work off ladders as well as a rollback. They also were able to use the hydraulic cutters to work on removing the doors and roof. We had the golden opportunity to be able to cut up a new 2013 Volvo tractor with sleeper that was graciously donated by Volvo. This allowed for real life practice of cutting on a newer vehicle. The framing included high alloy boron and the truck also had a frontal airbag. Volvo is the only tractor at this time that offers that. When it comes to accessing folks in large vehicles, I prefer the reciprocating saw and an air chisel over hydraulics any day. We proved this to be true during this training. The first door was removed and then the second door utilizing the reciprocal saw.
When it comes to trying to enter the sleeper cab from the outside, the reciprocal alone doesn’t work as well. With the assistance of the air chisel, however, it then is successful. When using a reciprocating saw to cut, you must be able to keep the blade guard up tight to the vehicle or material you are cutting to start with. If not, you will quickly bend or break even a good quality blade. I see a lot of folks make this mistake and then find fault with the blade and not their technique. The other thing to watch out for is; if you are cutting through several layers of material and there is space between them, you again can quickly bend or break a blade. The option is to skin the outer shell with the air chisel and then go in and cut the framing with the reciprocating saw. This allows you to see exactly what you are cutting and puts you in better control of your cut. Remember if you are cutting plastic, it can gum up your blade and reduce its cutting capability. The reciprocating saw can be a great tool to have if used correctly.
A corded saw may work best, but there are some really good cordless saws that can be used as well. Also, make sure you use top notch blades and not cheap hardware blades. Bosch makes one of the best demolition blades I have come across yet, and is what we used in this class. Make sure you use a panel cutter chisel bit for skinning the outer shell. Even a standard air chisel will work fine to do this. You can invest in a high dollar rescue air chisel, but the chisels from your local Home Depot, Lowes, and Northern tool will work just fine. Do remember to have a good air supply since they can use a lot of air, real quick.
Once the doors were removed, the class had the chore of removing the roof. In this case, they enlisted the help of a large wrecker to support and remove the roof once it was cut. Again, while working at heights, you have to be careful about how you cut and remove things. The roof was also removed easily with the reciprocating saw. When working at heights, the lighter the tools the better, and the saw is pretty light and easy to handle.
We will look at how to use large wreckers in heavy vehicle rescue next time around and have some good pictures from a class up in Virginia I was able to assist with. When you read this, the holidays will be over, but I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope the New Year brings great joy and satisfaction for you and your family. Until next time, stay safe and train hard.