In just about every extrication there are steps we take that are commonplace. Cutting the windshield out of a car is one of those steps that are pretty common to most extrications. Cutting the windshield allows us to have better access to the patient to prepare for extrication and then removal. It also helps us to protect the patient from further injury since the glass could break and fall on to the patient. Finally, it makes it easier to get to the A posts in order to complete some extrication actions.
If you are like me, most of the time we have used some type of glass cutting hand tool. With most tools, there are always pros and cons. One thing though that I love about the fire service is that there are so many firefighters trying to find better ways or more efficient ways of doing the job including new tools.
Recently I was introduced to Fred Gandolfo with Firehouse Systems, Inc. Mr. Gandolfo told me about their Beluga Glass Cutting Tool. Of course, being me, I wanted to know more about it. So, I was honored when he chose to send me one to try out.
The Beluga Glass Cutting Tool is really a neat kit. The kit comes in a nice rugged bag. It includes the Beluga Glass Cutting head, two suctions cups to help grasp the windshield, safety glasses, a pick hammer to make a purchase point, and an instruction manual. The retail price is $410.00. It also comes with a Lifetime Warranty that covers most of the entire tool with minor exceptions.
So how does this work, you may be asking?
You would begin by covering the patient in the vehicle to protect them from injury as normal. Then you would place the two suction cups on the windshield; with one on either side of the vehicle. Ensuring you are in proper protective equipment, you take the pick hammer and make a purchase point in the windshield. With the tool head on the drill, you would insert the blade into the windshield. To activate the head, you simply pull the trigger of the drill. You then slide the drill with it being activated along the outer edge of the windshield. This would require two people; one on each side to complete the cut of the windshield as you would hand off the drill to the other person to do their side. As you complete the cut, each member would hold one of the suction cups and then gently remove the windshield. And then you have completed the complete removal of the windshield.
In talking to Mr. Gandolfo and while reviewing the product prior to use, I was half skeptical and half excited. In using hand tools, I had always been pretty successful with some odds and ends issues over my twenty-one-year career. However, could this be the tool that makes cutting a windshield or any other laminated glass so much simpler? We would find out soon.
I was not able to use this tool in an actual response capacity but did have a couple of vehicles that I was able to use to cut the windshields out. The first thing that we did was to review the tool itself, the instructional manual, and the online videos of the tool. The instructions were extremely easy to understand and really were quite simple to implement.
First, let me tell you that we tested this tool at around 8:30 p.m. The car had been outside in the weather for some time and had dew on the windshield and the windshield was cracked slightly.
We started by placing the two suction cups on the windshield. Then using the pick hammer to make a purchase point in the top driver’s side of the vehicle. We inserted the tool head into purchase point and then began cutting towards to the passenger’s side upper portion of the windshield. Once the tool was halfway across the car the tool was handed off to another member who continued the cut around towards the bottom of the windshield and then around the bottom of the windshield where it was handed back off to the first user when the tool completed the cut. Both members then removed the windshield without issue. The process took around 90 seconds from start to finish with us standing beside the car and tool in hand.
The first thing I noticed is that the tool is quiet. All you hear is the drill you have running. This is a lot different than when we use other hand tools and such. I feel that this would be beneficial in not scaring the patient as much.
The next item to note was that the tool did not cause shards of glass to fly off towards the user. The tool basically pulverized the glass into two parts; dust (which did not fly up) and the laminate portion of the windshield as can be seen in the videos on the tool’s website. This is a positive in terms of safety for the firefighter and the patient.
Furthermore, this tool did not rock the car at all. Unlike hand tools which can cause the car to rock back and forth, this tool did not shake the car nor cause it to make any movements at all. This seems to provide better stability therefore more safety for the patient and firefighters.
The tool cut the windshield like butter. It never once hesitated and was extremely easy to maneuver around the corners. Even after cutting the windshield out, we decided to try to make some hard turn cuts and the tool was able to handle it pretty simply. Within the cut, we were able to cut so close to the A posts and the roof/hood that the entire windshield was cut out.
Finally, we inspected the tool for any damage or problems once used. We took a simple rag and wiped it down. Other than general small scratches there was no damage nor any issues with the tool. In addition, the thing that is good about this tool is that there is a replacement option should the tool need a new tooth or bottom plate. The retail price on this is $127. In talking with Mr. Gandolfo, this replacement only takes about five minutes and can be changed by anyone minimally mechanically inclined.
Let me begin by thanking the following members of the Buies Creek Fire Department who assisted me in testing this tool and providing insight on it: Ben Britt, Zachary Hubenthal, David Cowan, David McLain, Deborah Livesay, Daniel Glover, Dustin Walden, Safety Chief Vann Sorrell, Assistant Chief Chad Godwin, and Meredith Morrone.
We discussed the tool for about thirty minutes after we tested the tool. It was all of our opinion that this is not only a good tool, but it is a must have tool. When we compared the tool and cost of it to other options this tool continued to be the best option. We would highly encourage you to get in touch with Firehouse Systems and discuss getting one of these tools. With two people working with this tool, we were able to remove the windshield almost completely in about 90 seconds. It worked flawlessly.
Good luck and stay safe!