Being seriously hurt and trapped inside a vehicle after a crash is something no one wants to experience, but Mount Airy firemen soon will be better equipped for such situations.
The city fire department has taken steps to allow its members to deploy a hydraulic device commonly known as the Jaws of Life when major traffic accidents occur inside the city limits.
“We’ve only been able to use it legally for forcible entry into structures,” Fire Chief Zane Poindexter explained Monday of equipment that has come in handy during fires in factory and other buildings with bars on the windows.
But there’s been a recent move to extend that to the freeing of traffic accident victims.
“We’re in the process now of obtaining the certification to be able to use it to perform vehicle extractions in partnership with the Mount Airy Rescue Squad,” Poindexter said.
In addition to running fire calls, the Mount Airy Fire Department has a longstanding policy of assisting at the scenes of serious vehicle accidents, and for two years has provided first response to a wide range of medical emergencies.
Using the Jaws of Life for auto crashes represents another service addition, Poindexter said.
“We wanted to be able to use the tool more productively for the citizens,” the fire chief added of a piece of equipment that would cost at least $11,500 new in today’s market.
Unlike some of its counterparts, the Hurst Jaws of Life equipment the department possesses has a combined function of both cutting and spreading metal of a vehicle in order to free a victim. Resembling a large pair of scissors, it is attached to hoses running from a hydraulic pump that powers the system, which is mounted on a large pickup fire personnel have for responding to wrecks.
The key element is the speed involved.
“We will be able to get to the scene and if there’s an extrication (needed), we can start the process” before the rescue squad arrives with its heavier equipment as usual, the fire chief said,
“It’s going to speed up the process,” Poindexter said of freeing a wreck victim.
Gaining certification for the light rescue designation needed to operate the Jaws of Life at accident scenes required 148 hours of training by firefighters, with eight involved so far. “Most of them have gotten it on their time off,” Poindexter said of the rescue technician certification.
Their efforts will lead to the new capability being online soon, after final steps including an inspection by the appropriate regulatory agency are completed. “We’re hoping sometime in January,” the chief said.
“I feel like anytime we can add more quality to the emergency services we have currently,” Poindexter said, “it will help our citizens as well as the visitors to our town.”
Surry County Emergency Services Director John Shelton said the fire department’s expanded first-response program involving medical emergencies has been “a great asset” to the county EMS since being launched in December 2010 and he welcomes the new capability for accidents.
“We’re looking forward to getting this started,” Shelton said.
Members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners also responded favorably to the service addition when briefed on it by Poindexter during a meeting last week.
“I hope you don’t have to use it,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley told Poindexter.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.