Jaws of Life vs. New Cars

By: Patrick Claybon Email
By: Patrick Claybon Email

With rising gas prices, more motorists are switching to newer, more efficient vehicles.

However, in the event of an accident, some newer cars create danger not only for the driver and passengers, but for first responders as well.

They look great, handle like a dream and save you money at the pump, but what about when it's only job is to keep you safe?

That’s where some new cars create difficulties for first responders.

Capt. Adrian Thomas, with the Dothan Fire Dept. said, "There's a lot more issues to deal with now, than some of the older cars. It helps the person survive the crash, but it makes it more difficult for us to get inside those vehicles.”

The list of roadblocks when it comes to extracting someone from a car is extensive: magnesium rods can cause a spark in a gas rich environment, crumple zones, bunch metal so tight cutting becomes difficult, high voltage lines in hybrid vehicles, and then there are sometimes 17 airbags that have yet to deploy.

Capt. Chris Etheredge, with the Dothan Fire Dept. said, "The locations of the charges for the airbags pose a significant hazard; any airbag that has not deployed during the crash can be deployed after the crash, should we do something that is inappropriate and cut through the wrong areas."

But, in situations where someone needs to be extracted from a vehicle, knowledge of where to cut is crucial, and rescuers train on every make and model; they also will soon be armed with a new way to cut in.

“Fortunately, we're in the process of getting new, bigger tools that will cut this higher tinsel metal to help us get into these vehicles,” Thomas added. “Our tools now, they will cut into it but it sometimes takes a little longer."

Something important the captains told us on Thursday, because of all the new safety features, it might take them longer to cut to a victim. But, in many cases, the victim is in overall better shape when they get there.

Automobile manufacturers provide handbooks on their vehicles for first responders, but with space at a premium, the fire department is looking into digital devices to store new car information.

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