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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Realistic Rescue Drill Hones Skills

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Rescue squad member Ethel Altiery holds "head blocks" used often on vehicle crash victims.
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Pownal, Vt. – Cold, wet, and dark conditions provided an ideal backdrop during an April 25 Pownal Fire Protective Association/Pownal Rescue Squad vehicle extracation drill, according to firefighters and rescue squad members.

“These are the conditions that we usually work in,” said rescue squad member Evelyn McAuliffe, referring to vehicle crash situations.

“Most accidents happen on rural roads where there isn’t very much, if any, light,” said firefighter Jamie Elwell.

The simulated two-car, four-victim collision was staged on Church Street just behind the protective association’s fire station and at the rescue squad headquarters. The scenario was challenging: one “victim” acted as though he sustained head injuries and was in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with limited accessibility, while three “victims” were “trapped” in a car so heavily damaged that normal access was deemed impossible. As a further complication, the two people situated in the front seat were assigned critical injuries. The rear-seat passenger’s simulated injuries were less serious for drill purposes.

Firefighters and rescue squad members jumped to action at about 7:40 p.m.. Two teams approached the vehicles and as rescue squad workers began assessing the “injuries,” firefighters began the work of cutting doors and one car roof away from vehicle frames. Several firefighters have earned specific state medical emergency assistance certifications; those at the drill were able to assist the state-certified squad members with victim care. Rescues rely on precision and knowledge; the goal is to free the victims quickly without causing additional injury.

The rain increased and darkness intensified as “victims” were shielded from glass and metal shards with blankets and board-like medical equipment. Firefighters and rescue squad members spoke reassuringly to the “victims” as doors were cut and pried and the roof of one vehicle was cut and peeled away. One by one,“victims” were eased from vehicles after frequent injury and condition assessment and the use of devices such as neck collars and backboards. As visibility decreased, firefighters activated bright lights attached to a town fire engine and drill participants illuminated the immediate “crash site” with powerful flashlights. Three “victims” were removed through openings created after cutting away the doors and one victim was removed from a front seat by being placed on a backboard and lifted up and over the back seat, a move made possible by the roof removal.

The drill concluded at about 8:10. Evelyn McAuliffe noted that the drill was done at a slower pace than an actual rescue so that firefighters and rescue squad members could process each step and ask a question if necessary.

The value of drills is immeasurable, said firefighters and rescue squad members.

“This is a way to stay familiar with the procedures and with working together,” said David Dence of the rescue squad.

“This is what makes it all worthwhile and keeps everyone ready for real situations,” said rescue squad President Dennis McAuliffe.

Associate fire department members Crystal O’Dell and Jenny Guerard participated in the drill and said the work is vital. Guerard is also a rescue squad member.

Association Fire Chief Craig O’Dell assessed the purpose of all drill sessions in a few words.


“It’s something we need to do,” he said.

Susan Bush can be reached by calling 802-823-9367 or by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net.
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