In crashes where minutes can spell the difference between life and death, first responders to the accident scene need up-to-date training so they can act quickly and safely!
Keeping fire fighters abreast on the latest new technology in vehicles is a challenge for the every local fire department. The First Responder Emergency Extrication program (F.R.E.E.) keeps first responders abreast of the rapid changes in vehicle design. High-strength steel, airbags, advanced restraint systems and safety around alternative fuel vehicles are all covered in the training.
CARSTAR Don & Ron’s, located at 5329 South 72nd St, Omaha, NE, hosted a F.R.E.E. event on Wed. April 14.
More than 30 firefighters from Omaha, Ralston, Boys Town, Council Bluffs and Emerson, IA attended this training. The true strength of this program is the opportunity to practice “cutting” late model vehicles. Salvage cars were donated so first responders can get a chance to practice “cutting” vehicles in a controlled and safe environment.
The F.R.E.E. program is a partnership between the National Auto Body Council and Holmatro Rescue Equipment. Holmatro is an international rescue equipment manufacturer. Four salvage vehicles were donated by State Farm for fire fighters to practice “cutting” techniques. Towing was donated by Young’s Towing and Insurance Auto Auctions.
“State Farm is proud to be able to provide a donation that is enhancing the learning and training of our first responders,” said Kelly Pargett, State Farm Community and Media Relations. “We make it our business to help build safer, stronger and better educated communities.”
Dan Crowbridge from Holmatro Rescue Equipment was the instructor at the event. The program displayed key products used to increase the speed at which occupants can be removed safely from damaged vehicles.
“Our training and experience in repairing vehicles also translates into knowledge of how to `cut’ these vehicles in an emergency scenario,” said Darrin McGaughey, general manager of CARSTAR Don & Ron’s. “Holmatro knows the tools and techniques for extrication. CARSTAR body shops know the vehicles.”
The growing popularity of high-voltage hybrid and electric vehicles and the many safety concerns surrounding these vehicles makes this training a necessity. Alternative fuel systems present different challenges when first responders arrive at the scene of an accident. Electric cars, hybrid cars and natural gas vehicles have fuel systems that pose dangers for first responders if need arises to “cut” the vehicle for rescue.
“First responders need to know about alternative fuel vehicles on the road,” said McGaughey. “We teach the fire fighters how to be safe when working around those vehicles and how to disable the systems if needed.”
The training included alternative fuel vehicles, and Baxter Ford provided an electric hybrid for training purposes.
“CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Shops are committed to helping our community become a safer, better place to live,” said McGaughey. “Hosting the F.R.E.E. events is a way for our body shop to further serve our community.”
More than 900 first responders have been trained at the CARSTAR locations in Omaha and Lincoln since 2010.