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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • There's a task for every volunteer firefighter

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  • BLOOMING GROVE TWP. - Working to enhance their emergency responder’s skills, several volunteer firefighters spent their recent weekend learning and for some relearning, basic vehicle rescue tactics at the Pike County Training Center.
        Scenarios where many of the veteran instructors have experienced, were reenacted for the newer volunteers. Potential instances, like a car being stuck under a tractor trailer and rescuers' only option to save the victims would be to tunnel through the trunk, were setup. And so, the volunteers cut the hood and rear deck off the vehicles, then did patient care. Then, the car was flipped upside down so they could cut through the bottom of the vehicle. The scenario concluded, by the volunteers flipping the vehicle back onto its wheels.
        Since each accident is different, the volunteers try to prepare for everything and so with another  scenario, the volunteers practiced cutting doors off vehicles and tunneling from the trunk to the front, because a passenger may be stuck under a dashboard.
        Or perhaps, if the bumper of the vehicle is on the ground and a person’s legs are under the dashboard, there is a chance the rescuers would have to cut behind tires or through the roof.  
        Because time is of the essence, an instructor from Dingmans Ferry and a former chief on Long Island, Rick Schultz said the emergency medical technicians make the calls. He explained that the severity of the accident must be determined, or the passenger’s condition must be established, before the firefighters can start ripping the vehicles apart.
        To prepare for all possibilities, Schultz said the instructors give the volunteers a lot of information because, “there’s no wrong way or right way, because every accident is different.”
        The three-level class started Saturday, with members of eight area departments completing the awareness, operation and technician levels. Once completed, the volunteers became certified for heavy rescue. There were four instructors from different departments, several who are officers.
        When victims have to be moved, and because of potential injuries, the volunteers practiced “packing,” where a collar was placed on the victim to stabilize them. Schultz said the “packing” is meant to protect the person as they are safely moved and placed on a backboard.
        Rescuers have what Schultz called the “golden hour” to quickly help victims. He explained that from the time of the accident, to the time the victims get to the hospital, that period is critical. That is why victims are often transported by a helicopter.
        Aside from using tools, the volunteers also refreshed their knowledge about the different emergency vehicles that each has its own “job,” said Schultz. A ladder company for instance, does the searching and ventilating, whereas a fire engine maintains the water. Because departments sometimes have different equipment, Schultz said they do what they can and that is why mutual aid is important.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Each spot on the truck defines what role the volunteer will play during the emergency. When volunteers ride on the trucks that carry ladders, Schultz said they ventilate the vehicles by breaking windows or cutting a hole in the roof. It is important, however, that windows aren’t broken unless a firefighter has a charged hose, because the oxygen affects the fire.
        With every scenario, Schultz said the volunteers look at: life, property and firemen. Firstly looking to save lives, then victim’s property and then the environment to ensure people are safe.
         A volunteer firefighter from Bushkill, Anthony Scozzafava said he learned how to extract a person by using alternative options, like tunneling through the trunk, rather than cutting the person out through the door. Scozzafava has yet to experience a similar real life scenario.
        Many of the departments have regular in-house training and so Kevin Concato of the Milford Fire Department said a lot of the examples, he had done before. However, what made the training an asset, was the experienced instructors who bring additional techniques and knowledge. The information Concato received, he said is important because he can then bring it back to his department and share with his fellow volunteers. Tunneling through the trunk, he said was “definitely interesting” because that scenario isn't common. It is not something most would anticipate because more often they open doors, take off roofs or dashboards.
        Aside from climbing ladders and crawling through the windows, the volunteers  practiced rescuing victims, as they carried manikins out the windows and down the ladders. With all the practice in the world, Schultz said no one is ever truly prepared to find bodies. However, there is a job for everyone as all departments are in need of volunteers. With a training facility that all the volunteers applauded, and the appropriate instructors, he said everyone can find a job to best suit their comfort levels and abilities. Whether a person holds a ladder on the ground or pushes a hose into a building, it is work that needs to be done. Volunteering with a department, Schultz said is not only important, but also special because the “comradery is magical.”

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