Challenge of Today’s Vehicles: Responders, Beware

This morning at FDIC 2010, Dave Dalrymple brought his attendees up to speed on new vehicle technology and numerous and unexpected ways it impacts them at his four-hour workshop, “Challenges of Today’s Vehicles.”

Today’s vehicles incorporate new passenger safety, motive power, and construction innovations that present unforeseen rescue, extrication, and patient management complications. Responders may only discover these on-scene, contending with multiple safety restraint systems in a variety of unusual locations, alternative power system components, and high-strength vehicle construction elements.

Passenger protection and vehicle design has evolved over the years, according to Dalrymple. For example, the 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air used its mass to resist the effects of an accident to protect passengers. In contrast, the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu includes crush zones designed to absorb and dissipate the energy of a crash, and incorporates a safety cage made of high-strength components to protect vehicle occupants.

Cutting tools and techniques will need to address the increased use of high-strength steel and carbon fiber structural reinforcements. These materials may not cut as easily using the usual tools and techniques, and take more time to cut as well.

Click to EnlargeDalrymple noted some of the firefighting concerns, including the increased use of certain high-strength, lightweight alloys that may include flammable metals such as magnesium. Also, gas struts are used more often as lifters for tailgates and other components; under exposure to fire, they may become dangerous missiles.

Also, with today’s vehicle technology, responders may be exposed to a variety of chemicals and dusts affecting the skin and lungs.
“Wear all your gear all the time,” Dalrymple insisted.

He noted that keeping up with new vehicle developments and how they affect rescue is a must for first responders today.

“All responders, no matter what their role, must keep abreast of these new developments. “ALL responders, whether on the rescue tool, staffing the protective hoseline, performing patient care, or acting as the officer in charge, play a key role in providing a better patient outcome; they ALL must grasp the impact of new vehicle technology on their roles, prepare for it, and share this knowledge with their fellow responders,” he emphasized.

Involved in the emergency services for 26 years, Dave Dalrymple has experience in EMS, rescue, extrication and fire service instruction. He writes on extrication topics for Fire Engineering. His article, “New Vehicle Technology and New Extrication Challenges,” will appear in the May 2010 issue.

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