At the Ohio State Fire School at Bowling Green State University, we use scrap-yard and current-model cars in our auto extrication training program. In 1996, we used 60 scrap-yard and 12 new 1996 Chevrolets (12 new cars are donated each year by General Motors, Buick Cadillac Oldsmobile Division) to train 50 firefighters. Techniques such as folding the roof, removing a door, and pushing the dash are taught using scrap-yard cars; once firefighters understand the technique, we create accident scenarios using the new cars and have the students apply the techniques they were taught. Training on the older and new models enabled us to identify techniques, several of which are listed below, that need adapting for newer-model cars.

When demonstrating how to fold the roof to the rear, for example, the instructor stresses holding the hydraulic cutter at a 90-degree angle to the A-post (windshield post) and B-post (center column) with as much of the metal as possible placed deeply inside the cutter jaw. Students are reminded to avoid the shoulder-belt reinforcement when making the cut to the center post. These points are emphasized because we have found that the A- and B-posts on some of the newer-model cars are heavily reinforced and extremely hard to cut, whereas the hollow tube used in older cars could be cut easily even if the cutter were misapplied.

Door hinges on the newer cars seem to be harder to cut or break than those on older models. Here again, the key is to get as much of the metal inside the cutter notch as possible and to cut the hinges as often as possible. Students are reminded to always check with the manufacturer for recommendations of tools that are capable of cutting the hinges before attempting to cut one.

Pushing the dash with the ram or spreader works great on new cars, but the relief cuts must be made by the rocker panel horizontally (parallel to the rocker panel), not vertically (across the rocker panel), because the fuel and brake lines run underneath the floor pan and are attached right next to the rocker panel. The lines were more commonly found on the passenger side. Cutting any one of these lines could cause gasoline or brake fluid to go everywhere and endanger the rescuer and the victim. In addition, horizontal cuts produce a better purchase point when the spreader is used to push the dash.

Pulling the steering columns over the nose has proven to work well with old junkyard cars but can be extremely dangerous when applied to the newer cars. If you like pulling and not pushing, I recommend using a pry bar, such as a halligan, and punching a hole through the defroster vent and the heater box and then wrapping a chain around the entire dash assembly or using a “claw” (a large steel fabricated hook that grasps the entire dash assembly). The claw seemed to work well and quickly when applied.

Avoid pulling the steering column. Pulling the entire dash gives you a lot more room for patient removal, and the dash and steering column can be removed in the same time it takes to remove the column alone. Also, the front-wheel-drive models had spindle or universal joints under the dash that could break and fracture the victim`s lower leg. We also found other automotive design characteristics in the newer-model cars that would conflict with pulling the column over the nose.

With everything considered, training firsthand with the newer-model cars that are just like those on the streets is valuable experience. If new cars are not available to you, however, old scrap-yard cars will work. Just make sure the extrication techniques being demonstrated will work when applied to the newer cars. The older and newer cars definitely are different. n

Students in the auto extrication training program at the Ohio State Fire School at Bowling Green University practice techniques on new as well as junkyard vehicles. [Photos by Rich Platner, Kettering (OH) Fire Department.]

When cutting the B-post (center column), avoid the shoulder-belt reinforcement. The A- and B-posts on some newer model cars are heavily reinforced and extremely hard to cut.

(Top) Pushing the dash with spreader and ram. (Middle, bottom) Making horizontal relief cuts by the rocker panel instead of vertical cuts across the panel reduces the chance of cutting the brake and fuel lines that are underneath the floor pan and attached next to the rocker panel.

Cutting a door hinge. Hinges on newer cars seem harder to cut or break.

ROB ROBINSON, an 10-year veteran of the fire service, is a lieutenant in the City of Columbus (OH) Fire Department, assigned to Rescue 16. He has been riding heavy rescue for seven years. Robinson is an instructor in auto extrication at the Ohio State Fire School at Bowling Green State University.

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