ALBANY, Ga. -- Neither Albany Fire Chief James Carswell nor any of the three firemen called together for a simple demonstration has to say a word.
Asked by Carswell to unload the components that are part of the department's current "jaws of life" tool used to extricate accident victims from vehicles or to gain quick access into a burning building, the firefighters quietly comply.
First, they lay a tarp on the floor of the fire station ("You can't put the motor on the ground, the dirt will clog up the motor," Carswell explains), then they, piece by piece, lay out a heavy motor unit, hydraulic lines, a can of fuel, hydraulic fluid, and four additional pieces of equipment -- three quite heavy -- that take up a considerable amount of space.
Standing nearby, David Forrester, a sales rep for Municipal Emergency Services, holds the next generation of extrication machine. In one hand. And while the three firefighters are unloading the first component of the fire department's currently used jaws of life machine, he simple twists a knob and pushes a button.
And the machine cranks up, purring at a considerably lower decibel level than the equipment the firefighters have unloaded.
"Let me explain the difference between the old jaws of life and the new one from a field test for the new e-Draulic rescue tool," Deputy AFD Fire Chief Ron Rowe says. "We sent two pumpers on an extrication call, and the first truck on the scene had the equipment we use now. They started quickly unloading the tarp, the motor, the tools, all the stuff you have to have.
"The second truck arrived on the scene 60 seconds after the first one arrived. One fireman using the e-Draulic tool completed the extrication before the first group could even get the (older) machine ready. In a situation like this, seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death."
The Albany City Commission will vote Tuesday whether to approve the purchase of 12 Hurst jaws of life e-Draulic tools for use by AFD. Each tool comes with a reduced $29,000 price tag that includes nine days of specific training for the 153 firefighters in the Albany department.
The commission tentatively voted to OK the purchase, which would use voter-approved special-purpose local-option sales tax funds, at a work session last Tuesday.
"This machine has evolved tremendously over the years," Carswell said of the extrication device. "Of course, in the beginning we had only one set of tools for the entire department, but we eventually got one set for each station.
"The technology, with motors and hydraulics, has evolved over the years, but it has had to, to keep up with the way vehicles are designed. Hurst's e-Draulics is the latest evolution, and it is a vast improvement over the whole system. This is the market standard right now, and it comes with a lifetime warranty."
Forrester, on hand to demonstrate the new tool, said the expected lifetime of the e-Draulic machine is "at least 20 years."
"You have to remember, though, there are Hurst tools that have been on the job for 30 years now, and they're still in operation," Forrester said.
Carswell said AFD's current generation of jaws of life equipment has been on the job locally from 12 to 27 years.
The e-Draulic tool sought by Carswell for the Albany Fire Department received a Best Rescue Tool Innovation award last year from Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine.
"Hurst spent more than $2 million just in research on this new tool to make sure it would become the industry standard," Forrester said. "First of all, it is so easy to operate; it's got one-button on and off. Second, it's one tool. You step off the truck, and it's ready to go to work."
And, Rowe notes, the e-Draulic specs attest to the durability of the tool.
"With this new tool, you can make 27 cuts before you have to check the battery," he said. "With the tools we have now, you might get one or two cuts on a battery. Of course, we check our equipment regularly, but this shows how reliable (the new jaws of life tool) is."
Carswell said the development of the e-Draulics tool comes at a perfect time for the Albany department.
"We knew our old Hurst equipment was going to have to be replaced soon," he said. "And that equipment has so many disadvantages when compared to the new generation of extrication machine. So, timingwise, this is a perfect fit for our needs.
"Our SPLOST request was for upgrading equipment, so this fits in perfectly. And Hurst is going to repair our current equipment as well as possible so that we might possibly sell it and recoup some of the cost. Plus, any repairs to our current equipment is paid for out of the city's general fund, so the new equipment will ease those costs to the general fund."