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Firefighters train on lifesaving equipment

Tony Bedenbaugh (in helmet at left) with the Hurst Company instructs firefighters from around the state on crash victim extrication. The firefighters were in Albany for the annual joint conference of the Georgia State Firefighters Association and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs, held at the Albany Civic Center.(Staff Photo: Jim West)

Tony Bedenbaugh (in helmet at left) with the Hurst Company instructs firefighters from around the state on crash victim extrication. The firefighters were in Albany for the annual joint conference of the Georgia State Firefighters Association and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs, held at the Albany Civic Center.(Staff Photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — The landscape of the Albany Fire Department training center on Honeysuckle Lane resembled a rush-hour traffic pileup Saturday — or a demolition derby gone wrong. A dozen or so cars appeared to have crashed, one on top of each other. One was broadside with a telephone pole.

In reality, the pre-wrecked vehicles had been strategically positioned to simulate nightmare traffic accidents — all the better for firefighters from around the state to learn the art of victim extrication. Trainers from the Hurst company, makers of the widely known Jaws of Life equipment, were in Albany for the final day of the joint conferences of the Georgia State Firefighters Association and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs.

“The simulation gives the students an opportunity to work with what looks like a very bad accident with the top of one car collapsed,” said Tony Bedenbaugh, one of the Hurst trainers. “We show them how to stabilize the the vehicle and then to gain access and manipulate the metals in the shortest period of time to get the patient out.”

Using a combination of cutters, spreaders and rams (used to lift a vehicle ceiling), firefighters in full emergency gear got hands-on experience gaining entry to the crushed vehicle.

“You can’t count on just one plan to make things work,” Bedenbaugh said. “If one thing isn’t going the way you thought it would, you can go to plan B or even C.”

The latest line of Hurst equipment is light years beyond what came before it, Bedenbaugh said. Where the old extrication tools relied on hydraulics to make them work, the new “eDRAULIC” tools operate more like battery-powered hand tools.

“There’s no combustion engine needed, so there’s very little noise,” Bedenbaugh said. “There are no hoses, so the tools are well-suited for any of the emergency disciplines including trench, confined space, building collapse or as a part of rescue for a fire scene. Just push a button, turn a knob and go.”