Rescue 89 - it may sound like a Netflix series, but it is in fact the name of the frontline rescue truck that Airdrie's firefighters use. That unit has the Rescue 89 toolbox and in that toolbox is various heavy equipment; the most common of which the public may be familiar with is the 'jaws of life'.
Recently, the city's fire department upgraded its equipment.
"Those heavy hydraulics - oil hydraulics, are now being changed out with modern e-hydraulics, so they're battery-operated tools," explained Deputy Chief Garth Rabel. "These are remarkable new tools that provide great support to firefighters; whenever they need to consider doing extrication or some sort of application that involves lifting or cutting metals."
Deputy Chief Rabel explained that while these new tools are at the forefront of rescue technology, car technology has also grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the way the 'life capsule' (cab of the vehicle) is made. Modern vehicles are equipped with everything from airbags to occupant restraints and roll-over curtains. And while all these accoutrements are meant to increase survival rates if there is a vehicle collision, it also means first responders are challenged in the extraction of those inside.
"They use all types of very strong metals such as boron and it's been a challenge over the years to keep up with how we can actually breach these vehicles and get inside to support the patient," Deputy Chief Rabel said. "These tools are stronger and they're more effective."
While the fire department now has the newest generation of life-saving tools, they also participated in training to test them out.
"We do have 68 frontline members who all have to be well versed in the use of tools and the techniques of those tools in order to be effective and efficient in their work," Rabel said. "We train members from each platoon: Alpha Bravo, Charlie, and Delta - and they already have expertise in vehicle extrication and use of tools. Then they take that information back to their platoons."
This allows members to have an understanding of the tools, their maintenance, and how to troubleshoot.
However, Deputy Chief Rabel said that while the 'jaws of life' may be the most well-known to members of the public, there are many other tasks that firefighters must be well-versed in, including stabilizing cars and lifting them.
"There's different adjuncts to the main rescue system, such as rams cutters, spreaders, combi tools - a cutter and spreader together. So, vehicle extrication is an annual training opportunity for us and we just worked with our training group here to determine what it looks like in any given year."
According to previous statistics provided by the City's Fire Chief Mike Pirie, in 2022, there were four vehicle extrications and 252 motor vehicle accidents that the fire department was called to.
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