LaGRANGE — Every second counts when a person is hurt in a wreck, especially if they are trapped inside the car.
That is why LaGrange firefighters do not want to waste any time on an accident scene when trying to free the victims and help provide them any life-saving treatments they made need.
This week, the firefighters are heading back to the classroom — of sorts — in a field near the LaGrange Fire Maintenance Center behind Station 3 on Hogansville Road.
According to Lt. Caleb Harrison, head of LaGrange Fire Department’s Special Operations and Training Division, the crews are taking part in a hands-on training course called Advanced Stabilization.
The focus is for firefighters to use metal struts to stabilize a car that it is in an unstable or precarious position. Harrison said they then must also figure out the best — and safest — way to remove a patient without causing the vehicle to collapse or roll back on itself, causing more damage and injuries.
“We’d used the struts any time a vehicle is on an unstable incline or on its roof, top end, flipped over, suspended in trees or off the ground,” explained Harrison. “Each strut is capable of holding 18,000 pounds. So we could hold up a school bus, if used properly.”
Four different cars were set up along the course, all at varying angles — some completely flipped over, one toppled on its side on a flat surface and the other hanging precariously over the “edge” of a hill.
The firefighters had to figure out which strut technique would work best to lift the car and extricate the patients, then put their skills to the test under the watchful eye of Harrison.
Harrison said the training is more about allowing the first responders to re-familiarize themselves with the equipment and how it can be used in different scenarios.
“We want to put tools in their toolbox, so to speak,” Harrison explained. “We don’t want them to run up on something they haven’t seen before … there are just an infinite number of variables. One year we had cars stacked on top of each other, which we rarely see, but we wanted that image in their brain … that prime recognition capability.”
Some of the firefighters had the chance to set their skills in motion just moments after leaving the training site around noon Tuesday. They received a 911 call for a vehicle rolled over in the 900 block of Youngs Mill Road.
LaGrange police said a young woman lost control of her 2006 Chevy Cobalt as she entered a sharp curve, crossed into the oncoming lane, off the side of the road and hit an embankment, flipping the car on its roof.
Fortunately, the driver was able to climb out of the car on her own, but was flown to a Columbus hospital for treatment for possible injuries to her face and further medical evaluation.
Harrison said the struts usually are utilized when someone is pinned or trapped inside their vehicle — or plane, as was the case in the Feb. 23, 2014, fatal plane crash at the LaGrange-Callaway Airport. Three men died when the Beechcraft Baron Twin Engine they were flying slammed nose first into the ground.
LaGrange firefighters maneuvered the struts into place in order to extricate the victims from the plane, Harrison stated.
He said it was the first time the equipment had been used in that type of scenario.
“We teach them (firefighters) the fundamentals, but it can be applied to different situations. It’s just that more critical thinking might be involved,” Harrison added.
Another reason he said it was important for all the firefighters to train together is so they work together as a team, the same way they would in the field during a real emergency call.
Harrison said all LaGrange firefighters will rotate in the Advanced Stabilization training through the end of this week.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.