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"Jaws of life"

Statesboro firefighters train to extricate accident victims

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Posted: October 15, 2006 6:33 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2006 8:39 a.m.
    Beginning in January, the Statesboro Fire Department hopes to add a new service for residents of Statesboro — safely removing victims from automobile crashes.
    Firefighters spent two days last week learning the proper techniques and practicing on cars using what is commonly known as the "jaws of life" device. The training was conducted under the guidance of Georgia Emergency Management Association instructors as the members of the department became certified in vehicle extrication rescue.
    Barry Church, one of the GEMA instructors for the course, said a lot has changed since the 1950s and 1960s when rescue workers would pull a victim out of the car if they could reach them. While that may sound logical, Church said they would end up doing more harm then good to the victim.
    "Over the years, we've learned a lot about how to get people out from a vehicle," Church said.
    Now, instead of removing the person from the car, Church said the goal is to remove the car from around the person.    
    In addition to removing people safely, rescue workers need to work quickly to free the victim from the wreckage.
    Statesboro Fire Chief Dennis Merrifield said there's a rule known as the "golden hour" in which a patient's chance of surviving a crash diminishes greatly 60 minutes after a crash.
    Statesboro Firefighter Stephen Brown said he thought the training would be beneficial when the respond to a crash scene.
    "Ultimately, every situation is going to be different, so all you have to fall back on is your training," Brown said.
    "I think it's great that the fire department is going to be running rescue calls as well as the fire protection," he said.
    By having trained personnel ready to respond at a moments notice, Merrifield believes they can respond faster to many scenes than the rescue workers currently utilized by Bulloch County.
    However, he said they don't want to replace the county's services, only augment what Bulloch County already provides.
    Ted Wynn, public safety director for Bulloch County, said it made sense for the Statesboro Fire Department to transition into providing rescue services as well.
    "In most large cities, the fire department handles that responsibility," he said.
    Merrifield said the fire department would respond to vehicle crashes with Bulloch County workers during the remainder of the year as they learn to work together on rescue calls.
    Beginning in January, he hopes to take over the responsibility within the fire department's coverage area.
    Wynn said the volunteer fire departments would also become more involved in rescue calls, especially since they have the protective clothing and communications equipment needed for such situations.
    Both Wynn and Merrifield said the city and county have a good working relationship and expect it to continue in the future.
    "If they ever need us (to respond) in the city, we'll be there for them, and if we need them in the county, I'm sure they'll be there for us," Wynn said.
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