This week Honda Manufacturing of Alabama hosted a hands-on training session in crash victim extraction. Fire and rescue departments from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois spent two days learning how to rip cars apart to rescue trapped passengers.
More than 40 firefighters and rescue workers showed up for the training. On Tuesday they attended classes on vehicle extractions. The next day they put this into practice.
On Wednesday morning the field behind the HMA plant was littered with cars either bashed in or about to be. Vehicles were smashed, chopped up and even flipped upside down to simulate the real hazardous situations accident victims find themselves in.
From there the people set to work taking off the smashed sides, doors and even whole roofs.
The training was put on by Scene of the Accident, a non-profit organization from Missouri City, Texas that specializes in accident scene safety training.
“Proper training is a critical factor in successful rescue in the event of an automobile accident,” said Todd Hoffman, executive director of Scene of the Accident.
The rescue workers used hydraulic tools, spreaders, cutters and rams to pull apart cars and get to the people inside.
“The tools these guys are using today are comparable to what they have at home,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman, who also supervised the training, also demonstrated how rescue workers use a “Rescue Me”, a tool the size of a pen cap that shatters car windows on contact for easy escapes.
HMA donated 20 late model Pilots and Odysseys to be ripped apart in the training.
HMA spokesman Ted Pratt said these vehicles were pre-production and test vehicles that were destined to be crushed anyway.
“We normally use old junkyard cars. Some are 20 years old, so this is a rare opportunity,” said Hoffman.
He explained that the advantage of practicing on late-model cars is that the materials used in them are different than those in older models. He said it’s vital to practice cutting these cars as firefighters and rescue workers are continuously more likely to encounter newer models.
“They’re dealing with new materials they’ve never seen before,” he said.
Pratt said the donated cars range from 2002 to 2009 models with the majority built after 2005.
The chance to practice extraction on real cars was valued by the people who have to do it in real life. Lincoln Fire Rescue Capt. Patrick Parton said it gave his department a chance to see how fast they needed to work to cut a car in an emergency.
“Honda has developed a key partnership with both the Talladega and Lincoln emergency services,” said HMA spokesman Mark Morrison. “Honda is very pleased to support the training of these rescue personnel by providing the vehicles used in the training program.”
Pratt said the exercise was to train trainers. The idea is that those at the plant will teach the extraction methods they learned to their home departments.
Scene of the Accident does exercises like this across the country. This is its first time in Talladega County.
Hoffman said he got the idea to train here when he met an assistant chief from the Talladega Fire Department two years ago.