Many vehicle extrication instructors today refer to “new vehicle technology” (NVT for short) when they talk about many of the new things we are seeing in vehicles today. NVT can come in the form of advanced construction features, alternative energy/propulsion systems, occupant safety systems, etc. These “NVT’s” can pose both challenges and risks to rescuers when working around vehicles at extrication scenes or during training. Fortunately, new vehicle rescue technology is helping us overcome some of the problems associated with NVT.
Using technology to extricate victims is nothing new. When the first hydraulic rescue tools hit the markets in the 1970’s, these were some of the most technologically advanced tools at the time. And today, the rescue tool manufacturers continue to make advancements in tool technology to allow rescuers to overcome the problems and concerns posed by some of the NVT issues.
Likewise, there are new technologies and tools that are available to vehicle extrication personnel that your rescue department may want to consider adding to your tool cache. There is also some older technology that originally was developed for another purpose that has found to be useful in extrication. Let’s look at a few of these technologies and see how they can fit into your rescue and extrication responses…
Combustible gas meters are already carried by most departments and can be used to assess for potential leaks of LPG or CNG fuels in vehicles. With many more vehicles utilizing these for propulsion fuels, the chances of encountering one in a motor vehicle collision are increasing daily. Has your department developed a standard operating guideline or procedure that includes using the meter if an alternative fuel is suspected?
Likewise, thermal imaging technology in the form of thermal imaging cameras will give rescuers the ability to “see” some aspects of the vehicle’s systems from a different perspective. TIC’s can be used to assess whether a high voltage battery is burning (or whether it has been extinguished). TIC’s can also be used to assess whether there were occupants in a damaged vehicle, by looking for heat signatures on seats, etc., as well as assessing the area around the vehicle for victims that may have self-extricated or been ejected from a damaged vehicle.
While the old standbys – duct tape and contact paper – will still work, there is new technology in industrial laminating materials that enhance rescuer and victim safety by being able to be used more quickly and efficiently. One example is Packexe SMASH, which originated in the United Kingdom and is now available worldwide, and another is Protecto Extrication Wrap produced in the United States. While each of these products differs slightly, both were developed using industrial laminating technology to make vehicle extrication safer. Rescuers should take the time to review and evaluate these products and see if the will enhance their efforts at extrication scenes.
Another form of technology that rescuers should consider using for vehicle extrication is computer technology. Moditech produces the Crash Recovery System. This system, which is available in PC, iPhone, iPad, and Android versions, details the rescuer relevant concerns with all vehicles that have at least one airbag installed. The Crash Recovery System now also includes procedures for dealing with alternative energy source vehicles.
As you can see, technology is enhancing our abilities as vehicle rescuers. And the technology available to us is only going to increase and improve. It is important for rescuers to look at this technology and see how it will improve their services.