Reprinted with permission from the pages of the Country Journal
November 30, 2006
Photos and article by Lisa Connell
Firefighters train on Jaws of Life
Learning the art of a life saving precision cut
GOSHEN – With the hum of portable generators and the glow of floodlights, the town’s volunteer firefighters, under the instruction of Brian Mullison of Maine, ripped open four cars on the night of Nov. 21 using their new Jaws of Life equipment.
Fire Chief Sue Labrie explained that thanks to a Homeland Security Grant, the fire department received roughly $25,000 to $30,000 of Jaws of Life equipment including a power unit, cutters, spreader and a ram. The grant was awarded in May and the equipment was delivered in September. All this equipment is more efficient than the department’s older equipment.
Firefighter Bob Labrie explained that the department’s current generator is 25 years old and can only hook up one power tool at a time. The new power unit is smaller and runs two devices at the same time. Plus, the spreader unit was bigger than the department’s current one. Overall he said, “It’s leaps and bounds better than what we had.”
In addition, the firefighters had a large turnout of younger volunteers who were very eager to try the equipment and learn the various techniques of ripping open a car without hurting passengers.
Chief Labrie said that out of 19 active volunteers, they had 16 participate, along with the town’s two constables and one volunteer from Chesterfield. She said. “We had a great turnout.”
Of course, with all this new equipment, the volunteers needed training, which they received from career firefighter Mullison, who works for the company Amkus that creates the Jaws of Life machines.
Cummington Fire Chief Bernie Forgea, who was on hand video taping the event, had high praise for Mullison, who is the best in the business. He said that Mullison that day had just taught two courses to the Boston Fire Department before making the long drive to Goshen. He teaches all over the northeast including the Hilltowns. “This guy is no nonsense,” he said.
Forgea said that training on the Jaws of Life tools is very important since if the tools are not used properly they can break, and it is important to know how to cut open the vehicles without further injuring occupants. For instance, when it comes to breaking a windshield, if it is safe to do so, a plain old axe will do, but if there are people in close vicinity, it’s best to use a precision cutting tool.
Forgea said that for the demonstration the firefighters had to round up four to five vehicles. One was the instructor’s demonstration vehicle, the others the firefighters practiced on. There were also a variety of cars from a small van, to a tiny two door to a four door.
He said this training is important since all the firefighters will “be very confident and know what to do on a real accident scene,” and, “They don’t always have to call Williamsburg or Cummington. They can do it themselves.”