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Cut Loose
by Sarah Cooper
Aug 11, 2009 | 1318 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/ Dan McGee - Under the watchful eyes of Captains Bob Laylon (blue shirt) and Chris Maples (right), Sparks Firefighter Laura Jacobsen is about to cut away part of a car's body. She is using the departments new TNT Hydraulic Rescue Tool that allows cutting  new materials used in modern cars. The cars were provided by Pick N Pull for the training exercise.
Tribune/ Dan McGee - Under the watchful eyes of Captains Bob Laylon (blue shirt) and Chris Maples (right), Sparks Firefighter Laura Jacobsen is about to cut away part of a car's body. She is using the departments new TNT Hydraulic Rescue Tool that allows cutting new materials used in modern cars. The cars were provided by Pick N Pull for the training exercise.
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Nineteen-year old Heather Norris was trapped beneath the twisted metal of her 1985 Oldsmobile sedan on Aug. 4, while members of the Reno Fire Department were outside preparing to cut her loose using hydraulic equipment. Today, Norris is recovering at Renown Regional Medical Center.

On July 28, two cars collided head-on near the intersection of Queen Way and Pyramid Highway. Both of the drivers were pulled from their cars after Sparks firefighters pried the doors off of the vehicles.

Despite such successes, Sparks Fire Department Capt. Bob Laylon wished that when he arrived at a crash scene he had extrication equipment that was just a little more powerful.

That was before today.

“We could only use our spreaders to pry the door open,” Laylon said of the fire department’s extrication abilities.

Today, the Sparks Fire Department put new extrication equipment on one of their trucks thanks to a grant from the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

“Now we can cut hinges (on door frames), cut steering columns, where before we couldn’t,” Laylon said.

The large cutters attach to a pressurized pump that can blast 320,000 pounds of pressure into the device and onto a piece of twisted car metal. The pliers work the same way and can handle the same amount of pressure, according to Laylon.

The old set could apply 70,000 pounds of pressure.

The equipment used to extract crash victims from their cars must keep pace with auto-making research and development, Laylon said.

“It is a constant battle,” Laylon said. “Every year the researchers are trying to come out with a car that we can’t cut.”

According to Patricia Swift-Oladeinde, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), standards for vehicle materials were raised after 2005.

Current standards, according to Swift-Oladeinde, require that a car roof be able to hold two-and-a-half times its weight.

Representatives from the NHTSA confirmed that the organization is considering raising those standards, possibly requiring that car metals be able to hold four times a car’s weight.

“It makes it safer but on the other hand it makes it twice as hard to remove the occupants when they get into a car accident,” Laylon said of the raised standards.

A recent report by the NHTSA states that strengthening the materials used in car roofing could prevent 476 of the 10,000 rollover accident deaths per year in the United States.

The updated equipment was obtained through a $112,436 grant from the state, plus $37,479 of the city’s own money. The money will be given to the fire department in doses throughout the next two years. The next set of matching extrication equipment will be purchased in October and will most likely go on a fire truck at station four on Disc Drive. The final set will be purchased in October 2010.

Laylon said that more than 80 Sparks firefighters have been trained on how to use the equipment.

The training took place Saturday and Monday at the Sparks Pick-n-Pull.

“We made cuts on everything (on a car) we could think of,” Laylon said of the testing.

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