Training prepares firefighters for real-life situations (Video)
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He cut through the metal of a car like he was cutting up paper.
With the "cutters," also known as the Jaws of Life, applying about 210,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, cutting open the door of the car was pretty easy for firefighter Austin Carter.
But even though getting through the metal can look easy, Carter and the other Victoria firefighters regularly train for the million and one other scenarios that make recovering people from smashed vehicles difficult - even deadly.
Battalion Chief Clifton Bayer said he has seen cars flipped over, steering wheels caved in, cars on fire and even cars flipped on top of other cars.
No matter the situation, Bayer said it is the department's job to get the victims out safely.
"We can't fix them; a surgeon does that. All we can do is get them out and get them to the hospital as soon as possible," Bayer said.
And that is what Thursday's training at Texas Port Recycling was all about, he said, adding that the average car extrication takes only two minutes. In some of the more complicated situations, however, he has seen extrications take as long as 45 minutes.
In either case, he said more than 90 percent of the time firefighters manage to fit another firefighter in the car, either through the back seat, the back window or the passenger door, to comfort the victim as they work with the loud equipment.
Carter, one of nine firefighters taking part in Thursday's extrication training, has been with the department for two years.
"(Training) makes you more aware when it happens in real life. If you don't do it regularly, it won't be fresh on your mind," Carter said. "It is like homework - if you just hear the math problems and don't work the math problems, when it comes time for the test you won't know how to do it. It is the same thing."
Capt. Mike Baecker, one of the instructors, said they all learn something new when they train.
"Even though I've done it in classes and in real life, you can still learn something else from someone because everyone has different techniques and has seen different situations," Baecker said.
Texas Port Recycling, which offers its grounds and services for free for the firefighters, even flipped a car for the training exercise. Even with the flipped car, however, Bayer said it is vital to train firefighters to go for the quickest and safest way out of the car.
"The simplest way to get a door open is try to open it with the handle first," Bayer said, laughing, recounting times when brand-new firefighters go straight for the cutters instead of simply trying the handle.