CARSTAR Don & Ron’s of Omaha, Neb., hosted a First Responder Emergency Extrication (F.R.E.E.) program event on April 14 where more than 30 firefighters from Omaha, Ralston, Boys Town, Council Bluffs and Emerson, Iowa, were able to practice “cutting” late-model vehicles in simulated rescue efforts. The salvage cars were donated by State Farm so first responders could get a chance to practice the cutting in a controlled and safe environment. Towing was donated by Young’s Towing and Insurance Auto Auctions.
With all of the high-strength steel, airbags and advanced restraint systems in vehicles today, in addition to alternative fuel vehicles, fire fighters have to keep up with the latest new technology in vehicles. F.R.E.E. keeps first responders abreast of the rapid changes in vehicle design.
The F.R.E.E. program is a partnership between the National Auto Body Council and Holmatro Rescue Equipment, an international rescue equipment manufacturer.
“State Farm is proud to be able to provide a donation that is enhancing the learning and training of our first responders,” said Kelly Pargett, State Farm Community and Media Relations. “We make it our business to help build safer, stronger and better educated communities.”
Dan Crowbridge from Holmatro Rescue Equipment was the instructor at the event. The program displayed key products used to increase the speed at which occupants can be removed safely from damaged vehicles.
“Our training and experience in repairing vehicles also translates into knowledge of how to ‘cut’ these vehicles in an emergency scenario,” said Darrin McGaughey, general manager of CARSTAR Don & Ron’s. “Holmatro knows the tools and techniques for extrication. CARSTAR body shops know the vehicles.”
The growing popularity of high-voltage hybrid and electric vehicles and the many safety concerns surrounding these vehicles makes this training a necessity. Alternative fuel systems present different challenges when first responders arrive at the scene of an accident. Electric cars, hybrid cars and natural gas vehicles have fuel systems that pose dangers for first responders if need arises to cut the vehicle for rescue.
“First responders need to know about alternative fuel vehicles on the road,” said McGaughey. “We teach the fire fighters how to be safe when working around those vehicles and how to disable the systems if needed.”
The training included alternative fuel vehicles, and Baxter Ford provided an electric hybrid for training purposes.
“CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Shops are committed to helping our community become a safer, better place to live,” said McGaughey. “Hosting the F.R.E.E. events is a way for our body shop to further serve our community.”
More than 900 first responders have been trained at the CARSTAR locations in Omaha and Lincoln since 2010.