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Local firefighters participate in safety course

July 11, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

Windows were crushed, doors were removed and roofs methodically were peeled off of vehicles Saturday as area firefighters received hands-on training through a first responders safety course.

Western Maryland Inter-Industry Collision Automotive Repair, a nonprofit organization known as I-CAR, sponsored the course with support from State Farm Insurance, Nationwide Insurance and Sharrett Collision Center.

About 100 paid and volunteer firefighters from throughout the Washington County area met from 8 a.m. until noon in the former Routzahn's building at Long Meadow Shopping Center for the lecture portion of the training. Bob Porazzo of Whitman, Mass., lead instructor with I-CAR, served as facilitator for the class.

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Porazzo said participants in the course were educated on safety protocols related to modern automobile technology, such as air bag systems, aluminum vehicles and hybrids, which are vehicles that use electric/fuel combinations. He said the type of vehicle, voltage, toxicity and location of air bags must be considered before rescue attempts are made.

"Some of these vehicles have 500 volts AC. 110 will kill you," Porazzo said.

Porazzo also said accidental deployment of air bags can maim or kill occupants of the car and rescuers.

Following a catered lunch, the class split into teams and headed outside to the parking lot of the former Sears building for the hands-on portion of the training from 1 to 6 p.m.

Vehicles donated by Eagle Auto Parts and LKQ250 Auto Inc. were scattered across the lot, serving in mock accidents where firefighters put their knowledge to practice.

Porazzo described various entrapment scenarios to the teams, from a car crushed against a wall with live air bags to a hybrid rolled over in water.

Firefighters set to work talking through safety procedures, choosing extrication equipment, including saws and the Jaws of Life, and executing their plans.

"Things change every year with new cars and new models, where you can and can't cut, different ways to extricate," said James Moffitt, a firefighter with the Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. "It's great to have a class like this to learn about things I wouldn't have thought about."

Missy Smith, Western Maryland I-CAR chairwoman, said she read about the safety course on I-CAR's Web site and decided to arrange one in the Hagerstown area. She went to a conference in Hershey, Pa., in March, then set about seeking sponsors.

"The firefighters are pumped about this," Smith said. "Some said they think it should be a mandatory training."

"It's given me a lot of knowledge about dealing with new technology, and it's a lot better than sitting in a classroom the whole time," said Joey Chojnacki, a firefighter with the Hagerstown Fire Department.

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