The Cayman Islands Fire Service has new extrication equipment that can slice open a car in a matter of minutes to remove a trapped person.
The Holmatro NCT (New Car Technology) cutter and power ram, known as the ‘jaws of life’ as it is shaped like a set of jaws, allows metal to be torn apart so firefighters can gain access to and remove a person trapped inside a vehicle.
The equipment replaces an older model the fire department has used for the past 15 to 20 years, according to Fire Chief Paul Walker.
Firefighters cut a car apart to show the new jaws of life in action in a demonstration for the media and Fire Service trainees at the George Town fire station on Monday.
“This new equipment makes it seems as if it’s a hot knife cutting through butter,” said Dwight Randy Rankin, divisional manager at the Fire Service.
Rankin said that the Fire Service has purchased four sets of extrication equipment, costing about US$100,000 each, one for each fire station – three on Grand Cayman and one on Cayman Brac. Each kit includes a spreader, cutters, rams, pumps, battery tools and lifting bags, among other parts.
He said the jaws of life arrived two weeks ago and officers had done some training on it last week. The Fire Service is now putting the equipment on fire trucks and getting it ready for use.
“The cutting and ramming forces on the new equipment are a lot better than the old tools and makes us more equipped to handle going forward in day-to-day operations in terms of vehicle extrication or any type of rescue operation where we deem it necessary to use the equipment,” Rankin said.
Walker said the Fire Service will be looking at a plan to dispose of the old equipment but what is important right now is getting the new, more powerful jaws of life on trucks and to train staff on the use of the equipment.
Rankin explained that every accident is different but if someone is trapped inside a vehicle, firefighters can use the equipment to pull it apart and get people out within 10 minutes.
Walker said government considers the new equipment an investment, given the prevalence of road accidents on the islands.
“What the cutting equipment allows us to do is create space and release casualties from scenes of road traffic collisions so they can be transported to the hospital and, hopefully, minimise the rise of them becoming fatalities or seriously injured,” he said.
“Some of the old equipment was a two-line system [and] wasn’t very manageable at the scenes,” he said. “This new equipment is a better road traffic collision extrication kit.
“To have the battery-powered pack is amazing because firefighters are operating often in tight spaces. Now they don’t have to have a line from a generator coming from the machine.”
According to Walker, all domestic fire crews are trained to operate the rescue equipment.