Life or death in a matter of minutes

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Hamilton Township Fire Department personnel recently practiced on how to extricate victims from crashed vehicles.

In an emergency situation, minutes are critical and ongoing training helps first responders hone their skills when the alarm rings and emergency vehicles are dispatched to save a life.

For the Hamilton Township Fire Department and training officer Lt. Rafe Britton, a 26-year veteran of the fire service with 14 years at Hamilton Township, firsthand training with actual vehicles enhances the learning experience.

“The more realistic we can make a training, the more proficient we become at our craft,” said Britton, who is also a fire and EMS instructor. “Imagine trying to teach auto extrication using plastic model cars instead of real ones. You would not be prepared for how metal reacts to the extrication tools, how it bends or rips or about action and reaction. It would be like telling a driver you want them to race a car in a NASCAR race and you gave them a radio control car to train with. When race day came, they would not have a clue how a real car reacts to speed and the track. They would lose or crash, endangering other drivers around them. You have to train real world. You have to learn what to expect.”

During a June 15 extrication training session, a donation of scrapped cars from a Groveport Road business helped Britton lead fellow firefighters through the intricacies of dismantling a car in order to gain access to and provide emergency care for victims of an auto accident.
“Pick-N-Pull contacted Hamilton and said they wanted to be more involved in the community and asked what they could do,” said Britton. “I immediately told them we needed cars for extrication training. In the past, Ken’s Atlantic towing has been very good at providing Hamilton with cars for training.”

Real world training with actual vehicles prepares firefighters and paramedics respond to an accident and get a patient to the hospital within the “golden hour,” a term often used in trauma to suggest that an injured patient has 60 minutes from time of an injury to receive definitive care, after which morbidity and mortality significantly increases.

The hour includes time to call 911, time for dispatching responders, the time it takes to get to the scene, time to assess the situation and the patient, time to extricate if necessary, time to get the patient to a medic to start care and travel time to get to the hospital.

“With Hamilton being on the south side, we have a further distance to a Level 1 trauma center,” Britton said. “With all these in mind, it gives us about 10 minutes from the moment we arrive on scene to the moment the medic starts to response to hospital. This is what we refer to as the Platinum Ten Minutes.”

According to Britton, trauma is the leading cause of death under the age of 40. It is also a major killer of older age groups, behind heart disease and cancer. Emergency responders can decrease scene time through training to become more proficient.

“The more you train, the more you learn, the faster we become and learn to function as a team,” said Britton. “Training can literally mean the difference between life and death. We do online training for fire and EMS once a month, which is assigned by me. We then do a monthly departmental fire training that is hands-on and the shifts will do a company training at least once a month with their crew.”

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