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Mock-up road traffic accident highlights driver dangers

Stuck in a car on its side, disorientated and afraid, a firefighter’s voice is often the first reassuring human contact a crash casualty receives.

But it’s not just a case of pulling out drivers or passengers without thought or consideration.

Getting to a trapped casualty as quickly as possible is a top priority, but ensuring the person is brought out of a vehicle in a controlled and safe way is also vital.

This is why our firefighters undergo rigorous training and assessment in preparation for the worst of road traffic collisions.

Today crews from Cleckheaton Fire Station’s Green Watch took part in an exercise at Motorhog car breakers in Mirfield, Kirklees.

The venue was kindly offered by Manager, Chris Graydon, who provided the assistance of a forklift truck to allow senior fire officer assessors to position a scrap vehicle in a realistic and challenging position which would test firefighters’ skills. 

Today’s scenario involved a vehicle on its side against a wall with a trapped female inside. The ‘casualty’ role was played by Huddersfield Examiner reporter Chloe Glover.

Watch Manager Andy Wooler, based at Huddersfield Fire Station, organised the training.

He said: “Our aim was to create a difficult rescue for crews to negotiate where accessing the casualty would not be straight forward.

“On arrival at any road traffic collision, one of our first jobs is to stabilise the vehicle before entering without causing any aggravation of injuries.

“Then it’s a case of carrying out a primary survey which is an assessment of the casualty’s injuries.

“Whilst we always work alongside paramedics for guidance, we typically adhere to the ‘golden hour’ which is essentially the critical time-frame from point of injury to the casualty receiving clinical care in hospital.

“However, working at the scene of a crash, firefighters must be flexible and are continually reassessing and adapting in what can be a quickly changing environment.”

At the scene of a road traffic collision, there can be as many as nine firefighters working to release just one casualty. Each assumes different roles from a ‘casualty carer’ offering one-to-one reassurance and explanation, to the Incident Commander who is in charge of the whole scene.

WM Wooler, who has been in the fire service for 18 years, said: “I have attended numerous horrific road traffic collisions where casualties have experienced serious trauma. Adrenaline kicks in and you become incredibly focused on achieving the best outcome for the casualty.

“Not all incidents have had happy endings and for loved ones the result of road traffic collisions can be utterly devastating.

“Our road safety advice is to slow down, wear a seatbelt, keep your distance from the vehicle ahead and drive to the conditions, especially in the bad weather we are currently experiencing.”

Road traffic collision (RTC) figures brigade-wide

In 2012 we went to 727 RTCs in West Yorkshire, 239 of which we performed an extrication.  There were 16 deaths, 534 injuries going to hospital and 62 injuries not going to hospital.

In 2013 we went to 653 RTCs in West Yorkshire, 263 of which we performed an extrication.  There were 31 deaths, 522 injuries going to hospital and 65 injuries not going to hospital.

In 2014 we went to 605 RTCs in West Yorkshire, 224 of which we performed an extrication.  There were 24 deaths, 467 injuries going to hospital and 79 injuries not going to hospital.

December 2014 figures are currently not finalised.