Firefighters Cameron Fowler and Damian Holloway in the ESA training centre "Bull Pen" with some of the life-saving tools of their trade. Photo: Jay Cronan
IN A yard full of cars called ''the bull pen'' a group of firefighters work with some heavy tools.
They bend and cut cars while pretending people are trapped inside and as summer progresses they will almost certainly be at a crash scene going through the same motions as life drains from an unconscious person inside a car.
One piece of equipment - the ''jaws of life'' - is familiar but few people know rescue experts are learning to use even more powerful apparatus.
The ''jaws'' can exert 50 tonnes of pressure to spread chunks of crumpled metal and free a frightened crash victim but is only half as powerful as the so-called ''combi''.
The combi, a multi-use tool held in two hands, which can cut and spread and at 20 kilograms weighs the same as the jaws of life, can create 96 tonnes of pressure.
The power of this relatively small tool is realised when reminded that the tools are stored on board a fire truck that exerts approximately 14 tonnes of pressure on the ground. The third heavy-duty tool is known as the ''parrot beaks'' and is used solely for slicing, while hanging from a hook in the truck is a Secunet, which is put over the steering wheel to protect rescuers from the potentially killer blow from an air-bag.
ACT Fire and Rescue station officer Peter Cornock, who has saved people from crashed cars for 21 years, trains rescuers to use these tools as well as their own powers of observation.
Rescuers who turn up to a crash in the middle of a rainy night still need to work out whether the car is a hybrid, which means there is the threat of electric shock.
''A hybrid Toyota Camry, for example, only has a little badge at the back saying it's a hybrid so we have to teach our people how to look for high voltage cables,'' he said.
When it came to dealing with the trauma of seeing accident victims, he said: ''I'd feel more guilty if my training was lacking.''
Rescuers arriving at crash scenes must remember not to shortcut the known processes, and one commander with ACT Fire and Rescue, Richard Maloney, said technology had made part of the job more difficult.
''Motor vehicle accidents now appear worse because of crumple zones but this technology means the people inside the cars are safer,'' he said. ''On the other hand the crumple zones make it more difficult to remove the people inside the vehicle.''