Bannock County Search and Rescue acquires new rescue tools - East Idaho News

Bannock County Search and Rescue acquires new rescue tools

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POCATELLO — The Bannock County Search and Rescue team were descending on ropes down an embankment. At the bottom, two people were trapped in a car.

Around five years ago, two people were driving up East Mink Creek before their car went off the road and rolled down a 50 foot embankment. The passengers were pinned in the car, and the search and rescue team were on their way to save them.

Thanks to new equipment acquired by the team, they were descending down the embankment around 20 minutes faster than normal.

“Twenty minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s a significant portion of time when you’re talking about trying to get somebody to a hospital,” said Brayden Danner, Equipment Officer with Search and Rescue.

Over the last five years, Search and Rescue have been outfitting both its North County and South County rescue trucks with these new battery-powered rescue tool sets and are almost finished equipping both trucks. The agency now has a two new Cutters, Spreaders, Combi tools and a ram, with the second on the way.

Acquiring both of these tool sets came through funding from the Idaho EMSAVES Grant. The agency plans to keep applying for this grant, and next year Danner said they hope to replace their South County rescue truck.

The Search and Rescue team have two sets of batteries for each tool and they leave them charged for around eight hours. If they run into a situation where they use up both batteries, they have a cable they can connect to a generator to run the tools.

The Cutter tool, otherwise known as a parrot beak, is designed to chomp down and cut through metal. The team typically uses this for roof removal. To do this, they cut the roof at the posts on the vehicle, allowing them to remove it and rescue whoever is trapped.

The Spreader tool is one of the tools that people picture when they think of the Jaws of Life. This tool is designed to spread metal outwards and create an opening.

This is used most often when the Search and Rescue team has to forcefully open a door. They insert the Spreader at a door hinge, spread the metal and it breaks the hinge.

A Combi tool combines the functions of the Cutter and the Spreader, with the ability to spread metal as well as cut it. This is more a utility tool because it’s smaller than both the Cutter and Spreader and not meant to go through harsher metals.

This tool is used when the team needs to cut wiring or when they need to get into a tight spot. They can use the Combi to begin the job of spreading metal, and then go in with the Spreader once they’ve made a large enough of an opening.

And the final tool in the Search and Rescue team’s toolbox is a Ram. The team uses this tool to push a part of the car that has collapsed in on itself out and create more room.

They use this when a person’s legs are stuck under the dashboard a long metal rod will push it out and free them. They also use this tool if they need to gain access to the pedals of the vehicle.

As it’s taken years to get these expensive tool sets complete, the team had to work with new and old equipment for awhile. While the old equipment served the same functions as the new ones, they were hydraulic tools, which brought more challenges and dangers.

In order to run a hydraulic tool, the team would have to set up a hydraulic pump with a hose running to the tools.

“The older style was a lot less ergonomically friendly, just due to the fact that you’re always dragging hoses around,” Danner said.

Danner said that using a high pressure hose also presented dangers for the team and those they rescued.

“What you’re doing with extrication, you’re cutting a car apart. So when you have high pressure lines and you’re exposing jagged metal, you’re popping doors, you’re doing dash rolls, you’re removing the roof off of a vehicle, it’s very easy to snag one of those hoses if you’re not being very careful,” Danner said.

Even if no one receives any injuries in the event of a hose puncture, it’s also thousands of dollars to replace.

Instead of worrying about these difficulties, the Search and Rescue team now just needs to keep their tools charged.

The department has been using these new tools to save people’s lives out in the field. One of these people were trapped in a car at East Mink Creek. Rather than have to set up their hydraulic tools, the team was able to descend the embankment right away.

The time they saved by having these could have saved one of the passenger’s lives. While the other passenger was already deceased by the time the team made it to the vehicle, they were able to rescue the other passenger.

“I’m not gonna say for sure we saved the life because (of the new tools) because you never know,” Danner said. “But when you’re talking about trauma injuries and rollovers and things like that, situations can change very quickly. That situation very much could have changed in 20 minutes.”