First responders train with new tools in Belton
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First responders in Belton now have access to new, state-of-the-art lifesaving tools and training.
After nearly 40 years as a firefighter and first responder, Cpt. Keith Randolph with the Belton Fire Department knows the value of hydraulic rescue tools.
"No ifs, ands or buts about it—when you need it, it will save lives," Cpt. Randolph said.
But recent advances in automotive safety have actually made cutting open wrecked vehicles much more dangerous for first responders. Some modern cars have a dozen or more individual airbags.
"We have to be concerned about all these features of these new vehicles in our extrication, so that we don't injure ourselves or the victim any further,” Stuart Heater with Advanced Rescue Systems said.
If an airbag does not deploy during a wreck, it threatens both rescuers and victims.
"They might not necessarily fire all of the airbags because the sensors tell the airbags which ones should fire depending on what's happened to the vehicle," Heater said. "But as long as the capacitor still has any charge, we have a risk of the airbag firing while we're operating."
It's yet another risk rescuers must prepare for.
"We have to understand the systems so we know what to expect, know what to look for,” Heater said. “Then we can work around them when we're working on getting somebody out of a vehicle.”
For every ten crashes Belton first responders work, at least one requires hydraulic jaws to remove a victim from the wreckage.
According to TxDOT, Bell County averages about 40 traffic fatalities each year.