by Jacques Gordon
Long before the term existed, I was a first responder (we were called “volunteer firemen” then). This was right about the time many of our tools, training and techniques were becoming obsolete because the world was changing so quickly. For instance, one day a neighboring fire company warned us not to approach burning cars from the front. They learned this the hard way when the front bumper shot out of a burning wreck with enough force to damage their fire truck parked 40 feet away (fortunately it didn’t hit any firemen). The first generation of 5-mph bumpers were mounted on pressurized hydraulic shock absorbers that exploded when heated. The car manufacturers either didn’t know or didn’t think to tell firefighters about this.
Things are different now. Two years ago I taught a hybrid vehicle safety course for first responders. Some of my presentation was supplied by MACS ACtion contributor Craig Vanbatenburg, but most of it came directly from the vehicle manufacturers themselves. It included illustrations showing the location of the battery pack and high-voltage wires, the battery disconnect, SRS wiring and explosive charges, how to cut the vehicle apart, and other information useful for what is now called “extrication.”
Extrication Guides for hybrid and electric vehicles are available in print and electronic formats at no cost directly from each manufacturer. Complete collections of that information are available from first-responder training organizations, state governments and tool/equipment manufacturers. Here’s one from Midsouth Rescue Technologies, a non-profit fire/rescue training organization in Texas (http://www.midsouthrescue.org/id43.html).
There are Extrication Guides for conventional vehicles too, and even though these are not free, they’re carried on almost every fire truck. While this is a good idea, they’re not always the latest edition. Finding the correct information quickly is not always easy, especially when crash damage makes the vehicle hard to identify.
On May 23rd, Mercedes-Benz proposed an answer to these problems. They will provide access to extrication information for each model through a QR code label attached to the vehicle itself. After reading the QR code with a smartphone or tablet, a rescue sheet for that exact model will appear on the screen. The rescue sheets are developed by ADAC, the German Automobile Association, using information provided by all automakers for each of their models. The sheets show first responders where to use cutters and spreaders, the location of airbags, the battery and fuel tank, any high-pressure cylinders and other components.
Later this year, all new Mercedes-Benz models will be fitted with two QR code stickers, one inside the fuel tank flap and the other on the B-pillar on the opposite side of the vehicle. Any smartphone or tablet with a camera and the correct app will be automatically directed to a Web address with the correct rescue sheet, generally in a matter of seconds.
So far Mercedes-Benz is the only company to announce this, but they have also stated they will not patent this idea, making it available to everyone. They point out that the QR stickers can be easily retrofitted to existing vehicles, and rescue information can be updated any time.
In a business where seconds matter, this information technology provides unprecedented speed and accuracy. I don’t know who originally had this idea, but we should all thank them.
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