LAWRENCE — State Farm has donated $20,000 through KU Endowment to the Kansas Fire & Training Rescue Institute (KFRTI) – a unit of KU Professional & Continuing Education. KFRTI will use the funds to purchase the additional vehicle extrication equipment needed to train Kansas firefighters who respond to crashes.
According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, there were 33,654 fatalities and nearly 1.9 million injuries in the country reported by law enforcement in 2018. Mike Cook, interim director of KFRTI, said protecting both the victim and the firefighter using the equipment is the most dangerous part of vehicle extrication and the State Farm gift will provide a better inventory of tools to train Kansas firefighters on safely extricating victims of serious crashes.
“As you can imagine, when we start doing vehicle extrication, there are a lot of sharp edges, things that can break,” Cook said. “We have to protect the patient from the glass that’s often present from a windshield we may have to remove or from the sharp edges of the vehicle that we may create by cutting to access the people inside. There is also a danger for the first responder if they aren’t knowledgeable about the equipment they are using and the dangers it can cause.”
KFRTI has provided a vehicle extrication course for many years, along with additional training the institute delivers to firefighters across the state through their mobile training units. Cook said they will use the funds from State Farm to enhance the existing course, adding to and replacing existing equipment used.
“We’ll be revisiting the curriculum and, based on what items we’re going to be able to purchase, we’ll be adjusting that curriculum to provide a better program,” Cook said.
Vehicle extrication includes patient assessment, treatment, removal of those trapped inside and transfer to an ambulance. Extrication units should not only have many different kinds of extrication tools, but medical equipment, oxygen and backboards as well.
“Our first responders must successfully implement fire protection and vehicle stability while extricating our crash victims,” Cook said. “The tools we purchase will allow us to train them on procedures such as how to open doors, take off doors, open the top up — what they call flap the top — where we actually roll the top back to access the victims.”
KFRTI currently has one set of vehicle extrication tools, including spreaders (commonly referred to as “the jaws of life”), cutters and extension rams. Cook said they hope to augment or replace existing tools and even add another set to train more people in the same course offering.
“When we’re out there teaching a class, we could be on different sides of a vehicle teaching different students the same process,” he said.
According to Cook, vehicle extrication is a specialized training that requires skill with the tools and the safety knowledge to know where to utilize the tools for the best benefit. The KFRTI course trains firefighters on passenger vehicles and trucks, as well as larger vehicles such as school busses and tractor-trailers.
“Each type of vehicle has its own special requirements or procedures to be used for extrication,” Cook said.
Cook said the State Farm gift will allow operational funds to provide more classes rather than to upgrade or purchase equipment.
“For years, State Farm has proudly maintained strong relationships with educational institutions across the country, including the University of Kansas,” said Kurt Goeser, Lawrence State Farm agent. “This is our latest effort to assist the Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute and support their vehicle extrication and rescue program for first responders statewide.”
Cook said Kansans should feel confident knowing that their local firefighters have been trained on the most up-to-date and modern technology tools on the market.
“It’s not anything anyone hopes they need,” Cook said. “But knowing the first responders are qualified to be able to safely and quickly extricate them or a loved one from a crash should make them feel more at ease. We’re extremely grateful for the gift from State Farm to enable us to improve the quality of instruction to firefighters and better protect the citizens of the state.”