Waxahachie firefighters spent time in training last week sharpening their skills in vehicle extrication. With changes in automotive designs and safety systems, firefighters spent time in the classroom and took part in hands-on demonstrations.

The class was hosted by McKinney Fire Department battalion chief and training officer Ron Moore. Ten firefighters volunteered for the training, with the first part in the classroom going over new technologies developed in the automotive industry. After lunch, the firefighters put their knowledge to the test in a practical demonstration on wrecked vehicles.

“You can have up to 12 airbags in a car now,” Waxahachie battalion chief John Rodgers said. “He went over that and the different locations. There is no standard in the automotive industry of where they are going to be and how many there are going to be.

“The hazard is the pressurized cylinder that inflates the air bags. They can be up to 4,000-plus psi and there are some that can be up to 10,000 psi. If we were to take our cutter and cut one of those it would be like an unguided projectile. It would do some serious damage,” Rodgers said.

The firefighters were taught different cutting techniques, including one called “peel and peek” that involves peeling back a vehicle’s trim with the cutters and spreaders to allow firefighters to locate a cylinder and safely work around it.

Before that step is taken, a vehicle’s battery is disconnected to remove a power source and allow the power to drain down – from two to five minutes in a typical vehicle. Firefighters also were taught to identify hybrids and electric cars, how to work around them and where their high voltage lines are located. The battery packs on a hybrid have a drain down of up to 10 minutes.

Expressing the Waxahachie Fire Department’s appreciation to the McKinney department, Rodgers said the information learned will be taught to the rest of the Waxahachie department during classroom training in the summer and hands-on lessons in the fall.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.