By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FORT HUNTER -- During a training drill Wednesday, the Fort Hunter Volunteer Fire Department had to extricate a 28-year-old woman -- a training mannequin -- from beneath her vehicle Wednesday.
Upon arriving at the "scene" at the Main Street fire house, firefighters found the "woman" unconscious and barely breathing, with a possible spinal injury, beneath a banged up Hyundai Santa Fe.
While EMTs assisted her, firefighters began to slowly lift the vehicle, utilizing an airbag system. The woman was then strapped onto a backboard and carried to safety a few feet away.
It was a scenario similar to one the department responded to in the past.
"At the apartment house up the road, we had a man who was working on his vehicle become trapped after it slid off the jack," Fire Chief Tim Haegi said. "He had minor injuries."
The purpose of the training, Haegi said, was to let some of the new firefighters become more familiar with the equipment while refreshing some of the more experienced volunteers.
The firefighters had to learn how to create a lift stack, or cribbing, that is topped with plywood. The airbag then sits on the plywood and is inflated until it raises the vehicle.
"They need to become more familiar with the device in case they need to work on a motor vehicle." Haegi said. "It's about balancing and setting up the vehicle on the airbags."
It is easier than it looks, as firefighters had to assemble the stacking more than once, and then each crew took a turn to raise their side of the vehicle.
In the meantime, EMTs work on the "patient," assessing the extent of injuries and monitoring vitals.
"It's a challenge," said firefighter Keith Dobbs. "You have to do this while not moving the victim, and you have to work around the EMTs who are working on the patient."
Firefighter Meagan Ripple said if the victim is awake during the incident, they try to keep them calm and explain every move that the crew is making.
Dobbs has some experience rescuing people who become trapped beneath a vehicle. He said only a month ago he responded to a Thruway accident in which a vehicle became lodged under a tractor trailer.
"That was a tough one," he said. "Most of the times these situations can take a few hours."
In this case however, the extrication took approximately an hour and the training was a success.