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Mass. FD uses new battery-powered spreader to save man pinned under lift

Plaistow FFs found the man face down between a mounted scissor lift and concrete floor with his entire upper body under the lift


Plaistow Fire Department/Facebook

By Angelina Berube
The Eagle-Tribune

PLAISTOW, Mass. — It wasn’t an everyday call that Plaistow Fire responded to on June 27, but an emergency situation they were ready for thanks to recent funding for new life-saving tools.

In March, the Plaistow Board of Selectmen approved the department purchasing a new line of battery-operated equipment used predominately in car accidents when a person is trapped. Fire Chief Chris Knutsen said selectmen recognized the importance of upgrading tools for the community’s benefit.

On June 27, Plaistow firefighters used one of those life-saving tools — called a spreader — to rescue someone pinned under heavy machinery.

Knutsen said they didn’t know more than those details when they headed to Sherwin-Williams Paint Store at 5 Plaistow Road that morning.

When they arrived two minutes later, they found a man wedged from his waist down between the floor and a scissor jack lift permanently mounted to the wall.

The man likely had several hundred pounds on top of him, Knutsen said.

In four minutes, Plaistow firefighters and EMTs were able to free the man with a new battery-operated spreading tool.

“We quickly made the decision to utilize the new spreader we just purchased to lift the scissor lift off the patient,” said Knutsen.

When they saw the man pinched under the equipment, it was a no-brainer to quickly grab the tool from the engine.

“To utilize it in this setting, it was easy work for that tool,” said Knutsen.

His department had just completed comprehensive training on most effective methods to use that tool two weeks prior to the accident, he added.

“We adapted techniques learned during training to the environment,” he said. “We had a relatively easy solution for something that can look complicated to an untrained person.”

The tool is normally used to aid in car crashes with extraction. The department underwent in-service training with the tool’s manufacturer while also undergoing an extensive vehicle extraction program to put their training to the test with a real car.

If they didn’t have the tool, they would have needed to call either Atkinson or Haverhill fire to assist in the rescue — adding 15 minutes more to the rescue.

“There is nothing else that we carry on the fire engine that we could have utilized to lift that much weight off somebody,” said Knutsen.

These are the first battery-operated life-saving tools for Plaistow Fire. The department’s previous tools were over 17 years old and more complex to set up with a hydraulic pump generator and hose connection.

The technology upgrade will be a huge advantage for firefighters who can now grab the tool off the engine, hit the “on” button and get to work.

While the tools do the heavy lifting, Knutsen credits his team for their dedication and work they put in to stay up-to-date with training so they are ready to respond so quickly in the community.

“This is a one-off type of rescue that we don’t see every day,” said Knutsen. “But every day, we respond to calls where our quick response capabilities mixed with the equipment allow us to positively make the difference that public safety is meant to with people’s lives.”

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