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How to buy technical rescue equipment

By Jarret Winkelman
Incident Response Technologies

Technical rescue is a broad subject that can encompass a multitude of services provided by your agency. Whether you are in need of equipment for vehicle extrication, rope, trench, or cave rescue, or any number of other rescue services, it is wise to consider all of the options before moving forward with a purchase.

Here are some things to consider when buying new technical rescue equipment.

Changes in technology
What worked in the past may not work in the future. Technology is changing rapidly. Some of these technologies are requiring fire departments to change the way they operate. As you consider new tools or equipment for technical rescue services, consider these changes and look for companies that have developed an answer.

For example, consider the advent of hybrid vehicles. Hybrid vehicles present unique hazards for fire departments when performing extrication. What happens if a tool cuts the high voltage cable? If you are considering buying new extrication tools, a little research will reveal a manufacturer that has solved this problem by offering insulated tools that will resist electrical shock.

Training, use and replacement
Whatever tools you select, for whichever tasks you require, remember that no technology or tool can be safe or effective without proper and ongoing training. Use of technical rescue tools on actual incidents is usually few and far between, so only training can ensure the safe and appropriate use of these devices when the time comes to put them to valuable use.

When you do use these tools, make sure your staff is following the manufacturer recommendations for use, such cleaning, etc. Equipment such as extrication tools, shoring, ropes, etc., should be inspected after each use. Each inspection should be documented.

With the hazards firefighters face constantly changing, and the high degree of stress placed on technical rescue tools during their use, a replacement cycle should be established up front to aid in future budgeting. Rather than replacing all of your tools at once, you may find it more economical to replace the equipment in stages on a three to five year replacement cycle. In other words, replace a portion of the gear each year, resulting in full replacement every three to five years.

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Jarret Winkelman is an owner and regional sales director at Incident Response Technologies, LLC. IRT provides affordable administrative, scheduling, training, and incident management solutions to public safety agencies. Mr. Winkelman currently serves as the assistant chief of a volunteer EMS agency and has diverse experience in the search and rescue, fire and EMS fields.