Tow drivers learn to first response


Monday, June 9
GUILFORD -- While the bodies being freed from crunched-up cars were only plastic dummies, local emergency workers were saving lives.

A number of county fire departments, Rescue Inc., and local towing companies sent employees to a training this weekend to learn a new technique to use tow trucks for large vehicle extrications.

Instructors say this will cut down significantly on the amount of time it takes to get a trapped person out of a car.

The two days with the E-X Team, an outfit from Florida, is meant to show local firefighters what they don't know. The next step will be for the departments to apply for grants to fund the full five-day course, which costs roughly $25,000 to $30,000.

The course is something Chief and Director Keith Tomey said they hope to bring all over the country. The initial sample this past weekend was "just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Tomey helped to start the trainings in Florida about eight years ago after the long-time firefighter saw what kinds of equipment and capabilities tow truck drivers have.

He says the National Transportation Authority is looking to make these practices mandatory for emergency workers, so training ahead of time can help get firefighters and towers familiar with the process in advance.

The idea is being tried out on Interstate 95, Tomey said, which runs from Florida to Maine. "If it's good, it's going to be adopted on all the Interstates in America."

On Sunday, Rescue Inc., firefighters from Halifax, Guilford, Whitingham, Wilmington, Swanzey, N.H., Keene, N.H., Rindge, N.H., Westmoreland, N.H., and Leydon, Mass., and tow truck drivers from Brigg's Automotive, Leon's Auto Center, Brattleboro Towing and Rick's Towing worked together to free five fictional children and a bus driver, as well as two others in a separate car, who were caught in a mock three car accident.

The workers were learning to use the tow trucks at the outset to lift heavy vehicles and get into places quicker than they could have with their current techniques.

"What I have found out is that you get the fire service and the towing company to work together and the tower has equipment to get what you need faster," Tomey said. "If we can save five minutes, save 10 minutes, it's invaluable. The tower should roll with the fire department."

Rindge, N.H., Fire Chief Rick Donovan agreed and was glad for the training. "It's extremely helpful. Getting to know what a tow truck driver can do is another tool in our tool box. It could help save a lot of time."

The idea of using tow trucks for extrication was new but worth looking at, Donovan said.

"A lot of people have the mindset that you can't move a car with a patient in it, but you have to do what you can. The patient is of the utmost importance and the top priority," he said. "My first thought was, 'It's about time.' We're all part of the same team."

Dick Farnum, of Rick's Towing and a member of the E-X Team, set up the sample tutorial. Particularly learning how to work with buses was important, he said. "So many kids are being transported every day and the buses are built like German tanks."

Nicole Orne can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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