Here is an article I wrote for Fire & Rescue magazine that is published by Hemming Fire. You can get a free subscription that includes 4 issues of Fire & Rescue every year and free worldwide delivery. You also read every issue online.
Glass management is a phrase being thrown around the fire service extrication circles. But why should you take the time to manage glass that you plan to break anyway? That’s why a line is drawn in the sand. Some believe that every piece of piece of non-laminated glass should be broken while others believe you manage the glass with products like Packexe SMASH and selectively break glass as needed. What school of thought do you belong to? Let’s take a look at a few options with glass management before you make up your mind which side is right or wrong because glass may end up being a tool as well.
First off, automakers use two types of glass in vehicles, tempered and laminated glass. Tempered glass is commonly used on the side and rear car windows. Automakers are starting to include laminated side glass as a response to increasing demand for occupant ejection mitigation. Often the side laminated glass is stronger and more resistant to tearing and penetration than standard interlayers used in windshields today. Laminated side glass can be considered managed glass. Why managed? The glass is going to stay in its place. If the rescuers need to remove laminated side glass common glass tools can be used. The GlasMaster is the gold standard for windshield removal in my book. I understand some people say the reciprocating saw is faster. While it can be, you still need to install a blade and get a power source when the saw is not battery operated. The GlasMaster is ready to go and easy to control when you are cutting close to a patient like you may have to with a side window.
The RHYNO Windshield Cutter a product developed by the We Cut Glass Company, yes kind of a direct and to the point company name. The RHYNO Windshield Cutter is a small handheld battery operated too that resembles an air shear cutter. I had the opportunity to test out a RHYNO Windshield Cutter fresh off the assembly line. First off, the tool is very lightweight, easy to deploy, and the cutter blades require very little clearance to effectively cut through the windshield. The RHYNO has a great nitch market in the making with automakers increasing the use of laminated side glass.
I had a chance to talk with the founder of the RHYNO Windshield Cutter Al Vangura Jr. and got a little background and current use of the tool. The cutter has been extremely popular with tactical response police units. I also asked and about a more powerful battery option for fire rescue. Vangura stated that it is being developed and is in the works. Firefighters often love to push a tool to the max and an increase in volts from 14.4 would really add additional speed to the tool.
As cooler weather starts to invade the large majority of the United States, Europe, and Canada we need to adapt our extrication techniques. Cold weather brings a whole different aspect to glass management. For instance, normally glass would be managed by breaking the glass after the patient was covered. Open windows would leave the patient exposed to the elements. Packexe SMASH could be used to cover the glass, managing the glass. What about when all the glass in broken out during the crash and you arrive on scene to a patient exposed to the elements? Would a blanket provide enough protection from the elements?
Shock is something that rescuers need to worry during an extrication in cold weather. Keeping the patient warm is a simple step that can help with stabilizing the patient’s condition. Kevin Sehlmeyer from Rescue Resources, LLC told me about a “”Cold Weather Lift” that he teaches in his classes. In the picture below, notice that the driver side glass is still there along with the windshield. Packexe SMASH could be used to cover the rear window and the side windows to add strength. The last step in the “Cold Weather Lift” before lifting the dash is to break the rear glass and cut the C-Post. If the rear glass is covered with Packexe SMASH, the C-Post can be cut without removing the rear glass.
Along with shock, trauma patients are predisposed to hypothermia. I would always protect the patient by covering with a blanket and a ready heat blanket if available. Another option is to use a heater to blow warm air into the passenger compartment. My department has a heater that can be used with the confined space blower on the heavy rescue. The transport vehicle should have the patient compartment heater to slow down heat loss. So why is all of this effort to shelter and protect the patient necessary? In the article “The chilling effect of hypothermia on trauma patients” Art Hsieh stated that 50 percent of trauma patients transported by EMS are unintentionally hypothermic by the time they reach the hospital. Remember, hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature below the 35C or 95F. It never hurts to read up on scenarios that are uncommon or outside our comfort zone.
Extrication, just like any discipline in the fire service should never rest on current techniques. Different products and techniques are always being tested and used in different methods to create a unique outcome. Keep an open mind and realize that glass management is more than just a catch phrase and is an important step in providing the best possible outcome for our patients. Regardless of who transports the patient, the extrication team plays a critical role in patient care!