The Res-Q-Jack vehicle stabilization strut changes from a shoring
strut to a lifting strut with ease. (Res-Q-Jack Photo)
Paratech’s Vehicle Stabilization Kit works for big jobs, as well
as small ones.
Fire department rescue and emergency medical service crews responding to motor vehicle crashes have an increasing number of tools to choose from as they consider how to stabilize damaged vehicles that may shift, move or fall onto rescuers or patients.
There were almost 6 million police-reported motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2008, and more than a quarter of those resulted in an injury, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Stabilization struts are one way first responders try to keep those injury statistics in check – by holding vehicles in place while they do their jobs.
Struts come in many different designs and materials. The most common materials are wood, aluminum, steel and composites, and most companies focus on only one of those. But Res-Q-Jack of West Elmira, N.Y., boasts three different materials in its X-Strut series.
Having A Choice
“Being able to offer a department what they wish, to have a choice, is important,” said Res-Q-Jack Sales and Training Manager Dominick Smith. “Some departments look for something simple and inexpensive, and we can sell them the heads to put on the ends of 4-by-4s. Or they can move up to steel, which is kind of middle of the road, strong material, but not as strong as aluminum. Our aluminum is the Cadillac; it allows higher working load limits.”
At Frankfort, Ill.-based Paratech, struts are made of a strong aluminum alloy. Project Coordinator Nigel Letherby said Paratech struts are tested to over 80,000 pounds – enough to support a tanker or school bus with ease. “It’s an aluminum strut that has an adjustable threaded acme shaft on the inside,” Letherby explained. “Basically, it’s telescopic. The shaft comes out and you spin down the collar to make contact with the tube, and that’s what you get. Then we’ve got a series of extensions that slide in, and a lock pin clips them into place to make them longer.”
In Chico, Calif., Rescue 42 claims to be the only strut company that uses a composite material successfully. Their struts include Kevlar, which owner Tim O’Connell said gives them a maximum load rating of 18,000 pounds. “Our struts weigh a third to a half as much as everyone else’s,” he said, “and because we are triple telescoping struts, and most others are double, we extend to 101 inches.”
O’Connell said his struts won’t conduct electricity, and cost the same or even a little less than his competitors’ products.
Shape is almost as important as materials when it comes to stabilization struts. At Rosemont, Ill-based Prospan, it’s all about the circle. “The strongest dimension is round, and that’s why we are round,” said owner Jim Sullivan. “Triangles are strong, but round is stronger because the load is sent to the outside walls.”
Paratech’s Letherby is in full agreement with that. “Other ones on the market are square tubes with a series of holes in them,” he said. “We call them stop-sign stabilization. The holes go one inside another [when you add a length], and you put a pin inside. You are relying on the surface area of that pin to take the load.”
Prospan sells a three-tiered Telescoping Aluminum Support System, or TASS. Sullivan said everyone makes a good product, but the TASS takes it a step further. “Firefighters can break anything,” he said. “So when we manufacture anything, we try to make it maintenance free and idiot-proof.”
Sullivan said his company also takes special care with the pins that hold strut extensions together. “Our pins are tethered to the product with a PVC-coated steel lanyard through the product itself,” he said. “So when the pin is not being used, it’s hanging right off the part. You don’t have to go looking through the grass to find it.” The Prospan TASS is rated at 7,100 pounds fully extended, and 21,000 pounds partially extended.
Letherby said Paratech’s Vehicle Stabilization Kit has pins that are attached and lock into place. “We’ve got a series of extensions that slide in, and a lock pin clips them into place to make them longer,” he said. “The advantage of that is you don’t have to spend time to put a pin in a hole and put a secondary pin to stop it from falling out. It’s already attached to the base.”
In addition to shape and materials, add-on and customization features are important to many fire departments as they consider which vehicle stabilization struts to buy.
Res-Q-Jack boasts an on-board ratchet strap. “It comes in 10-foot lengths standard, or any length they want,” Smith said. “It tensions the strut to the car very well.”
Paratech offers five different versions of its Vehicle Stabilization Kit for different applications. “Some of the end plates are offered for supporting tanker trucks and different vehicles,” Letherby said. “The same struts are used in structure and trench rescues, but the kits vary from a two-strut and extension kit up to an eight-strut and extension kit.”
Prospan’s TASS undergoes independent testing by the University of Illinois. Paratech’s Vehicle Stabilization Kit was subjected to testing by structural engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Other companies have varying degrees of outside independent testing.
As for the future, Paratech’s Letherby said he’s looking at ways “to make it easier for the fire service to utilize some of the equipment they already have on their trucks to get people out from under their vehicles.”
And at Res-Q-Jack, Smith is continuing his focus on his company’s “Stabilization University,” a class the company runs for anyone interested in learning about vehicle stabilization, whether or not they are customers.
“It’s open to anyone,” he said. “There’s no cost. We just want to bring the facts of stabilization to the forefront. And if they have a competitor’s product, that’s fine with us.”