BRACEBRIDGE - The Bracebridge Fire Department’s newest recruit doesn’t pull hose, drive trucks or pump water, but he’s already doing his part to train local firefighters.
TransCanada Pipelines technician Rick Hellinga (left) and Bracebrige Fire Department chief Murray Medley (right) welcome SmartDummy to the department. The dummy, which can speak to add realism to training scenarios, was purchased by the department with help from TransCanada Pipelines.
Photo by Louis Tam
SmartDummy Rescue Manikin is the department’s newest training dummy, and was officially welcomed to town on Friday, Nov. 2. Like other training dummies, SmartDummy is used by firefighters to simulate real victims in rescue scenarios.
But where he differs is in his ability to pipe up and make himself heard.
“If you’re doing a car accident (scenario), you can record screaming and yelling and make it sound like they’re in pain,” said Bracebridge fire chief Murray Medley. “If you put that in a building and you smoke it up, the firefighters can walk in and not only have to be feeling around for it.”
The intent, Medley said, is to give rescuers a more realistic feel to training situations.
In a demonstration for this newspaper, SmartDummy was placed on the bumper of a fire truck, where it sat dormant until people entered the room. As soon as it detected sound in the environment, it called out to rescuers in a prerecorded cry for help.
“Help me, help me! I’m over here. I can’t see, it’s too smoky,” it screamed. “It’s too smoky! It’s hot! It’s smoky! I’m over here! I’m over here!”
The dummy’s voicebox is in a detachable recorder mounted to its head, which training officers can use to record anything they wish for trainees to hear. The volume can be adjusted to simulate victims in serious pain, or victims that are slowly losing strength. The amount of noise needed to activate the dummy’s voice can also be fine-tuned in order to simulate the varying levels of situational awareness real victims can be in.
With a $3,000 price tag, the department got some much-needed financial assistance from TransCanada Pipelines, a natural gas company which operates a compressor on Beaumont Drive. Pipeline technician Rick Hellinga said the company jumped on board when it learned local firefighters needed some help in upgrading their training equipment.
“We would like to support anything we can in the communities that need our support.”
In addition to having voice, SmartDummy’s distinctive features include detachable limbs to simulate amputations, and a wound to simulate punctures. Weighing 130 pounds, the dummy can be outfitted with more weights to simulate victims of different sizes.
“You can strap on another 100 pounds of weight, and now he’s turned into a big guy you’re trying to drag out,” said Medley.
Medley said local firefighters have already been busy putting SmartDummy through his paces, most recently at a rescue scenario at the Muskoka Airport.
“We took him down and put him in a car,” he said. “We crushed him inside the car and had to cut him back out.”