ARRO Challenge 2008

by John Robertson

At our training evening on 28th May, Peter Mason came along to make an urgent request for volunteers to help prepare for the ARRO Challenge. ARRO is the Australasian Road Rescue Organisation. Each year it holds a competition for road rescue teams from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. This year it was hosted by QFRS at Parklands from 5th to 8th June with a week of preparation before that. The plan called for 85 volunteers but Peter had only one – Nicole from Coomera Valley. Rory, Robbo, Nev and Kim put up their hands.

See photos here .

The key resource for the competition was 75 Holden cars and utes– all in near new condition, all late models and mostly upmarket versions – Caprice, Statesman and SS with a few exotics like a Pontiac GTO thrown in; over $3 million’s worth at retail. Most had leather trim and electric everything; but not for long. Prior to being crunched their fuel tanks had to be removed and emptied, their batteries taken out and their engine oil, coolant and all other fluids drained. Many would think it sacrilege to treat Holdens so but some (like me) see it as their proper fate.
The cars had to be officially booked in, securely stored, taken one by one to the mechanics site to be gutted and then back to store prior to being crunched. The return trip was tricky because the car then had no engine, dead steering and (in the very heavy rain) no wipers. One ute was designated as push car. Moving the cars inside the sheds was a strictly manual job with packing so tight that entry and exit was sometimes via a front window. Security was very strict with a total ban on taking even a badge let alone swapping some old banger for a smart new vehicle. Hence the need to secure all cars at all times.
On Wednesday Peter and Tony from the Auxiliaries plus Nicole were the only people on hand and the task was far too much for such a small squad. Thursday added Rory and Robbo. This made all the difference as it allowed people to specialise in one job and thus create an effective process flow. Robbo was detailed to remove and empty all the steel fuel tanks which allowed the mechanics to work swiftly on the majority of cars with plastic tanks which can be emptied just by drilling a couple of holes. By the end of Friday we shut up shop for the weekend with everything ready for car crunching in the coming week.
Throughout the week of the comp TM52 was on display at Parklands together with CF52, Ambos and Urban trucks.  Tuesday saw the arrival of the ARRO team – a first rate bunch of guys including several Kiwis. They explained that in the competition each team faced three different accident scenarios. The first was total entrapment of the (one) occupant; each team had 30 minutes for this scenario. The second was where the occupant was not trapped but was critically injured. Here the drill was to get a paramedic into the crushed car to provide urgent medical aid alongside the victim and only then to extract them both; 15 minutes was allowed for this. The third was intermediate between these two and had a time allowance of 25 minutes. As our road toll shows daily these scenarios are all too realistic. Immediately prior to their comp each team was ‘sequestered’ in a hut so that they could not see beforehand the scenario that awaited them.
For the total entrapments a very heavy dummy was put in the driver’s seat and the vehicle was then crushed hard jamming the dummy in tight. For the other two scenarios, crushing was less severe and a live person crawled into position, usually through a broken window, to represent the injured driver. Those volunteers, surely the heroines of the event, were small, agile girls convincingly made up to look as though death was nigh.  Time and again for about 50 cars over three days they crawled aboard and stayed in position calmly while the team sawed through metal or glass or cut through pillars with the ‘jaws of life’ and finally strapped them to a stretcher to get them out of the vehicle.
Prior to this happening the RFB volunteers plus Peter and Tony moved the cars to and from the heavy excavators which did the crushing and then back, numbered in correct sequence, ready for the comp. One of the dodgy jobs was to vacuum out the mass of broken glass from each crushed vehicle and thus reduce the amount spilt onto the competition floor. During the preparatory period it was noteworthy that TMRFB provided between 50% and 80% of the volunteers notwithstanding they were nominally drawn from across SEQ.
Throughout the event Neville drove of one of the two shuttle buses which ferried competitors and their kit back and forth from the Holiday Inn. This meant very long days with 30 minute turn-round times. On Thursday more volunteers arrived. During the competition the critical role lay with the forklifts which had to get each car into position ready for the next round. Positioning was never simple; the car might be on its side or its roof or in collision with another car or a motorbike. Often it was hard against a concrete block or Armco barrier and an electricity pole might be on top or underneath. Rory and Robbo had the job, with others, of pit support which meant helping with the set up and, more especially, with the clear up after a team had finished. It gave a good chance to see each team in action and very impressive that was. A large audience up in the gallery had the same experience. It was an excellent event, ran fluently and to time, showed modern road crash rescue at its best and reflected credit on QFRS.
On Friday evening (after the first day of competition) QFRS held a barbecue for the volunteers. Lee Johnson and Steve Rothwell spoke in glowing terms of the work done by volunteers and presented ARRO 2008 caps, bags and tee shirts. Peter Mason reiterated his emphatic thanks to the TM volunteers. This was much appreciated. Had it not been for Peter’s personal initiative there would have been hardly a volunteer available for the preparation and the event would have suffered accordingly. Well done Peter! Our members’ performance brought credit to the Brigade.
The winner of the Challenge was the SES team from Bacchus Marsh in Victoria.
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