COLUMN: Gripped by fear as I wait for the jaws of life to save me

THE crunching of metal and shattering of glass fills the air as the jaws of life break through the roof of a car.

That car, an old, beat up Volvo had me inside it.

As firefighters used the jaws of life, I sat there, stiff and still. I was scared because I had a neck brace on, which meant I couldn't look around to see what was happening around me but I was still calm due to a firefighter explaining what was happening.

The experience was thankfully just a training exercise for the Esperance Volunteer Fire and Rescue I was asked to take part in.

It is an experience I never want to repeat in a real-life situation.

Earlier this month I received a phone call from Esperance Volunteer Fire and Rescue fire captain Lonica Collins asking me, as part of their training exercise, to play the part of a patient who had been in a car crash, with a sore back and no feeling in her legs.

I was excited and nervous as I made my way to the depot, where I was greeted by our wonderful fire and rescue volunteers.

I was all smiles at first, keen to see how the volunteers trained and how it worked.

However, my mood soon changed.

The fire truck came down and before I knew it, I was being hooked up to oxygen and the safety glasses were on, as was a neck brace.

They covered me in a plastic protective sheet, which is clear for when you're alive, black for when you're dead. This was no walk in the park. I should have known better.

Feeling claustrophobic under the plastic, I was comforted and talked through every step of the situation. Meanwhile, other firefighters prepared the jaws of life to cut me out of the car.

The whole procedure lasted about 45 minutes. I heard the jaws break through the roof of the car, the only barrier between myself and the firefighters.

They removed the whole roof and slipped a spinal board underneath me, lifting me out of the car to safety.

As the glass cracked around me and oxygen continued to flow through the mask, the reality of the situation kicked in.

A car crash is never a laughing matter, pretend or not. It was a reminder of how quickly something could happen and how serious a situation could become in just an instant.

I was always told by my parents that cars were a weapon and anyone in emergency services would say the same thing.

They are not something in which you would race up and down the street at 100 kilometres an hour, putting your own and others' lives in danger.

Driving is a privilege and having your licence is something you respect; the same goes for road rules and the lives of our emergency service workers.

On that note, the men and women cutting you out of wrecks in Esperance are volunteers and I think that stuck with me more than anything.

These people don't do it for the money. At 1am when they are called to come and cut you out, whether you are dead or alive, they voluntarily get out of their beds, leave their families and get dressed, all because they want to make a positive contribution to our community.

They play an important role in Esperance and their services and dedication should never be taken for granted. Next time you or a loved one considers hooning around town or drink driving, consider the people who voluntarily come and cut you out if something happens.

Know how quickly an accident can happen and try to understand how much you rely on these volunteers to keep you and your family safe.

I had a wonderful and exciting experience during last Monday's exercise which in the end, left me a little lost for words.