We are a small department in Northern Alberta Canada. We have 1 major highway, and 4 secondary highways in our area to cover. In the past, we have been providing vehicle extrication services strictly with the use of hand tools.
We have now raised enough funds to supplement our hand tools with some hydrolic power tools. We have narrowed our choice down to a couple of brands. We have enough funds right now to purchase a good quality combination cutter and spreader, pump and some rams. What we have found is that we will still be a year away from purchasing dedicated spreaders and cutters due to the increased cost we have been quoted.
What we would like to know is the pros and cons of combi tools and dedicated tools. Will a combi tool provide the same level of performance? Are there any problems associated with combi tools? Does it make more sense to wait a year and purchase dedicated tools when we can afford them? We have heard all of the presentations from the dealers, now we want to know what the people who use them have to say.
Hythe Volunteer Fire Department
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Thread: Combi tools or dedicated tools
12-07-1999, 12:39 PM #1HYTHE FIRE DEPARTMENTFirehouse.com Guest
Combi tools or dedicated tools
12-07-1999, 09:40 PM #2billyFirehouse.com Guest
Personally I like the combi tools, as they offer advantages of both cutters and spreaders. The major disadvantage I've found is that the combi tool will cut and spread, yet not to the extent of a dedicated unit. This is evident primariliy in it's limited spreading capabilities. My suggestion is to purchase the combi tool, and later add a dedicated spreader and possibly a cutter. After that, add a hand punp or small portable power unit to use with the combi tool in event a backup is needed or multiple entrapments.
12-08-1999, 08:22 AM #3RootFirehouse.com Guest
I think it is a good idea to buy a combi tool and rams to start out,i would try to get a pump that can run more than one tool at a time.
Also if your company is not using recip saws it would be a good inexpensive idea to get at least one, better with two recip saws with high quality blades, lennox 960, 660, milwaukee torch blades.
Also another inexpensive idea in case you get a pump that powers one tool at a time is to get several HI-LIFT JACKS, we have four on our rescue pumper, we use them for stabilizing cars, as well as manually popping doors and rolling dashs.
Hope my ideas can help, if not hopefully others can throw some ideas around.
12-08-1999, 11:37 AM #4resqbFirehouse.com Guest
Personally I find that the if you are going to have only one tool, the combi is the way to go. However, you have a give and take with this piece of equipment.
1. When cutting posts I've found that although a roof will 'pop' it may not necessarily be cut all the way through when using a combi. My preference is on O-cutter.
2. While spreading doors, I've seen that a combi, due to the smaller size of it's tips, is more likely to shread a door than a full size spreader. This is a training issue. I consider it a good trade off for the weight reduction vs. a spreader.
From your situation I believe that it's best to get the combi now. "Does it make sense to wait?" No, if you have one run in the next year where that unit saves a life then your dept. has done it's job. When the funds come around, complete the unit with an O-cutter and a spreader. Each piece has a place and time to use them and it makes you and your crew a more versatile and effective group.
Good luck on your purchase and I hope this was some help.
12-09-1999, 07:05 PM #5Ken MetzlerFirehouse.com Guest
I agree with all of the above you may have to finness your way in, at times with the combi BUT they work great. also talk to your dealers about a demo set some times you can get a very good deal, Also dont forget about grants... Dont know how it works up north but we got a 12,000 grant from the traffic safety comm. for tools
12-10-1999, 01:49 AM #6MetalMedicFirehouse.com Guest
A combination tool is certainly a good idea for your initial purchase. Most combination or rescue tools perform comparable to a dedicated spreader and dedicated cutter. Do keep in mind that not all combination tools are created equal. You want to look at things like speed of operation under working conditions and ease of repair in the field. If you break a cutting surface on your combination tool, can you replace that blade and keep the tool in service, or will you need to replace the entire spreader arm on that tool. For a department with a limited budget, you certainly don't want to be without your tool for an extended period of time in order to replace a broken spreader arm that had it's cutting surface integrated into it.
Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.
12-11-1999, 05:16 PM #7KATN61Firehouse.com Guest
If you dont do alot of extrications, then get the combi- tool. If you do alot of extrications then buy the dedicated ones. We ran a combi-tool for years before we bought the seperate spreader and cutter. We still use the combi-tool as a backup. Since i dont know the extent of your accidents, the way you extricate, your monies alotted, i cannot help you. Go the practical way. I say buy the seperate tools cause you can do more than the combi.
12-12-1999, 10:37 AM #8RES6TRKFirehouse.com Guest
THE COMBI TOOL IS FINE FOR BASIC EVOLUTIONS LIKE YOUR BASIC DOOR POP. MY QUESTION WOULD BE WHAT IS THE BASIS FOR MOST OF YOUR EXTRICATIONS? MOST VEHICLES (PASSENGER CARS, LIGHT TRUCKS, MINI-VANS) YOU CAN USE THE COMBI TOOL FOR DOOR POPS. IF YOU HAVE HEAVY TRANSIT SYSTEMS IN YOUR FIRST DUE THEN THE SEPERATE SPREADER / CUTTER UNITS WOULD BE OF BENEFIT. I WOULDN'T WAIT A YEAR TO PURCHASE A TOOL, I WOULD PURCHASE THE COMBI TOOL AND RAMS NOW AND IF POSSIBLE INVEST THE EXTRA MONIES INTO A POWER UNIT WHICH CAN OPERATE 2 TOOLS AT FULL POWER WHEN YOU PURCHASE THE COMBI TOOL. THE BIG ISSUE THAT YOU HAVE TO DO IS TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN WITH THE NEW EQUIPMENT TO SEE THE LIMITATIONS OF THE TOOLS. GOOD LUCK.
12-13-1999, 09:53 PM #9JawOLifeFirehouse.com Guest
It is my personal experience, that once under the same conditions, our department had the same conflicting question. Through, and through we had the pros and cons from every single one of our neighboring departments telling us we should get this that and the other thing. We learned the hard way, and through the years we found that we work better as a team with individual tools. In my opinion combi tools are great mop up tools after the pt. is out and there is no rush. After attending advanced extr. classes and playing with some of the new stuff that is out there, and trying different manuevers on different vehicles, I found it was not comfortable, and it also seemed as if the part of the combi tool you were not using at the time was in the way. For instance, with a separate medium or larger cutter you can take any of the post out on a sedan, wagon, or minivan with one swip most of the time. Whereas if you had a combi cutter/spreader, the spreader tips may interfer with the task at hand depending on the task. I realize this may not be the answer you may be looking for but it all depends on what you do. How many extrications do you perform a year on average? How much traffic is there on those highways you do cover? Is there quite a bit of tractor-trailer traffic going through? You should also consider the future? Is it possible the highway traffic will increase in years to come? Maybe you could work a deal, where you may purchase a combi tool first, and then maybe the next purchase a separate spreader or cutters, by a fundraiser or something of that nature. There are many things to look at. Most of all for smaller departments, it all comes down to just that - funding. I wouldtake into consideration the two biggest points at hand - 1.) USE 2.) FUNDS The is always tomarrow to look into another tool.
Get what you can afford yet, you may think is the best bet for right now.
12-14-1999, 01:29 AM #10MetalMedicFirehouse.com Guest
Now the debate begins... the tools I am most comfortable with only make a combination "rescue tool" and they perform quite well. The big advantage I have with them is that if I am taking a door, while I have the spreader opened from taking a hindge or nader, rather than closing them to take another spread I go ahead and cut an "A" or "B" post. Saves some time and seems to keep things moving smoothly if you are in a take the doors/take the roof extrication. Be sure to shop around, you might find that you can get a Rescue Tool, Ram and a cutter from one company for the cost of a spreader, ram and a cutter from another. The bottom line, is to get a tool and then train with it until you are compentent in its uses and limitations.
Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.
12-30-1999, 06:49 PM #11jducharmeFirehouse.com Guest
As one of the other posts stated what are your dept. needs, light extraction or heavy? We have a combi and a heavy unit. The combi was bought as a backup tool for a light rescue truck with tight space requirements. This tool has never been used on a working extraction. It works well for light work and the only real problems we've seen are ripping light doors around nader bolt and relief cuts for dash lifts, the spreader tips bind up the cutting action before the cut is complete on cuts deeper then cutting tips such as a large c post or the base of the a pillar.
12-31-1999, 11:21 AM #12RSQLT4Firehouse.com Guest
From what I have seen, the combi tool is all that you need for 80% of most extrications,pop a door, and cut the roof.
I dont understand light extrication as some of you are using it,our combi tool can spread the doors on a semi truck, we can also do a dash push with them, you dont get the distance as you would with a large spreader, but most of the time we only need from six to ten inches wich we easily get.
I wont give the name of our tools cause we already had a topic on that, but I will tell you that our combi is a straight blade cutter,we can cut through most c posts with no problems.
If you cant cut through a c post with your combi, use a sawzall it is faster than hydraulics.
I have used only dedicated tools till two years ago,that is when we bought the new combi, the big spreaders actually are not as good on the newer vehicles, they tend to rip the thin metal of the new cars.
On our rescue pumper we are going to run with our combi preconnected, and a small cutter preconnected, we will have a third reel that we can hook the big spreaders or cutters into if needed.
I think that if you can only afford a combi tool and some rams at this time then go for it, dont wait for a year.
Buy a good combi, cause when you do get the dedicated tools you might find that you will still use the combi tools on most scenes.
12-31-1999, 02:31 PM #13Kevin RomerFirehouse.com Guest
Finally, someone else said what I have been thinking.
As a tool dealer, I find many depts looking to get into the "rescue world". They all aren't "rollin in the dough" so to speak. The one question that comes up is "do we need seperate tools, or can we live with one of the combo tools?"
My answer has always been that you can almost 85-95% of what you need to do with a combo tool. I always ask, but already know, that the vast majority of our incidents are simply door pops, roof removals and moving the dash/column etc. Rarely, do you find incidents that are more than that. The combo tools should be able to handle those tasks without problem.
Those incidents that require more than that also require more resources than what is usually carried on the avg rescue or rescue/pumper anyway.... including manpower!
If the combo tool is used PROPERLY and trained with regularly... it is a great tool. It can push, pull, cut and lift without problems.
My $.02 worth....
01-05-2000, 11:31 PM #14Batt #2Firehouse.com Guest
thing to remember the front few inches of some combi tools will not cut.
I you are wanting to making a cut you have to open the tips on the combi. As you do this the tips sometimes get in the way as they spread out. Then you cant get the material into the notch of the cutting area.
We have both type of tools. The combi will do over 90% of your jobs.
Keep it burning Tracey
01-06-2000, 01:11 AM #15hfdCapt66Firehouse.com Guest
we started out with a dedicated tool of a reputable distributor,with all the extra cutters/rams/etc added on as we got the money. We later decided to get the combo tool about 5 years ago- we have used the dedicated tool more in training than calls ever since.
i agree with the 85% but its probably conservative.
my experience-go combo with the tool you like after test driving different names and aim for the extras later. We went for the preconnected electric unit and a portable gas unit. That has worked well for us-just don't buy the 'DEAL'.
Good luck and be Safe!
01-10-2000, 02:12 AM #16ScottN7ZTIFirehouse.com Guest
We use a combo tool, and that has served us very well in the past 15 years, we have 15 miles of Freeway running through our response area, so we have all types of extrication, cars, light trucks, vans, semi-trucks, and we have not had any problems with the tool not being able to do the job we need it to, we just recently purchased a cutter, but we still use the combo tool as the first tool, and that is one that we leave pre-connected to the pump unit. With practice, you find ways to get the job whis whatever tool you have.
We have also placed a sawsall on our first in medic truck, they can have 2-3 of the posts cut before the "tool" gets their, which has worked out to work very good.
The one suggestion that I woule make though in whateery you decide, do get one with a electric motor instead of the gas. They are MUCH quieter, and you will not have the fumes to worry about.
01-13-2000, 01:25 AM #17DieselFirehouse.com Guest
Hi Chief....care for a Canadian point of view? I'm with a composite department in Southern Ontario. We run a fair number of extrication calls out of two stations, each of which has a heavy rescue unit (the two stations are separated geographically by quite a distance). Until recently, only one of the heavy rescue's was equipped with a complete set of heavy hydraulics (Amkus)- spreader, cutters, rams etc.
Recently, we evaluated a variety of combi tools with a view to equipping the second heavy rescue with a set. We found that the combi-tools lacked the overall performance that we had become accustomed to, and just didn't seem to meet our needs. I think that the key issue is just that...will the combi tools meet YOUR needs in Hythe.
I'd suggest waiting on the purchase until you get enough money for whatever tool you decide is right for you. The tools that you buy will likely be with you for a very long time so don't settle for second best because the money isn't quite there. Hythe deserves the best!
Years ago, we had a series of community fundraising events to get up the $ to buy our original set because our municipality would'nt foot the bill. The community responded in a big way.
My final thought... Combi tools that can do 90% of the work are great - unless you're the one trapped when the extra 10% is needed.
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