back to basics

CarolinaFireJournal - DAVID PEASE
01/11/2010 -

When you read this, the holiday season will have passed, and I hope that everyone had a safe and Merry Christmas. Regardless of your beliefs, Christmas is a time to share joy and happiness with your family and friends, as well as those you may not know. We put our lives on the line everyday for people we do not know, because we are a family of caring and dedicated individuals. I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for the job you do, and wish you a very prosperous and happy New Year. May we all stay safe in the jobs we do.


The last couple of issues we looked at how we approach a motor vehicle crash, how we size up the crash, determine whether the victims are trapped or pinned, and how we stabilize the vehicles in preparation of our extrication. Now, we have to determine what techniques will hopefully work the best. Know certain procedures or techniques will always work for you. Overall, we tend to train on vehicles that are minimally damaged learning basic techniques. The problem is that these same techniques may not work as well when dealing with a vehicle that is crushed and mangled. We learn the basics, then have to learn to apply them in the best way.


A lot of departments depend almost solely on hydraulic power tools, and if they were to fail on the job, are surely lost as to where to proceed next. Don’t get me wrong, when you have the tools that are capable and designed to get the job done better, by all means use them. But keep in mind that they are man made and they can fail. Also, keep in mind that some smaller power tools and hand tools can get the job done by the time you get the power tools set up. Another drawback may be that the vehicle is way off the road or down an embankment and hard to get access to. My point here is not to focus solely on your hydraulic tools, but also learn what other tools in your cadre can do for you.

Here is a point in case. Without divulging the person and place, I would like to give an example. Our rescue team was invited to do a vehicle extrication demonstration this past fall for a rescue squad conducting a public relations day. When we arrived there was another department already doing a morning demonstration utilizing their hydraulic power tools. They removed the doors, removed the roof, and pushed the dash on a vehicle sitting on its tires. The six person team finished their task in about 30 minutes. Soon it would be our turn.

Our vehicle was overturned with the roof crushed almost down to the doors and a rescue manikin wedged inside that we had to remove. They had “V’ d” the roof in with a backhoe, so it was tightly wedged back into the vehicle. Now came the task of removing the victim. Our dilemma was, we only brought three members. We made the decision not to use any hydraulic power tools unless we had to. Utilizing only a cordless reciprocating saw, a corded rescue saw, air bags and a set of Rescue Jacks, we were able to remove the “victim” in 25 minutes. Proof in point, our task was much more complicated and we were able to perform the extrication with no hydraulics. Sometimes basic tools and techniques are better for the situation at hand.

Let’s look at a few. You can open a jammed door with a three pound hammer and a large flat screwdriver. By using the tip of the screwdriver as a chisel in the sheet metal, you can cut around the door handle fairly quickly and release the locking mechanism to aid in opening the door. You can skin the roof of a car and make an entrance and exit if needed. I have even used this technique to make a floor entry. Yes, it takes some manpower, but it can be quite effective at times. The high lift jack is another good tool for non-hydraulic work. The high lift can be used to push a dash and lift the steering column. The jack actually works better for these types of maneuvers than for trying to stabilize or lift. They are an inexpensive, but very versatile tool.

In upcoming issues, we will continue to look at some of the basic techniques we can use to extricate folks utilizing hand tools and power tools. If you have any good techniques that you think would work in extricating our victims, shoot me an email and let me know what they are. As always, train to be the best you can be, and stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments e-mail David Pease at [email protected] and visit the Team website at www.RedsTeam.com.
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