Back to basics

CarolinaFireJournal - DAVID PEASE — REDS Team
04/26/2010 -

Spring is here and we are going to see more folks on the road enjoying the weather and traveling, which also means more motor vehicle crashes. Now is the time to start training again in vehicle extrication — especially before the summer gets here and it’s vacation time and so hot that it’s hard to get your folks to train. Grab your gear and let’s get at it.


Last issue we talked about several basic techniques that can be used for opening a door or skinning a roof for entry, using a flat head screwdriver and a hammer. This technique also works for opening a trunk, if you had to go through the trunk to get to your patients. Once you practice this technique it is actually pretty fast.

One of the biggest challenges with hand tools is removing a door. Since the National DOT standard for the latching mechanism is 2500 pounds minimum, with some cars being even higher, it can pose quite a quandary. You will not break the latch loose with a pry bar, and you will not break the hinges loose, either.

You can remove the hinges with a ratchet, air impact wrench or a cordless impact wrench. They actually work pretty quickly, depending on what your access to the bolts will be. Another option would be to use a reciprocating saw. I have successfully used a Bosch cordless 36V reciprocating saw and their rescue grade demolition blade and cut through a nader pin in less than a minute. The new Bosch RS35 would have performed even better. It is a new corded saw with awesome power, one I will discuss in the summer issue in my “Tools of the Trade” column.

You can also cut hinges, but it will take a little longer because they are cast steel. The key is to have a good saw. Even more important, have a good demolition blade.

If you run into a situation where you cut the nader pin but can’t get the door pulled back, consider hooking a come-along to the door and back to the frame of the vehicle. This should give you the leverage to pull the door open enough to free your patient. You can also use a high lift jack and spread the door away to create an opening.

Remember, we are looking at a vehicle that we typically train on, but one that is badly crumpled and crushed — the door may just not come open. Another option would be to connect a winch to the door if you did not have access to a come-along. When using this technique, it is extremely important to make sure the vehicle is secured and stabilized so you do not move the entire vehicle. Always look at what reactions will be the result of your actions.

Our last option would be to skin the door. This requires more work and time, but could be necessary. You have to first skin the exterior which can be done using an air chisel or screwdriver and hammer. In this case, I prefer the air chisel. Once the outer skin is removed, you will then have to cut through the side collision beam. This will probably be a piece of high alloy tubular steel. Cutting through it will require your reciprocating saw. Once this beam is removed you will have to break away the plastic interior skin. This will not be so hard. You can perform this entire process with a reciprocating saw, but be careful as to where the blade penetrates and where your patient is located.

Removing the roof is a fairly easy task when you look at the big picture. I always recommend you remove what is needed to get the patient out. If you only need to flap half of the roof, then flap only half the roof. Keep in mind that the roof can be removed from front to back, back to front, from side to side, partially flapped, or completely removed. This leaves you with lots of options to consider.

For years it has always been taught that you remove the front windshield. I think this is something that has been carried over from old school when cars had windshields that were set in gaskets. Now most vehicles, excluding trucks and busses, have windshields set with a mastic sealer. If you cut across the bottom of the windshield and raise the roof, the windshield will not fall out. This being the case, why not just leave the windshield set in the A post and go from there.

When cutting the post for removal, not a problem. If you are feeling energetic then you can use a hacksaw. Let me make a suggestion here. Spend the extra money and buy a decent saw, not one from the dollar store. The advantage of a good saw is that it will hold up better, and, you can put two blades in the saw at one time.

Your next question may be, why would we do that. Let me explain. When you are cutting with a hacksaw, the blade is only designed to cut one way, so depending on which way you have installed the blade, depends on whether you are cutting during the push or pull. By placing two blades going opposite directions, you can now cut while you are pulling and pushing. This gives you more bang for the buck, or more cut for the work.

Another good, and much faster, method is to use that reciprocating saw. When possible, remove as much of the plastic on the inside as you can. This is twofold. One reason is to expose any gas cylinders or seatbelt retractors. The other reason is that the plastic tends to melt and can gum up your blade. Removing the plastic is a good habit to get into. I have heard different opinions on spraying the blade while you cut. Some say it does no good while others say it does. The bottom line is, it does cool the blade which reduces heat from the friction, which in turn allows the blade to cut longer and preserve the teeth. The reason for the soapy solution is that it helps the water to adhere to the blade longer rather than just run off. All I can vouch for is that in training applications it makes the blade perform better. It’s your call.

Next issue will look at some more basic techniques. As I said in my last article, if you have the equipment use it, but always be open to other options, you may one day need them. Take care and stay safe. See you next time.

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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