Extrication: strategies in training

CarolinaFireJournal - David Pease
David Pease The Reds Team
10/14/2010 -

Well, summer is on its way out and it is time to start setting up those training sessions. Your folks are back from vacations and the weather will be cooler and easier to work in. We tend to do more training in the spring and fall, due to the cooler weather and better conditions. The heat of the summer makes it tough and the winter brings on the holidays and sometimes bitter weather, another situation that we do not want to train in. But do remember, vehicle crashes do not pick only the good weather to happen. My philosophy is to train in all types of conditions.


Most instructors will tell you that if you do not keep your class interesting, you will lose your students. Of course, if you are doing in-house training, or departmental training, you have somewhat of a captive audience. But even with that, if your folks are not excited about learning or practicing their skills, what have you accomplished? We only get better with experience and practice. Unfortunately, most departments do not run a tremendous amount of vehicle crashes that involve patients that are pinned or trapped. This leaves us with having to improve our skills with training and practice.

Let’s look at how we can go from the basics to the more advanced and keep a few challenges in there along the way. Most departments do very little hand tool training. Their theory is usually, “why should we train on hand tools, when we have $50,000 worth of high tech hydraulic rescue equipment?”

This does make a good point, and by all means you should use the best equipment you have at hand for the job. But remember, these high dollar tools are made by man, they are maintained by man, they are used by man, (this is a figure of speech, so do forgive me ladies, as you are included) and they will break down and fail. You always need a back-up plan and the knowledge on how to use basic hand tools and non hydraulic power tools to get the job done.

In the military, one of the Special Forces units is tasked with rescue, uses only the equipment carried in, two 50 pound packs to extricate from Humvees, Strikers and downed aircraft. You talk about a challenge.

Now it’s time to start with some really basic extrication training. Some call it “old school”; I prefer to call it good common sense training for the unexpected.

First, make sure your hand tools are in good shape, as they tend to be the tools used the least. You will need:

  • Hacksaws
  • Pry bars
  • A come-along
  • Chains
  • Large flat blade screwdrivers
  • Three pound hammer
  • Air chisel
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Impact wrench
  • Haligan tool
  • Ratchet and sockets
  • High lift jacks
  • Bottle jacks

I am sure there are more that I did not mention. If your folks are up to the challenge, have them remove the roof, the doors, push or lift the dash, and then remove the seats. Once they feel good about what they are doing, it is time to add a little fun to the training.

Break your folks into two teams, and limit the equipment they can use, but don’t cut them short either. Have one team start at the trunk, the other team from the bottom. The first team to the front passenger’s compartment wins. Make sure the car is placed on its side or preferably, on its roof. If you want to make it tough, then do not allow the use of any electric powered tools. This can prove to be a fun, but also a learning experience.

Perhaps in a later article, I will talk about using some basic hand tools to remove doors, lift the dash, and so on.

The use of hand tools does involve more physical work than power tools, and in some cases more thought about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.

When you are working on your vehicles make sure you also practice good stabilization. This is also a good chance to use your cribbing and struts. Practice several different ways to stabilize you vehicle. Have one group stabilize the car and remove it. Then have another group stabilize the same vehicle, but it cannot be the same way it was done by the first group. You can do this multiple times, and they will soon learn it does pay to go last.

Most folks do not train with hand tools and are not very efficient with them when it comes to vehicle extrication. However, using hand tools in conjunction with power tools can enhance you capabilities to remove your patients quickly and safely. When it comes to extrication, you should have as many tricks up your sleeve, as your sleeve can hold. Until next time, learn all you can, train all you can, and be safe at what you do. Always feel free to contact me if you have stories, techniques you would like to share with others, or questions.

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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