Heavy Vehicle Bus Stabilization

First and foremost, I would like to wish everyone and your families a very Merry Christmas from myself and the entire Reds Team. I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s and looking forward to an awesome year to come. Along with the holidays comes drinking, driving and wrecks. 


Make sure you are ready for the challenge. I would also like to thank everyone for the dedication and commitment to your job as a rescuer, firefighter or EMS. The work can be stressful, tiring and takes you away from family. I commend you for this, as we get very few kudos for what we do.

Now, the first thing we need to do is assess all the hazards. This includes, but not limited to, fuel spills, electric lines, traffic conditions, bystanders and the stability of the vehicles involved. Before entry can be made, the bus will need to be made stable. This could be a rather simple process of chocking the wheels, or could involve stabilization. Each situation can, and will be different. The good thing is, we know that buses are extremely well built and stable. This will help us in our ability to safely stabilize the bus and other vehicles that may be involved.

A point to remember when stabilizing any vehicle is that you should always try to obtain at least four points of contact when possible. More in this case is better, but it could be done with less depending on the situation. The fact that the bus may be on all four wheels does not necessarily constitute four good points of contact either. Remember, the bus can still move side to side from its center axis. We learn to stabilize in a 360-degree plane. This involves five types of movement; Vertical, Horizontal, Roll, Yaw, and Pitch. The bus’s mere height may allow it to move and shift if its pitched on an angle so, stabilization may be needed regardless. Stabilizing a bus can take a large amount of cribbing, so you should have plenty on hand or look at other stabilization options, such as rescue struts. These can save you time and cribbing.

If the bus is on all fours, you should consider stabilizing the four corners to prevent any shifting or rolling from side to side. Cribbing or struts would be good options for the corners. Also, make sure you chock at least two tires and chock them on both sides.

If the bus has flipped on its side, it could be relatively stable if it is on level ground. Placing wedges or step cribs under the outer perimeter of the bus will help keep it from sliding and shifting. If the bus is on an incline, it becomes a whole new problem. Consider putting straps or cables to the upper side and attaching to a good solid anchor. If you have rescue type jacks or struts, they can be placed on the lower side, once the upper side has been secured. This should keep the bus from shifting or sliding.

Remember that you can use good solid trees, guard rails, your rescue of fire apparatus, and even a properly set picket system. If you use your apparatus as an anchor, make sure the wheels are chocked and the vehicle can’t or won’t be moved. If possible, shut off the engine and give the operations chief the key.

If the bus is resting on another vehicle, then four points of stabilization should be established if possible. When using 4” x 4” cribbing, a block crib technique should be used. When using a crib block system, you can only stack the cribbing twice the length. So, if your cribbing is 24 inches long, then you can only stack four feet. If you are using three feet cribbing, then you could stack six feet high. Remember that the higher the cribbing stack, the more unstable it can become.

If the load remains centered, which would be an axial load, no problem. If the load were to shift, or become an eccentric load, it will be off center, and things could go awry. You can quickly see that having enough cribbing for this type of stabilization can be quite a challenge. The stabilization jacks or struts are a good complement for large vehicle stabilization and extrication. Remember, you can use straps, chains or cables to help secure the bus, or a combination thereof.

Be sure and survey the angles and weights of the bus so you can determine which way the bus could shift or slide. If you are going to work in the bus to remove patients, you must stabilize the bus to prevent movement. Good stabilization is something that should not be overlooked in your IAP. The SAFETY of your rescuers is always your number one consideration.

I realize that it is hard sometimes for departments to acquire a bus for extrication training. One approach you might want to consider is asking to use a bus for training, but that you will not cut the bus up or destroy it in anyway. See if the salvage yard will let you practice cribbing and stabilization on the bus. Let them know that you will not be cutting on the bus, but only practicing your stabilization techniques. Perhaps you can even get them to turn the bus on its side or another vehicle. You get to practice your techniques and they still have a bus they can use for salvage.

Stabilization is an important part of our rescue process, and one that keeps us safer in performing the needed extrication. Always take that extra minute to make sure things are safe before rushing in and possibly making things worse rather than better. Again, I hope everyone had a safe holiday and look forward to the coming Spring.

If you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at reds100@aol.com. Until next time, train hard, be safe, and know your equipment.

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