When Moving Vehicles Should Be Your First Option!

Now that I have your attention, most of us in the extrication world has heard at some point these words “Never move a vehicle during extrication!” I have heard those words for years and continue to still today. Let me ask two questions; One, have you ever used a lift bag to free someone from under a vehicle? 


Moving a vehicle in a manner that protects the safety of responders and patients can be done. Often moving the vehicle can create faster extrication times and a safer working environment.

Two, have you used struts to accomplish the same task? Are these not considered safe and generally accepted methods to move a vehicle? No matter if we are moving the vehicle vertically or horizontally we are still moving it and it is a practice we have been doing for years. The statement I do not hear often is “Move the vehicle in a safe and controlled manner.”

My goal is to help you understand that vehicles can be moved in a safe and controlled manner.

Moving a vehicle in a manner that protects the safety of responders and patients can be done. Often moving the vehicle can create faster extrication times and a safer working environment. Not only do we teach vehicle movements but we have moved vehicles on calls and we will do it again!

I would like to use a couple real world incidents where moving of vehicles was used and enabled much faster extrication time, better patient access and improved working environment for our crews. In the first incident, an SUV wrapped around a tree from side impact. I describe this as “horse shoe” where the vehicle begins to wrap around the object of impact. In this incident, the driver side was against the tree with the rocker panel trapping the patient’s foot and the dash pinning the occupant’s legs. Crews utilized a winch to pull the SUV away exposing the driver side and allowing crews to better understand how the driver was pinned. This visibility and fully understanding the mechanism of injury would not have been available if the vehicle was not moved. Additionally, once the vehicle was away from the tree, crews freed the patient in 15 minutes.

The second incident I would like to highlight involves a passenger car struck in the driver side (t-boned) by a tractor trailer. The car came to rest driver side against the rear tires of the tractor trailer. To gain better access and visibility to the patient, the car was moved by jacking the rear of the vehicle and placed two car dollies under the rear tires. The car was lowered onto the dollies and then we pushed the rear of the car away from the tractor trailer which opened up the driver side for us to extricate the victim.

Much of the equipment needed to move vehicles are on our apparatus. The most common tools and likely something you will already have off your apparatus is the spreader and a ram. The spreader can be used to start moving the vehicle providing enough room to insert the ram to move the vehicle further. Other potential equipment to move vehicles can include; come alongs, winches, grip hoist, struts or a car dolly set. Consider how the equipment on your apparatus can be used differently to improve your extrication operation.

Considerations for Moving Vehicles

  • Only move a vehicle if you are confident you can maintain control throughout the evolution and able to stabilized once moved.
  • Understand that an investment of time upfront is required to move a vehicle to reduce overall extrication time, safer environment for the patient and our crews.
  • Develop SOGs that make sense for your department for moving vehicles and to ensure everyone is trained to identify the need and how accomplish the move in a controlled and safe manner.
  • Do not move a vehicle, just to say you moved a vehicle. Let the incident dictate your actions.

I understand some will remain skeptical on this concept and some will never consider moving vehicles during extrication. What is important is that we all remain aware of the options available to ensure the most efficient and safe operations for our department and the communities we serve. My goal to help educate on new concepts and challenge current practices to help us all improve. Be safe and continue to keep an open mind.​

Toranze Lee is Fire Chief at Beaver Lane Volunteer Rescue and Fire Department.

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