The Warwick Fire Department held its monthly Auto Extrication Drill at Specht’s Garage on Thursday, March 14.
Mike Contaxis, the department’s 2nd assistant chief, provided the following account to explain the hows and whys of the training as well as its importance:
Members were instructed in Extrication techniques including the use of our Hurst Auto Extrication Tools. So as company officers or training officers we focus on all aspects of Extrication when it’s time to do some training.
First and foremost, you must know and have confidence with the rescue tool and associated equipment, such as rescue struts and cribbing. Work through scenarios, such as power plants not starting and hydraulic hose with stuck couplings. Nothing makes you look as bad as having mechanical problems or not looking smooth and professional when deploying rescue equipment on an incident scene. Spend some time talking about things as simple as having fresh fuel in the power plant and the importance of starting those tools daily. Note: Many departments are making the move to ethanol-free fuel in their rescue tools due the damage ethanol causes to small engines and the associated starting issues.
In addition to equipment, focus on the Big Five basics of extrication: stabilization, glass removal, taking doors, roof removal and dash displacement.
• Stabilization. After a good scene size-up, stabilization is the first hands-on operation to be done at an accident scene. This operation is much more advanced than just a few years ago because of the many new products on the market developed to stabilize vehicles.
• Glass removal. Getting the glass out of the way makes the scene safer for the responder and the patient, and it provides better access to the patient. By removing the glass in a controlled manner, we don’t have any unexpected surprises, such as glass shattering and spraying the patients and responders. Just like with the new stabilization equipment, there are many new glass-handling products on the market that make this job easier.
• Taking doors. If there is one extrication skill that you really need to make sure you’re great at, it’s popping or removing doors. Doors are our go-to point of entry on most accidents and the quickest way to remove patients. But don’t take them for granted because it’s what you do most often; they still can present some challenges. The design of vehicle doors has changed a great deal over the years, and so must our tactics. We used to use a lot more brute force, basically just ripping and tearing the metal; today, we use finesse and technique to get the job done. Going old-school on a late-model car door by using the brute force of the rescue tool will more than likely create a problem. Be sure to teach your crew not to get tunnel vision when popping doors; they should be able to pop the door from the pin or the hinge side.
• Roof removal. Nothing gives you better patient access than total roof removal. Crews that know this move can really make impressive progress at an extrication. When training on roof removal, focus on the coordination and teamwork required to remove a roof; it’s not a one-person operation. Talk about the sequence of the cuts needed to completely remove the roof.
• Dash displacement. Although we don’t use it as often as roof removal or popping doors, dash displacement is still an extrication basic. Many accident victims have the dash and/or steering wheel pushed down on them; dash displacement is one of the best methods to get it up and off of them. Take the time to drill with your company on the many different ways of getting the job done—jacking with the spreaders, rolling using rams or whatever technique you may use in your department based on the equipment and tools you have available.
Make the most of it
Extrication has grown into one of our most important, life-saving operations. As a result, our tools, techniques and training are getting better each day. As training officers and at the company level, we must focus on finding training opportunities to hone our extrication skills, and making the most of them—because it’s very likely our training will make a life or death difference.
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