Basic, Advanced, or Heavy Vehicle Extrication?

By Leigh Hollins

In our business, we hear the terms basic, advanced, and heavy extrication many times during our pursuit of ongoing and specialized training. What exactly does basic, advanced, or heavy extrication mean?

Basic extrication involves the normal, routine extrication procedures performed at the scene of a car, light truck, or SUV collision, and would include the displacement or removal of glass, plastic, and metal from around a victim of such a collision. Such displacement might need to take place whether a victim is entrapped or entangled or both.

Entrapped indicates that the victim is able to move about or able to be moved about the inside of the vehicle. However, because of the damage to the vehicle or the victim's condition, responders need to displace or remove parts of the vehicle to accomplish the goal of removing the victim safely and without further injury. Making an opening large enough to remove the victim is the overall goal.

Entangled indicates that the victim is not able to move about or able to be moved about the inside of the vehicle--the victim is pinned, as some call it. Entangled in the glass, plastic, or metal of the vehicle, the victim cannot escape without the displacement or removal of these vehicle components. An entangled victim may also be entrapped; responders will have to provide an opening large enough to remove the victim AND displace or remove vehicle components so that the victim is no longer pinned.

So, whether a victim is entrapped, entangled, or both, the procedures used to rescue a victim from a car, light truck, or SUV, such as removing a door, a window, or a roof, or displacing a brake, accelerator, or clutch pedal are typically basic procedures.

Advanced extrication refers to the procedures used on cars, light trucks, and SUVs such as a dash roll, a dash lift, a side flap/side hinge/side removal (side blitz), an oyster cracker, a Florida floor jack, and a couple that I am probably not aware of that go beyond the basic procedures.

I will not attempt to describe in detail how to perform any of these techniques because you cannot learn them from reading about them; you must perform them to become knowledgeable of them. However, I will explain the regional rescue extrication procedure mentioned above, the oyster cracker and the Florida floor jack.

The oyster cracker technique was developed in New Jersey, as far as I can tell. The technique involves the splitting an overturned vehicle lying on its roof by cutting the roof posts, while raising the rest of the vehicle, prying it open like an oyster shell. This may be required when a victim is entangled between a caved-in roof and the tops of the seats.

The Florida floor jack technique was developed to remove a victim who is pinned under the dash of an overturned vehicle and involves the raising of the vehicle floor, behind and in front of the A post, while the rest of the vehicle is kept at ground level.

I am a fan of standardized terminology. If we all agreed on standard terms, when someone says, "side blitz," as a fellow instructor recently said to me, we would grab the proper tools and go to work, instead of asking the obvious question, "What is that?" It's something to think about.

Heavy extrication deals mainly with extrication techniques required for heavy vehicles, other than basic procedures such as removing a door or window. Heavy vehicles include buses, semi-tractor trailers, dump trucks, concrete mixers, tanker trucks, and so forth. Such techniques will be specialized and cannot be applied generally; they will probably require heavier tools. You will probably need some training on each type of vehicle to be competent and successful in performing heavy extrication. Additionally, the normal extrication tools may not be enough. For example, using the wrong type of reciprocating saw blade on a heavy truck can cause major problems. Know before you go!

For example, standard car and light truck extrication techniques are not appropriate to apply to a school bus. The school bus's construction much heavier and has so many features that are different from that of a car that you will fail in most cases, especially if you need to employ advanced techniques on such a heavy vehicle or have victims entangled in the seat frames of a school bus, for instance. If you only used cars during your extrication training, you will have no idea of what the best way is to remove a school bus seat.

The information above should make you reconsider your level of training and knowledge in the discipline of extrication and inspired you to take it to the next level if you are not already there. Find out more about the oyster cracker, side blitz, and the Florida floor jack at my 2009 Fire Department Instructors Conference HOT Class. Remember: know before you go!

Leigh T. Hollins began his career in 1976 at Nottingham Fire Company in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. He relocated to Manatee County, Florida, in 1977. He is a battalion chief in the training division at Cedar Hammock (FL) Fire Rescue and vice president and director of Starfire Training Systems, Inc. Hollins is a Florida certified firefighter, EMT, fire inspector, fire officer, and fire instructor. He has a college degree in fire science, is the author of numerous fire-related articles, and produced Fire Engineering's School Bus Extrication DVD as well as our advanced extrication Training Minutes Web videos. Hollins is a frequent instructor throughout the United States and at FDIC, the lead extrication instructor for FDIC's Hands-On Training program, and a member of Fire Engineering's and FDIC's editorial advisory board. Hollins is a founding member and current president of The Sun Coast chapter of F.O.O.L.S. International, a fraternal organization for firefighters.

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