National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Vigilant Instructor Prevents Injury

The development of hydraulic extrication tools has revolutionized the field of vehicle rescue. Since the first tools hit the market in the 1970s, they have been credited with saving thousands of lives. The tool generates thousands of pounds of force to spread, cut, push, and pull. The reaction of metal, glass and plastic to the application of these forces can be explosive. Resulting injuries can be devastating. An excerpt from this week's near miss report, which deals with extrication tools:

"Our fire department regularly supports EMT refresher training of local EMS by providing vehicle extrication re-familiarization training and realistic vehicle extrication evolutions. We use donated damaged vehicles and rescue mannequins.

During one such evolution, a rookie firefighter, working in conjunction with two veteran rescue firefighters and two EMS responders, was attempting to remove a door from a vehicle using the [hydraulic rescue spreaders]. The door had already been forced open and the rookie firefighter was attempting to separate the door from the vehicle at the hinges. When the second (top) hinge broke free from the car, the door actually launched approximately three feet from the vehicle…Had the senior rescue firefighter not been vigilant in his overview of the entire evolution..."

"Convergence creep" is a frequently occuring phenomenon at incidents. "Convergence creep" is the drifting of personnel closer to the scene after they have been moved back by a safety officer or other commander. The drifting is the result of personnel wanting to get in to help as well as a natural curiosity to see what is going on. Knowing this, instructors, incident commanders, and safety officers must be vigilant in ensuring all personnel are either properly protected or excluded from danger zones. Once you have read the entire account of this incident (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. Who establishes the various "zones" (e.g., hot, warm and cold) around your extrication scene?
2. What level of PPE is required for personnel operating in the different zones?
3. Are your EMS providers issued PPE that can protect them from injury during extrication (i.e., helmets, flame retardant and rip resistant clothing, gloves, eye protection, etc.)?
4. How often do you check for the "convergence creep" that occurs at the extrication scene?
5. Do you include reminders during extrication drills so personnel remain aware of their own tendency to "creep?"

What near miss have you experienced or witnessed during extrication activities? Submit your report to today to keep others safe.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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