The Single Relief Cut: Saving Time with Dash Displacement

By David Dalrymple

This article will explore a twist on dash displacement that helps at dash roll and dash lift evolutions. And, it saves time as well as fellow rescuers. Although I am not going to go in depth on the crumple zone cut, this important evolution severs the front crumple vertically in the front rail between the front suspension and firewall. The entire fender evolution is critical for any dash displacement; if it is not done correctly, the dash evolution with either fail or not produce the results you desire.

Three of my fellow instructors—Tony Cusimano, Adam Berger, Corey Keepers— work in an urban area of Northeast New Jersey and regularly extricate patients from today’s vehicles. The B post tear and dash lift maneuver are the most common tactics they used to disentangle patients. However, they have incorporated relief cuts to their tactics, which were previously done for the dash lift evolution only.

Start by making a relief cut to the A post. Previously, we would do an entire roof removal or flap. As years progressed and dash lift evolutions became more popular, we removed only six inches on the A post of the side we were lifting. However, with vehicle construction getting stiffer and stronger, my instructors noticed that if you made one single relief cut close to the top of the windshield, the A post section would swing clear of the windshield and the vehicle when you began the dash lift evolution. Now, you still must strip trim to check for SRS cylinders and structural reinforcements. It appears to work well because of roof structures and edges being much stronger than in the past. Even with this one cut or when performing a dash lift on each side, the roof barely deflects or moves downward at all.


The other change in relief cutting is in between the vehicle’s hinges. Here, look for the grommet hole, where wiring passes from the vehicle’s dash to the door. Many times, we make two cuts about four inches apart, and we then grab the tab of metal with the spreader and pull that tab outward, thus making a gap. That gap is where we insert our spreader tip to lift vertically. The key with this relief cut is that it needs to be between the hinges and as deep as possible into the firewall. Use the bottom hinge like a platform from which to lift off; the deeper the cut goes into the firewall, the easier it will make the lift or dash roll because vehicle manufacturers are now reinforcing the lower firewall/footwell area.


Next, cut those wires and boot with a hand tool. Then, take the spike end of a halligan and push the entire boot inside the opening or pull it out of the vehicle; this will act as the start of the relief cut for the dash lift or dash roll. Make sure you have hard protection down into the footwell to protect the patient’s feet and lower extremities. Open the cutter as wide as possible and insert one blade into the grommet/boot hole as far as it will go, while the other blade goes around the rest of the lower A post/footwell area. Close the cutter and make a complete cut; make sure it cuts all the way through! Next, remove the cutter, open it up as wide as it can, insert one blade into the grommet/boot hole as far as possible, and place the other blade as deep as it will go into the wheelwell area.


This cut can be a little tricky; make sure that the cut is complete and as deep as possible. You can back out and make another cut similar to the forward cut if it is not deep enough. If the cuts are done properly, you will be surprised how easy and rapidly a dash displacement can truly go. Remember, the reason why a dash lift works so much better than a dash roll evolution is that the dash reinforcement bar which runs through the dash from side to side is tied to the floor and the firewall.


Also remember that it is okay if the footwell goes downward before the dash lifts. Space is space; sometimes making space downward can be an added bonus, especially if the feet/lower legs are trapped. Don’t be stuck in the mindset that the only way things work well is if the vehicle move upward. Creating space is truly what you want to achieve!

To all rescuers, time is of the essence out on the street. With hazards taking more and more scene time away from you, you must be on the cutting edge for every response.

Photos by author.


DAVID DALRYMPLE is a career EMS provider for the RWJUH Emergency Medical Services in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and a volunteer firefighter/EMT/rescue technician for Clinton (NJ) EMS/Rescue. He has been actively involved with emergency services for 27 years. He is the education chair of the Transportation Emergency Rescue Committee-US (TERC), is a certified international level extrication assessor, and serves on the Expert Technical Advisory Board of the IETRI as their road traffic accident advisor. Certified as a NJ fire service instructor, he has been teaching transportation rescue topics for more than 16 years. He is the executive educator for Roadway Rescue LLC, an educational team for transportation rescue training. He is an ICET (Netherlands) certified registered International SAVER instructor. He writes on "Extrication Tactics" for Fire Engineering and contributed to Fire Engineering's Handbook for Firefighter I and II (2009). He received the 2007 Harvey Grant award for excellence in rescue education. He is featured in "Training Minutes" on vehicle extrication on


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