Extrication Zone, Firefighter Training, Firefighting, Technical Rescue

Advanced Extrication Techniques

By Leigh T. Hollins

From the 2009 vehicle extrication e-Newsletter, sponsored by

Some vehicle incidents require advanced techniques for patient rescue, but firefighters must remember that these techniques will not always work on every vehicle. There are many types of vehicle construction, such as conventional frame, wishbone frame, unibody, and others. Also, the amount of vehicle damage, the tools available, accessibility, and other factors will come into play. Always evaluate whether you can accomplish the goal of the advanced technique–to save the life a victim or victims by using greater knowledge and advanced tactics.

Keep in mind that if an advanced technique is not progressing, say within five minutes or so, try a different plan. Always have a Plan B in the back of your mind so you can think: “If this doesn’t work, this is what I am going to do next.” Don’t stick with a plan if it is not working.

Cedar Hammock (FL) firefighters developed the Florida Floor Jack (FFJ), an advanced technique for accomplishing vehicle extrication. It should be used if a vehicle was involved in a front-end collision and the patient or patients are submarined under the dashboard. Typically, you would do a modified dash lift or a dash roll, but the FFJ was created for a situation in which the vehicle is overturned. In this case, you have an upside-down vehicle and a patient entangled under the dashboard with pedals or the dashboard pinning the victim’s legs. This is a situation for which you would consider the FFJ.

It is important that the extrication techniques have a name so that firefighters trained in a certain technique will be able to identify it, no matter where they are in your region, your state, or anywhere around the country. .

The FFJ lets you lift the floor while leaving the remainder of the vehicle down on the ground or other surface on which you are working. You do this by using spreaders and stabilizing the vehicle with cribbing and so forth.

The first part of the FFJ for a four-door vehicle is a “Side Blitz” (side removal).  The “Side Blitz” is another name that can be used to develop common terminology. If it is a two-door vehicle, remove the side door. That is normally enough to remove a victim from an overturned vehicle; but if you determine that the victim is also entangled underneath the dashboard, you would employ the FFJ technique.

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(1) The Side Blitz.

By making some relief cuts in front of the A post and lifting the floor upward with hydraulics, you leave the roof and the rest of the car on the ground or the surface on which you are working.

When you do all this cutting, you will be cutting the A post and/or the B post. It is imperative that you evaluate the vehicle and the areas where you will cut these posts.Then, you will “Rip n’ Strip” (another common terminology term) away the plastic and trim, looking for the inflator assemblies for the side curtain air bags in some of the newer vehicles. When a side curtain bag is present, it is not imperative that you know exactly where the inflator is located. What is imperative is that you know that there is no inflator assembly in the area you are cutting. So, wherever you cut along a roofline or near a post, Rip n’ Strip the plastic and the molding pieces away and look to make sure an inflator assembly in not in the path of your cut. That is very important!

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(2) The Florida Floor Jack.

Another advanced technique is called the “Oyster Cracker.” It was developed by New Jersey firefighters who faced a difficult extrication challenge and employed unconventional tactics to accomplish their goal. This technique was described in ”Improving Patient Access at Extrication Scenes,” Mike Daley, Fire Engineering, July 2003.

Use the Oyster Cracker technique when you have an overturned vehicle with the roof crushed in and the victim/victims are pinned between the roof and the tops of the seat backs. 

First, do a “Side Blitz” on a four-door car, or remove the side door if it is a two-door car. Again, in most cases, this will provide enough room so you can remove the victim from the vehicle. However, if the victim is entangled between the top of the seats and the roof in the overturned vehicle, removing the side door will not be enough, and you will need additional room to remove the victim. This is where the Oyster Cracker technique comes in.

Basically, you will be holding the roof on the ground and raise the rest of the vehicle off the victim as you support the lift with cribbing or struts and provide additional room within the vehicle. When you do this, you are also going to cut the A post; the B post; and, in the case of a four-door car, the C post. Rip n’ Strip where you plan to cut.

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(3) The Oyster Cracker.

It is important that your learn and practice these advanced techniques. I know it is difficult to learn a technique by reading about it and looking at a picture. I encourage you to try these techniques on junk cars and practice them.  If you have access to the Internet, view our related Training Minutes videos to get a better idea of how to perform these techniques at those incidents when the vehicle is overturned and victims are pinned inside and cannot be removed with conventional side tactics alone.

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.