By Brian Zaitz
The stokes basket is device used to both immobilize as well as transport a victim over terrain. Once thought of as a specialized rescue tool, this basket can now be found on rescue engines, ladders, and squad companies. The stokes is traditionally used for carrying, lowering, or hauling of a victim either via a rope system or on-scene manpower, depending on the needs of the scene. Either way, it is important to properly secure the victim into the litter so as to minimize movement and provide a safe egress for both the patient and the rescuers.
Many of today’s stokes baskets come with preconstructed, commercial securing devices; these vary by manufacturer, however most are either clipped or latched into place so as to secure the victim to the basket. Although these are great and easy to use, they provide minimal security for the vertical lifting of the basket. For this it may be necessary to both use the commercial device as well as webbing to effectively secure the patient.
One quick and easy method is the shoelace or lacing method. To begin, use a 35-foot piece of tubular webbing and find the middle of the section. Next, girth-hitch the bottom, bringing a piece of webbing to each side of the basket. Lash the feet of the victim into the basket and then begin “lacing” the patient into the basket by wrapping the outside bars. This process can be made more efficient with two rescuers and can be quickly accomplished in a matter of a few minutes. Once to the top or head of the patient, tie each piece of webbing around the top bar with a clove hitch. Go back over the lacing and pull to tighten, note to allow patient to have breathing space. Once tight, tighten the system with the clove hitch and tie a safety knot. The patient is secured into the basket and ready for transport.
Stokes baskets provide a great tool for both technical rescue as well as movement of a patient on a rough terrain. Take the time to become proficient in stokes use and lashing of a victim into the basket.
Brian Zaitz is a 15-year student of the fire service and the Captain-Training Officer with the Metro West Fire Protection District. Zaitz is also an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC , an instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy, and the Board of Director with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He has several degrees including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelor’s in fire science management, and master’s in human resource development. Zaitz is also a credentialed chief training officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence as well as a student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.