National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Vehicle Stabilization

Extrication incidents can be extremely fast moving when actual and suspected traumatic injuries are involved. With each passing minute that the patient is trapped, survival begins to dim. If the patient is conscious, their cries and calls can be heart wrenching. In this week’s featured firefighter near-miss report, we don’t know the patient’s priority, but we do learn the situation goes from stable to fluid in an instant.

“We responded to a motor vehicle accident with injury. The victim in the driver’s seat was restrained. A small amount of extrication was required. The fire crew was already on the scene, stating they needed a medic in the vehicle. The vehicle was off the road on top of a hill with a pond on both sides of the hill. I arrived on the scene and got in the backseat to hold c-spine and do patient care during extrication.

The vehicle had been chocked, but no one had checked to see if it was in park or of if the emergency brake was on. As the extrication started, the vehicle started moving down the hill toward the pond. The patient and I were in the vehicle…”

Scene safety is preached during every extrication class. However, the neatly packaged term almost becomes an afterthought as crews get drawn into fighting to save someone’s life. The reality of the hazard doesn’t change because we don’t perceive it. Overlooking critical scene stabilization actions early in extrication, leads to interruptions later in the event that are not good for patient and care provider alike. After you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. Compare your last extrication with this week’s report. Were there any similarities that placed you and your crew in a near-miss situation?
2. Is the same member of your crew always assigned stabilization responsibilities or does it vary incident by incident?
3. Does your department have a clearly defined stabilization process that personnel are to follow at extrication incidents?
4.Is every firefighter equipped with a valve stem remover for rapid deflation of tires?
5. Are your EMS crews permitted to enter vehicles prior to stabilization being completed?

Have you avoided an injury by ensuring that good stabilization took place? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow.

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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