By Dave Dalrymple
The dynamic hazards increase each year for firefighters and first responders at motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), so it’s increasingly important for members to have timely and pertinent critical information on scene about the vehicles involved. Hazards and vehicle technology issues–such as motive power, safety systems, and vehicle construction and materials–have multiplied rapidly over the past decade. Firefighters preplan structures and plan for mass-casualty incidents. Considering the numbers of dynamic hazards and issues with vehicles today, isn’t it time we had the necessary details of a vehicle’s construction and safety systems right there with us on scene to help us make the right decisions?
In the late 1990s, Holmatro first produced a book and a companion CD, The Rescuer‘s Guide to Vehicle Safety Systems, that gave the rescuer information on vehicle safety systems, dealt with alternative-fueled vehicles and how to secure them on scene, and provided some tactical tips for tool evolutions. Next up was Moditech’s Crash Recovery System® software, a database of transparent cutaway vehicle diagrams that identified the various hazards and concerns, and color-coded and realistically depicted them and their actual locations on the vehicle. Initially PC-based, it is now available in Mac format.
Both these products brought technical information about vehicles and how to manage the hazards out into the street (photo 1). But the real progress has come with advent of the smartphone and tablet computers. Truly handheld and protected in a weatherproof and streetproof casing, these devices now have applications (“apps”) that let you gather information on the MVC’s dynamic hazard, the vehicle itself. Most of these apps are available on both Android- and Apple-based systems. Some are free and some have a minimal cost involved for download and usage. So let’s go through the various extrication apps that are currently available today.
iCRS Lite (photo 2). The basic version of iCRS is available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad and soon for the Android-based phones and tablets. Although the versions of CRS and iCRS are much more in depth, the Lite version offers color-coded identifications of the various vehicle hazards, along with a graphic depiction of each and and its location within the vehicle itself (photo 3). The format is arranged by manufacturer then by vehicle. This app is extremely informative for a minimal cost.
Extricate (photo 4). Targeted specifically at alternative-fueled vehicles (hybrids, electrics, compressed natural gas, and hydrogen), this app is available on both Apple and Android platforms. It uses the Moditech database for vehicles and uses basically the same color coding and graphical depiction of the hazard and its location in the vehicle. The app enables you to view the vehicle from the top or from the side and uses the same format as iCRS Lite for finding vehicles. This app is extremely informative and it’s free.
Extraction Zone and Extraction Zone Pro. (photos 5-7) Available for both Apple and Android platforms, the basic version of this app is free, whereas the Pro version has more information and has a cost to it. It uses the same approach as iCRS Lite and Extricate: transparent cutaway vehicle diagrams with the various hazards color coded and graphically depicted in the actual location in the vehicle. A unique feature allows you switch it into a night mode, changing colors for an “easy on the eyes” perspective.
QRG (photo 8). Produced by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium at the University of West Virginia (photo 9), this free app is only available on the Apple platform at this time. Focused on alternative-fuel vehicles, this app takes a different pathway. It uses the same methodology as the other apps for identifying the proper vehicle, its hazards and their location on the vehicle (photos 10-12). In addition, it adds a few more sections on how to secure the vehicle, specific methodology on dealing with hazards, and actual photos of the vehicles themselves.
These are the current apps available for vehicle rescue purposes. Your smartphone or tablet can hold a tremendous amount of information in your hand on scene. Where is the battery? Got it! Where is the side curtain gas cylinder located? Found it! Where are the ultra-high-strength reinforcements so we can avoid cutting into that area? I see it, so move the tool higher up the A post. Technology is truly grand, especially when it works, but there are tools out there that can shave off time to help us meet our goal–a better patient outcome!
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 fireengineering.com.