Despite the fact that crash severity is on a downward trend during the past 10 years, motor vehicle accidents are still one of the top sources of fatalities and injuries in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is why fast and efficient vehicle extrication is such an important factor during rescue operations at the scene of an automobile accident.
However, vehicle extrication is not something that anybody can do. An emergency responder must be trained and knowledgeable in the process, in the use of the equipment involved, and the anatomy of the different types of vehicles before he can even attempt to join an extrication team, let alone conduct a patient extrication.
Stabilization: The First Step in Vehicle Extrication
In any emergency situation, securing the area within a particular radius around the accident is the first priority for rescue teams. This is to guarantee the safety of not only the victims, but the responders themselves. The same goes with vehicle extrication; a rescuer cannot just dive straight into the extrication without securing the crashed vehicle first.
If the crashed vehicle still has all four wheels firmly planted on the ground, shoring is relatively simple and usually involves chocking the tires and rocker panels to restrict rocking or rolling. However, vehicles on their sides or roofs present more challenges as they are inherently unstable and have the potential for inflicting additional injury.
Therefore, vehicle stabilization is a process of assessing the potential movement of the vehicle and restricting that movement during the extrication.
Why rescuers should work first to stabilize a crashed vehicle
Vehicle stabilization prevents the vehicle from rocking or shaking, which can further harm patients with spinal injuries, or create new injuries. Responding personnel must also be protected from injury during the extrication.
Rescuers must maintain overall situational awareness and continuously evaluate and assess the scene while the rescue ensues. For this reason, bringing all the necessary rescue equipment is a must in order to adapt to any possible changes in the rescue strategy.
In these situations, rescue struts and mechanical lifts are useful in stabilizing the crashed vehicle while rescuing the patient.
Factors that can affect stabilization
Of course, the weight of the vehicle plays a big factor in trying to stabilize it. The goal is to identify the vehicle’s center of gravity and then establish the contact points between the ground and the vehicle as broadly as possible to stabilize it.
Aside from rescue struts, a rescuer's kit should also be equipped with cribbing, wheel chocks, hydraulic spreaders, cutters and rams, jack stands, a come-along, chains, rope, winches, and straps.
Once a vehicle is secured with rescue struts, the extrication can proceed in relative safety to both patient and rescuer to increase the likelihood of speedy and successful outcomes.
Chapter 8: Vehicle Stabilization, JBPub.com
Vehicle-Stabilization Techniques, FireEngineering.com