Motor vehicle accidents continue to be rated as one of the top causes for casualties and injuries in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even with the latest technological advances in vehicle designs to improve safety, a few minutes of delay in vehicle extrication can prove fatal to the person trapped inside a crashed vehicle.
Vehicle stabilization should be the foundation of every successful extrication procedure. The resting position, shape, and size of the vehicle are factors that one needs to consider when strategizing on how to stabilize.
Stabilizing a Crashed Motor Vehicle: A Two-Step Approach
Vehicle stabilization can be accomplished by a systematic two-step approach: primary stabilization, wherein a rescuer creates quick points of contacts using step cribbing, chocks, and wedges to achieve low-side stability; and secondary stabilization, which uses rescue struts to achieve high-side stabilization and widen the stabilization footprint.
Aside from learning the necessary skills to perform these two steps, emergency responders should also know when and where to use the corresponding equipment for a successful vehicle stabilization. Placing vehicle stabilization equipment haphazardly can unintentionally cause it to shift during the extrication process. Furthermore, it can inadvertently interfere with the rescue operations or become impossible to reposition should you need to lift the vehicle to make extrication easier.
Addressing the Common Challenges in Vehicle Stabilization
Murphy’s law can probably sum up all the possibilities in a vehicle extrication process — anything that can go wrong will go wrong, unless rescuers create a feasible plan that can effectively reduce the potential risks.
Stabilization must consider the orientation of the victim with respect to the resting position of the vehicle as well as accessibility to the patient for immediate medical care. Some extrications also involve some load lifting to gain access to the victim.
However, lifting objects can be hazardous if the load’s weight is not seriously considered and computed while devising the rescue strategy. Hence, accurately estimating weight can have a serious impact in stabilizing crashed vehicles for rescue purposes. As a guide, compact cars usually weigh around 4,500 pounds, midsize cars or sedans weigh around 5,500 pounds, light trucks, vans and SUVs usually weigh around 7,200 pounds, while Level II commercial vehicles range from 20,000 to 80,000 pounds.
The vehicle’s weight plays a role on its current stability in resting position and its potential effect on the stability while a rescue is in operation. For example, a vehicle that is in an upright position on a relatively flat road is much more stable than a vehicle on its side in a culvert.
Another concern is the proper identification of structural points when using struts. Bumper covers, roof, deck lids, and outer body panels should be removed to gain access to the vehicle’s structural frame before applying struts.
By applying the fundamental rules in vehicle stabilization and extrication, you can improve the chances of a successful rescue operation.
Extrication Basics: Vehicle Stabilization, Firehouse.com
Tips for Effective Vehicle Stabilization: March, FireFighterNation.com