When training on search, victim removal often gets very little attention. Victims are most often found in one of two places: a path of egress or in a bedroom. Logically, if the victim were 5-10 feet inside the front door, we would simply drag him/her out quickly. But if the victim is found in a bedroom behind a closed door we must be careful not to do additional harm to this victim. We say it often on our classes, “If you crawl through a smoky, hot hallway and open up a bedroom door and find my mom and you take her out the way you came in, you may have just committed murder.” It is important that we remember the civilian in unprotected. We must consciously recognize when conditions in a tenable room with a victim are better than where we just came from. Maybe we just close the door and wait for conditions to improve. Or maybe we make the choice to take the victim out the window. To have this as an option crews must be proficient with window lifts and ladder removal.
As for victim drags, we must know how to do this and “Just make it happen” is not a plan. Our plan should revolve around dragging a victim 10-20’ (to the front door if in a path of egress or to a window if in a tenable bedroom.) The plan needs to be executable under stressful conditions. A plan involving knot tying isn’t a good option because during stress induced tachycardia, when our heart rate nears 115 BPM, we begin to loose our fine motor skills. For this reason if you carry webbing or rope and plan to use it for victim removal we recommend having it pre-tied in a loop.
The way we drag a victim out is typically dictated by the position they are found. Cramped conditions and furniture will often make it difficult or impossible to “butt spin” a victim in order to get into a favorable position. For this reason we must have a headfirst and feet first plan for dragging. Drags over carries are recommended because it is generally safer for the victim. Not only does a carry change the rescuer’s center of gravity making falls more likely, but carries also put the victim’s neck in a more venerable position if the rescuer were to fall.
Feet First Leg Drag-This drag uses the victim’s legs as handles. The rescuer reaches on the outside of the victim’s legs getting the elbows behind the knees. The rescuer squeezes into the body. The heaviest portion of the victim stays on the ground. If the victim is still breathing this keeps him/her where the coolest and cleanest air is. (Note: While the rescuer is moving backwards he/she is often lead by the other firefighter and they are moving from an area they just came from.)
Head First Arm Lock Drag-Bring victim’s arms above their head and cross their arms at the forearms. The rescuer reaches through the arms (under) with his/her dominant arm and then locks the other arm on top (sandwiching the victims arms together).
Feet First Girth Hitch-The use of 7’ prussic tied in a loop (double fisherman’s knot) can be used in this drag. Place the loop over the victim’s feet and girth-hitch it around the feet.
Head First Sheet/Webbing Drag-For larger victims it may be necessary to help get a grip. You can use a sheet, drapes or even pants all found in a room to help with the drag. Place whatever you are using at the victim’s head. Either sit the victim up or use the arm drag to get it behind the victim’s shoulders. Bring the ends of the sheet (or whatever you are using) underneath the armpits and up to the head. (Note: Webbing can also be used in the same manner. I’ve found you need to double up your webbing for the right length.
When doing drags, body positioning is important. When pulling the victim, It’s quickest to move in a tripod position. The most efficient stance is front hand down and front knee down, back leg up. This allows you to squat the victim’s weight rather than row it. Get out their and practice on real sized victims and be prepared when your chance for a grab comes!