I was an expert witness for a wrongful death suit, and offer some personal advice. The one thing you do not want is to be a defendant because you failed to stabilize a vehicle in an non-emergent situation. Having worked with DOD personnel I have come up with (2) types of emergencies: Emergent and Non-Emergent.
Non-Emergent would mean the life of the responders and victims are NOT in immediate harm’s way. An example of emergent would be, but not limited to military personnel in a hot zone under fire. This would be a true rapid extrication scenario. And, we could come up with situations, especially after 9-11 that would also be appropriate in the civilian emergency services as well, such as building structure showing signs of immediate collapse.
If you choose not to stabilize in these situations, you have to be able to justify your decision and live with the outcome. When a case is being built, the attorney(s) will most likely subpoena all your department training records and SOPs/SOGs pertaining to vehicle rescue. The instructor(s) presenting the class/training may be asked for their credentials, experience and any lesson plan that was used. Paper trails and documenting training are very important. Departments should never allow the so called “paper drills”, I think we all know what I am referring to. Lawyers have a field day during depositions and cross examinations, the officer or instructor affixing their name will be held accountable.
The attorney will go to a recognized extrication standard(s) and compare protocols recommended by the standard(s) and that of your departments SOPs/SOGs. If an extrication task as important as stabilization is omitted from your SOPs/SOGs it will open up Pandora’s Box. I believe jurors are more sympathetic when policy, and a recognized standards are followed.
Should an agency’s member(s) deviate from your department’s SOPs/SOGs, this then can cause them personally be implicated. Your agency/township may not elect to provide you legal council because you failed to follow policy/procedure. It is imperative that members follow SOPs/SOGs, this protects not only your department, but the member personally.
In my classes I explain the lesson learned to this event, and tell every student in my basic skills class if you have a tool in your hand the vehicle best be immobilized and stabilize prior to extrication.
Common sense goes a long way, but if you need to cut, push or pry, you best stabilize a vehicle, end of discussion. If you do not, and an injury or death results, there surely will be a court case. Don’t be on the wrong side of the bench. Most people think responders are exempt by Good Samaritan laws; I believe this does not pertain to gross negligence.
As a suggestion, when writing policies, I feel it would be wise to have the township’s attorney review the document for proper wording and content.
I hope this helps,