As we pulled out of the firehouse at 0300 hours, the dispatcher informed responding units that they were receiving numerous calls for a serious motor vehicle crash with multiple trapped patients. I relayed the information to the backseat to notify them that we would be going to work. From that point, each member begins to dig into his or her mental playbook in preparation for what awaits. We start to view the accident in our minds; will it be like the last? Will it be something we have not seen before? There are so many variables: (How many trapped, vehicle types, number, and condition of patients, vehicle orientation, entrapment type, and hazards) that just scratch the surface of a never-ending tactical checklist.
This brings up a question, are you prepared for what awaits you on the modern extrication scene?
In reality, this is a preview for a call type that happens every couple of minutes nationwide. From the smallest volunteer department to the largest career, are the patients in either area more important than the other? In my humble opinion, a human life is just that, a human life. While teaching I commonly hear, “We only run a couple accidents that require extrication a year and therefore don’t train on it as much.” This thought process could actually be no further from the truth. In my opinion, the less pins you run, the more training you should be conducting.
Two things are extremely high on my training “importance” scale. The FIRST is the ability to make the training as realistic as possible. What do I mean by that? Let’s say your department is staffed with three man engine companies and a three man heavy rescue. On the training ground do you approach staffing realistically, or use twenty-five firefighters working together to mitigate the scenario? If you use the latter of the two, there is no wonder the “flow” of the extrication scene is not there. We have to practice our trade with the staffing hand that we are dealt. If you have six members in the first eight minutes, then train as such! Realism also directly relates to tool selection for the assigned task. For example, if you are responding on an Engine Company that is outfitted with a combi-tool, does it benefit you in training to use the larger hydraulic tools from the Heavy Rescue every time or should you work on the proficiency with your assigned tools? I think without question, you know my answer.
The SECOND point is finding the best extrication methods for YOUR dept. Yes...extrication methods will vary by department. There are so many variables ranging from staffing all the way down to equipment. I see so many departments gravitate toward large department tactics instead of taking the time to find out what will work best for them. For example, if your department is staffing a 2-man rescue engine as your primary extrication rig, is a full roof removal your "go to" tactic for quick access? Probably not. Now get out there, put your hands on the equipment, create department specific methods, and get ready for the next run.
ISAAC FRAZIER is a Special Operations Lieutenant with St. Johns County Florida’s Heavy Rescue “Squad 4”. First due to the deadliest stretch of roadway in the nation, Frazier teaches from personal street experience providing tried and true tactics. Frazier is the owner of Tactical Advantage Training and creator of the course Tactical Extrication. Frazier travels nationally sharing his passion teaching fire and extrication courses. Frazier is a Fire Officer II, FL Paramedic, Special Operations Officer, Florida State Instructor, FLUSAR Tech, Diver, and FL Hazmat Tech. www.TrainTacticalAdvantage.com