Tech Rescue

5 Essential Extrication Tools

Issue 9 and Volume 8.

As part of a kitchen table discussion, particularly for departments on a limited budget, responders commonly ask the question, “If you could only have several extrication-related tools, what would they be and why?” It would be wonderful to have a fully stocked heavy-rescue vehicle at every scene with any tool we could dream of at our disposal, but that’s certainly not possible most of the time. As such, keeping selections simple and mastering those tools allow responders to successfully mitigate most extrication scenes in a timely manner. As a responder, instructor and student, I developed a list of five essential tools for the extrication scene.

1. Cribbing
Cribbing is necessary to stabilize the vehicles that require tactics for the benefit of the patient and the safety of responders. Although it may come in a variety of materials, sizes, colors, weight classifications, etc., all cribbing serves the same purpose: to hold the vehicle in position during operations. Stabilization starts with chocking the wheels of a wheel-resting vehicle or wedging a side-resting or roof-resting vehicle. This prevents any initial movement while responders place cribbing in the appropriate positions to prevent movement during operations. Cribbing can also be used as a base for lift operations and can support hydraulic tool use in certain situations.

2. Strut System
A strut system, preferably one with the ability to lift, can serve multiple functions during extrication incidents. The obvious function is the stabilization of a side-resting vehicle. The inability to stabilize a side-resting vehicle that requires disentanglement tactics is risking excessive movement of the vehicle and compromising patient and responder safety. Strut systems can also be used to stabilize vehicles in a variety of positions, and to lift vehicles and objects. Taking into account the ratchet straps, clusters, chains and other components of a strut system, additional tactics not related to the struts themselves are possible.

3. Patient/Rescuer Protection
The primary concern of any emergency response is the safety of the responders and the public. During extrication incidents, responders should use hard and soft protection to protect the patient and any interior rescuer from potential hazards posed by disentanglement tactics. This philosophy should continue through the removal of the patient by hardening the egress (properly preparing the path of removal by removing glass and debris, evaluating exit strategies and securing exits; Regardless of what type of edge-protection equipment or products you use, try to store them in bags or containers that are staged with other equipment or positioned in a safe area just outside the hot zone—any convenient location where rescuers will see them—and remember to use them when clearing the removal pathway. Kits can be purchased or departments can make their own depending on specific needs.

4. Crash Kit
There are several crash kits available from various manufacturers, and the one thing they have in common is their ability to provide small hand tools necessary for a variety of tasks. Although responders typically associate disentanglement tactics with hydraulic tools, the tools carried in these kits set the stage for safe and proficient operations. Having a kit allows these tools to be staged near the hot zone for easy deployment. Some tools carried in crash kits:
•    Tempered and Laminated Glass Removal Tools: Prior to completing disentanglement tactics, all applicable glass must be managed. Tools designed specifically for this application are more appropriate than traditional forcible-entry tools. They create less shock to the vehicle and limit patient compartment intrusion.
•    Pliers, Adjustable Wrench, Screwdrivers, etc.: Tools such as these can be used to disconnect the 12-volt battery system; remove interior trim at all push, pull and cut locations; disassemble vehicle components, etc.
•    Wire and Seatbelt Cutters: Almost any disentanglement tactic requires wires and/or seatbelts to be severed for the complete removal of components. Having easy, quick tools readily available makes quick work of these tedious tasks.
•    Razor Knife: A sharp blade can be used to expose upholstered areas during operations. Examples may include the carpet during floorboard tactics, the headliner during roof tactics, and seat cushions during seat tactics.

5. Hydraulic Set
Responders should have an appreciation for hand tools such as hi-lift jacks, reciprocating saws, air chisels, etc., and their applications during extrication incidents. However, they are typically not as efficient as a well maintained set of hydraulic tools. A spreader, cutter and ram can make quick work of even difficult situations. With the quantity of hydraulic tools available in most areas, multiple sets of tools will likely be available to you. During training sessions, an emphasis should be placed on utilizing the hydraulics as the primary disentanglement tools and integrating hand tools into those operations as appropriate.

In Sum
There’s no denying that every responder would love to have every tool possible. Having the right tool for the right job certainly makes many tasks easier. However, it also means that responders will have to be proficient with their use. A well-trained responder who has this set of tools can adapt to almost any situation and successfully mitigate the entrapment.

Sidebar: Extrication Gear Tests
Check out these extrication-related Gear Tests on
When It’s Good to Be a Knucklehead: Special features make Streamlight’s Knucklehead work light perfect for fire or rescue ops
Better than Kevlar? HexArmor’s Chrome series rescue gloves are exceptionally resistant to cuts, punctures, abrasions–& more
Mini Multi-Tasker: Boker’s Plus VOX Access Tool is a sturdy, compact, prying & glass-cutting tool
The Extrication Animal: The RHYNO Windshield Cutter & kit make quicker—& safer—work of vehicle glass

Sidebar: Your Extrication Calendar!
Sample training topics on new vehicle technology
By Desmond Fulton

It always helps to break down new and evolving information into training bits so it’s more manageable. And on that note, I think the best place to start is a straightforward training schedule that focuses on one particular topic. Following is a sample timeline of extrication training that you can introduce to your department.

January: Airbag technology
February: Under-rides
March: Hybrid vehicles
April: B-post blowout/batwing
May: High-pressure/low-pressure airbags
June: HID lighting
July: Hand tools
August: Fully electric and alternative fuel vehicles
September: Stabilization with struts and box cribbing
October: High-strength steel
November: Truck tunneling
December: Working with wreckers/tow truck drivers and large-vehicle rigging

*Alternative topics: Hands-on training with ratchet straps, come-alongs, high jacks, bottle jacks; making a third door out of a two-door vehicle, and how to effectively extricate someone from  the back seat of a two-door coupe.