Extrication scenes are unique. They’re one of the few environments where people rush towards danger. The risks are serious, presenting a number of safety challenges to first responders, from the coordination of responding teams and stressful accidents, to using dangerous heavy machinery.
A strong extrication plan involves plenty of preparation, so we’ve gathered our best safety tips for extrication scenes.
1. Proper Planning & Protective Equipment
A winning extrication safety plan starts before you reach the scene. This means having the right tools and equipment for the job – bunker gear, helmets, safety gloves, and eye protection. In addition, while the right tools are important, the quality of this equipment is imperative.
For extrication gloves, durability, comfort, and protection must be key considerations. Gloves should be comfortable enough for all-day use and durable enough to withstand wear and tear. Similarly, extrication scenes have their own unique risks, like cut and impact injuries. The best extrication gloves solve this by providing cut resistance and impact protection.
For extrication scenes, we recommend the Extrication R-314 glove. Not only is it extremely durable, thanks to Kevlar stitching for reinforcement, but it offers level 2 cut resistance and puncture protection, which saves hands from sharp edges, blades, and other extrication hazards.
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2. Evaluate the Scene
As responders, it’s tempting to head straight to victims once we’ve arrived at the extrication scene. But this instinct can lead to mistakes. Be sure to evaluate the scene on arrival, searching for hazards, like fire, fuel leakage, crowds, downed power lines, dangerous materials, and effects of weather.
Start with the serious safety risks – circle the extrication scene and ask yourself, “what hazards take priority?” If you’re the first officer to arrive, you’ll be searching for vehicles involved in accidents, if any engine(s) are running, the number of victims, flow of traffic, types of safety restraints in vehicles, and tools needed for extrication. With these questions answered, you’ll have an accurate read of the scene you can share with your team upon arrival as part of your pre-extrication briefing.
3. Reduce Struck-By Injuries
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget your own safety. But struck-by injuries are a serious concern – Florida State Highway Patrol reported 1,793 struck-by incidents between 1996 and 2000, resulting in five deaths and 419 injuries1.
You can reduce the likelihood of struck-by injuries by establishing apparatus positioning. The apparatus – often a fire truck or ladder truck – should be placed between the incident and traffic, creating a safe area for loading patients.
Some departments even place medical and extrication equipment in compartments on the extrication-facing-side of the truck, giving responders access to tools within the safe zone. For added safety, set up emergency cones and flares, and wear high-visibility protective clothing, including gloves.
4. The Outer Circle
The next two steps involve the outer and inner circle – terms coined by Steve Kidd and John Czajkowski, of the “Carbusters” series. To establish these areas, you’ll work from the outside, in – just like the site evaluation. Think of the outer circle as the area surrounding the extrication zone, somewhere between 25 and 100 feet in diameter.
The goal is to leave enough room for responders to move in quickly and extricate victims, while close enough to allow for the extrication officer and medics to communicate. Be sure to leave enough room in the outer circle for needed tools and equipment. Your team will need a safe area to work and transport patients, so don’t forget to clear the area of potential dangers, like fuel spillage or electrical hazards.
5. The Inner Circle
Once the outer circle is established, you can size-up the inner circle – the most important (and chaotic) area of the extrication scene. The inner circle includes the crashed vehicle and the surrounding area, typically 5-15 feet. Sweep the scene for potential hazards, check the underside and interior of the vehicle, and make sure the ignition is turned off.
This area is often crowded with medical personnel, responders, and equipment. Keep this area clear of non-essential people and equipment to maximize your working space. EMS personnel should stay “on-deck” in the outer circle, leaving room for responders and extrication tools in-use, but close enough to jump into action, once needed. This will optimize your chances for a safe and successful extrication.
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1 - Emergency Responder Safety Institute - http://www.respondersafety.com/