Big Truck Extrication - Part 2: Assessment and Stabilization
David Pease, Carolina Fire/Rescue/EMS Journal
The fire department parked their first in engine about 20 feet from the tanker. I was riding EMS that day, and parked our unit about 200 feet from the crash. The fire chief was befuddled as to why we parked so far away. We advised him that if the truck exploded, we would just catch the firefighters as it blew them to us. They now use that call as a training example of what not to do.
As you know, tankers can be hauling most anything, so always look for the placard. It may not be clearly visible from your initial approach, so you may have to move around to better see it. A good pair of binoculars on your rescue vehicle is well worth the purchase. If you see a placard indicating some type of hazardous materials, or there is some type of product on the ground, you might have to wait until a hazmat team arrives if you and your personnel are not trained or equipped to that level to begin any type of rescue. Keep in mind that cargo trailers can also be hauling hazardous materials as well. Your job is to scan and look for these hazards before approaching the scene.
Live stock trailers can pose an entirely different challenge and will not be covered in this article. Trucks pulling flatbed trailers with construction materials also pose a problem, especially if the load has come loose and may be on the highway or other vehicles. The load may still be secured, but shifted in a way that the straps may be overloaded and could be compromised. A closed box trailer could also have had the entire load shifted and be extremely unstable. Remember, trucks can weigh from 20,000 pounds to over 140,000 pounds.
As with any motor vehicle crash, you must also assess the basic hazards as well. Look for power lines, fuel spilled, traffic conditions, bystanders, etc. Also, from our earlier article, trucks use air pressure for their suspension and braking systems. Damaged lines will usually cause a mechanical spring system to lock the brakes in place. You should not attempt to release the piggyback canister as the spring inside, if released, could cause serious injury. This system will at least prevent the truck from moving further during extrication. Remember to use your hot, warm and cold zones when assessing for hazards at a big truck accident.
Our next step is going to be stabilizing all the vehicles involved to prepare for our extrication. We all carry cribbing on our rescue trucks, but do we carry enough to stabilize a large truck crash involving multiple vehicles or even several big trucks? Potentially, we could need a big truck load of cribbing or a lumber yard near by. Most of us carry enough cribbing for a standard motor vehicle crash, but we “get by” when it comes to large trucks.
There are several types of cribbing “systems” on the market. When handling large truck rescues, you may want to consider a jack type system, as it will greatly reduce the cribbing needed to be carried on your rescue truck. These systems work quite well and set up relatively quickly with training.