Apparatus Extrication the Next RIT?

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

Hopefully you noticed this month’s cover photo of a hands-on training (HOT) evolution at FDIC International 2015. Depicted in the photo are attendees participating in the Heavy Vehicle Extrication HOT evolution preparing to stabilize a fire apparatus.

It was sort of an impromptu component of the class. The truck was available, and there aren’t many occasions when firefighters have a chance to practice extrication from a fire apparatus.

I’ll be honest-I was pretty psyched when I heard the truck would be used during the final evolution. It fit perfectly with what the class was all about-the challenges of extrication from heavy vehicles like over-the-road trucks and tour buses. Although it goes without saying, extrications from these heavy vehicles bring unique challenges and, in many instances, unique equipment to the table. Part of what the class is all about is providing an opportunity to train on extrication from vehicles that are hard to come by. There aren’t many, if any, training academies that have the resources to acquire heavy vehicles. So, the fire apparatus fit right in. It’s a heavy vehicle, and it has a variety of different construction features we won’t find in other heavy vehicles on the road.

Now, why was I so psyched? First, I haven’t seen a fire apparatus cut apart during training, so what it would take to complete an extrication from this truck intrigued me. According to the instructors, the plan was to force the door, remove the door, clam shell the roof, and roll the dash. The instructors were hoping for a challenge. As one remarked to me, “I am an officer on an engine, and I sure hope that A post is difficult to cut.” Second, I saw this as a whole new component to training that falls into the category of “saving our own.”

Shortly before FDIC International 2015, an apparatus accident in Georgia seriously injured four firefighters. The apparatus in question left the roadway and hit a tree. One firefighter was trapped. How often do we drill on how and when to call a “Mayday,” on self-rescue techniques, and on RIT? The one area we do not drill on is fire apparatus extrication. One reason is because we don’t often come across available fire apparatus to use for such training. When we do, the apparatus, much like the vehicles we often use in training, does not feature the most recent construction or safety features. Pulling up on an apparatus accident with entrapment in the fire truck isn’t that different than pulling up on an accident and realizing a friend is trapped in the car or, worse, a loved one. Emotions run high and, in many cases, we’re looking at something we never figured we’d look at. Also, it’s not like we have an automatic RIT dispatched whose sole purpose is to go in service if something goes wrong and we get involved in an accident.

But, as great as this opportunity was, I find myself troubled that it is so necessary today. We are crashing apparatus at an alarming rate for any number of reasons-some our fault, some not. Shortly before this writing, a tanker rolled over en route to an incident, but it wasn’t until the end of the incident when an apparatus returning to the station discovered the accident. The crash resulted in a line-of-duty death. Imagine pulling up on that and what would be going through the crew’s and officer’s minds. How would you approach that vehicle if you’re first on scene and you’re an engine company?

Although it’s sad that it has become so necessary, we must prepare through training to rescue one of our own after an apparatus accident. The folks running the HOT evolution readily admitted none had worked on a fire apparatus before. It was an education for all. We need to treat extrication from fire apparatus the same way we treat RIT. It is all part of the same overarching topic of saving our own.

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