Vehicle Considerations

Operating at motor vehicle incident can range widely from a simple medical run to a multi vehicle crash with entrapment and a vehicle is on fire. What ever we think about happening can potentially happen on any given day. This is why it is important to always be prepared for anything while being able to remember what you can do to mitigate and stabilize an incident. All departments have different procedures whether an engine, a truck, or a rescue respond. In some smaller departments equipment may be limited to just an engine where the need of a rescue may come from a mutual aid agency. No matter how you look at it almost every scenario involving motor vehicles will be multi agency incidents where fire, police, and medical units may be operating together. Communication and understanding every agencies role is vital to the success of every call.

Positioning the apparatus is the most important component at an incident because it sets up where and how members will be able to safely operate on the roadway. In some areas departments have great relationships with their police departments who may assist with shutting down the roadway for the duration of the call. In other areas fire and medical units may have to provide their own coverage by strategically staging the rigs. First due units should consideration components such as an adequate working space between the rig and the scene, making sure that hose lines or hydraulic tools will reach the vehicle, and if space should be left for other specialty units to make the working area.

Motor vehicles are unique case because they are contain the same products found in a home, hazardous materials of the fluids in the components of the vehicle, and anything else you could imagine. Being that vehicles are mobile the stability of a vehicle should always be a concern for the safety of your crew and the patients involved. A car fire may initially appear to be a quick operation but if the vehicle begins to roll in a direction then the problem gets worse. During vehicle extrication stabilization is one of the first steps in the operation and should be thought about for simpler incidents as well. Again, depending on your response area you may have to assist with patient care or attempt a rescue prior to the arrival of specialty units.


New technology in hybrid vehicles has created new locations for coolant heat storage tanks.

The engine company is traditionally responsible for extinguishing the fire and mitigating the incident. By thinking out of the box and applying some basic elements of physics an engine company can begin rescue company operations prior to their arrival. In the event a “door pop” is need to remove a door, an engine crew may use a “come-along” or “hand-winch” to pull a door far back enough to perform a rapid packaging of a patient. Here one end of the winch is secured to a wheel or part of the front end of the vehicle and the opposite end is hooked to the door near the edge or around the window frame. In order for this to work the latch must be function so that the winch is able to create enough tension to free the doorway; if not hydraulic rescue tool would be necessary.

Additionally ground ladders and high-rise packs can be used to lift a vehicle to free a patient under a vehicle. By using at least two high-rise packs as a fulcrum, a ground ladder can be placed under a vehicle (1-2 rungs) and the leverage will lead to the one side of the vehicle to be lifted. This operation could be used when airbags or other lifting equipment is unavailable for the operations. These two tips can potentially save some time when waiting for additional units and prepare a patient for transport by medical services.

While operating at incidents involving motor vehicles always be aware of your surroundings and what other items may be in the vehicle involved. With the ever-changing world we live in today, responding to a potential terrorist influenced incident is becoming more probable. What appears to be an average car fire may develop into a vehicle that is rigged with chemicals or other intentionally hazardous materials. The same principle applies to hybrid and specialty vehicles. Always take the time figure out what you are working with before making intricate decisions. Accidentally cutting through the electric wiring in a hybrid vehicle may lead to you becoming part of the problem due to electrocution. Always remembers to check your department’s procedures when determining how to operate on roadways, what resources respond on certain assignments, and what resources are available in your area.