By Les Baker
Published Friday, November 4, 2011
| From the November 2011 Issue of FireRescue
Considering the power and size of hydraulic cutters, it’s fairly easy to sever a roof post. Even with less powerful tools, such as reciprocating saws and air chisels, responders have the knowledge and training to complete the task. The actual post-severing receives a lot of attention and training; however, the last few steps to successfully remove a roof are often overlooked or taken for granted—and these steps are just as important.
During training sessions, responders may become too accustomed to severing the roof posts without needing to complete subsequent roof-removal actions. Everyone has witnessed roofs simply flipped over, left in place, allowed to fall into the vehicle, etc. But it does no good to sever the posts successfully only to struggle with roof removal a few moments later. Carelessly trying to remove the roof can result in further mental and/or physical injury to the patient, injuries and/or strains to the rescuer, and longer extrication times.
Two related issues should be addressed when completing roof tactics: 1) Which post should be identified as the post to sever last when completing a partial or complete roof removal? and 2) What steps do you take to successfully remove the roof?
The majority of the time, when completing a partial or complete roof removal, the post closest to the patient should be severed last. Here’s why:
- By leaving that post until the end, responders don’t have to commit as quickly to holding the roof in position for fear of it falling onto the patient. This also applies to the interior rescuer as well because they should be relatively close to the patient providing medical support.
- The post closest to the patient and/or interior rescuer requires the most resources. Hopefully additional manpower will be available to maintain hard/soft protection, hold the roof in place and watch for any safety issues.
Even if the disentanglement group supervisor chooses to use various personnel and tools to sever multiple roof posts at one time, the closest post should be left until last. It’s important for the supervisor to understand that this type of operation is faster paced, potentially leading to confusion with personnel. They therefore need to ensure that personnel understand the orders. If it’s not apparent which post is the closest to the patient, identify the one that provides the most support and sever that one last.
After responders identify the last post and sever the other posts first, they should then follow specific guidelines for roof removal:
- If not already completed, prepare the last post by removing trim and identifying any significant features, such as pre-existing holes, supplemental restraint system components, reinforced areas, etc.
- Place hard and soft protection between the patient/rescuer and cut location.
- Prepare the selected tool, notify the disentanglement group supervisor and wait for orders to continue. Because the other posts have been severed, responders can choose the most appropriate tool for the remaining post.
- After receiving notification that the final post is ready to be severed, the disentanglement group supervisor should position personnel to hold the roof and then give orders on the movement (e.g., “After the cut is complete, we are going to raise the roof one foot, clear any remaining components, move the roof to the rear of the vehicle, and place it in the debris pile.”).
- Make the final cut and remove the roof as instructed.
- Harden the egress by covering the remaining sharp edges and clearing the hot zone as much as possible to decrease slip and trip hazards during patient removal.
If only a few personnel are available to remove the roof, they may be forced to raise it and walk alongside the vehicle. This presents several issues for responders. First, due to the weight of the roof and its position away from the body, you must work to avoid back injuries. Try to use correct posture as much as possible. Second, common cribbing locations require responders to step over or around certain types of cribbing that protrude from the side of the vehicle. When few resources are available, always remove the roof slowly and carefully. Rest the roof on the vehicle if necessary, and reposition it during the removal as long as it does not compromise the safety of the victim and/or interior rescuer.
When sufficient manpower is available, it’s easier to pass the roof. Position additional responders along the removal path, and pass the roof instead of moving with it. Once it reaches responders who are clear of the vehicle, they can remove it to the debris pile.
There is much more to removing a roof than simply severing the posts. Responders should be proficient at determining which post should be severed last, and taking the appropriate steps to relocate the roof safely and proficiently. Set this standard during training sessions, and carry it out during extrication incidents that involve the partial or complete removal of the roof.
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