By Les Baker
Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Removing a roof is a fairly easy and uncomplicated task. Responders simply protect the patient and interior responder, remove or displace interior trim at cut locations, and—through the coordination of the disentanglement supervisor—sever the post and remove the roof to an area outside the hot zone.
However, when that same roof is placed in a restricted area, this tactic can become tedious and complicated. Restricted areas include under-ride situations, roof-resting vehicles, side-resting vehicles against objects, etc. Tactics that are appropriate for restricted roof situations can also be useful when the extrication is “normal,” but you have limited staffing.
Example: Photos 1 and 2 show an under-ride situation. Although all occupants escaped this collision with relatively minor injuries, the roof could have been removed toward the passenger side or rear of the vehicle. Many times, the initial impression at under-ride incidents is that the roof can’t be removed because there’s not enough clearance. However, by severing the posts in the most suitable location for removal from restricted areas, it can actually be accomplished with relative ease.
General Roof Removal Guidelines
This article concentrates on removing the roof from restricted areas, but general roof-removal duties apply. A few key points that were outlined in my November 2011 column include:
- Prepare the last post by removing trim and identifying any significant features.
- Place hard and soft protection between the patient/rescuer and cut location.
- After receiving notification the post is ready to be severed, the Disentanglement Group Supervisor places personnel in position to hold the roof and gives orders on the movement.
- 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.
Identifying Cut Locations
Although accessing cut locations may be difficult in restricted roof situations, it’s even more difficult to physically remove the roof from the vehicle using normal cut patterns. Traditionally, we’re taught to cut posts low so potential sharp edges from the remaining portion of the post are not a hazard.
An important concept in restricted roof removal is making the cuts in the appropriate location on the posts. A great friend and well-respected extrication rescuer, Tom Winkler, educated me on terms he uses during training classes, extrication competitions and real-world incidents to identify specific areas of the vehicle in relation to certain tactics. These terms apply not only to roof removal but also to other tactics, including interior ram operations, third doors, door tactics, etc.
Responders can use the following terms in relation to the posts’ cut locations.
- Roof line—Responders have been aware of this term for many years. It refers to the area where the structural components of the roof connect to the posts.
- Belt line—This is the area where the alpha post connects to the firewall and runs along the top edge of the door(s) and the bottom of the rear side window in two-door vehicles. It represents where the average individual’s belt line would be when compared to a wheel-resting vehicle.
When removing roofs from restricted areas, efforts should be made to create as much clearance as possible for every inch of movement. This allows for a smooth removal and lessens the chance that the posts may get caught on the remains of other severed posts during removal. A secondary effect of this procedure: there’s not much post left to drag over the patient compartment area.
The orientation of the vehicle and the direction of roof removal will dictate whether the cuts are placed closer to the roof line or belt line. This is the case whether the movement of the roof is forward, rearward, toward the driver side or toward the passenger side.
Two more designations that will help facilitate the operation:
- The leading edge of the roof is the side of the roof clearing the vehicle first.
- The tailing edge of the roof is the side of the roof that must move across the patient compartment.
You should remove more of the post on the leading edge of the roof; you should remove less of the post on the tail edge of the roof.
Photo 3 involves a four-door passenger vehicle with major roof intrusion. Due to the location of the stabilization equipment and the clearance from the rear tandems of the cargo tank truck, the roof should be removed toward the driver’s side. To facilitate this, responders should cut the driver side posts close to the belt line and the passenger side posts close to the roof line.
In Photo 4, responders are removing the roof in the direction of the driver’s side from this roof-resting vehicle. They lifted the vehicle, severed the driver side posts near the belt line and are in the process of severing the passenger side posts near the roof line.
A Final Word
Situations where the roof has to be removed under restricted conditions can present many challenges. By appropriately severing the posts in a manner where roof movement in the desired direction also creates space between the roof and the vehicle, responders can safely and proficiently remove the roof and create an appropriate path of egress.
Author’s note: A special thanks to Wynn Fire Equipment in Corbin, Ky.
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