Tips for the Vehicle Rescue Officer

Vehicle rescues are probably the most common type of technical rescue incident we encounter as first responders.  However, we still have to stay on top of our games.  In this blog post, we will discuss some tips and tricks that you can implement as an officer at your next extrication.


Performing a scene size-up is key.  The officer should do a 360 degree walk around the accident scene, if possible.  Identifying and mitigating scene hazards is obviously important, but for the purposes of this post we are going to focus on the rescue size-up.  The rescue size-up focuses on how we are going to safely and efficiently stabilize the vehicle, access, disentangle, and extricate the patient.  It is imperative that the officer mentally begins to develop multiple plans of attack for each of these tasks.

The officer must be willing to receive input from other first responders on-scene, but ultimately the incident will progress the smoothest if there is an officer with strong leadership skills that can make decisions on the tactics employed.  I have been at many vehicle rescue incidents where there seemed to be multiple individuals making decisions, and it always resulted in confusion, frustration, and ultimately a slowed rescue operation.

One of the most important individuals you must receive input from at a vehicle rescue incident is the EMS provider-in-charge.  A lot of times we think that there are only two modes of operation at a rescue scene – rescue and recovery.  However, the reality is that included in that “rescue” mode are several different variables.  Whether the patient is stable or unstable is one of them.  If the EMS provider on-scene tells you the patient is unstable, then it is time to pick up the pace and extricate as quickly as possible.  If they are stable, then you may have time to perform all the disentanglement techniques and create as much space as possible.  The only way you can make the best decisions for the patient is to have strong communications with EMS.

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

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