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'Crash Course' Quick Drill Series - Part XXIII

Crews were tested at two accidents, when the skin of the door peeled away from the body, causing a new challenge for extrication crews.

An interesting collision occurred with two GM vehicles in separate incidents. During impact with another vehicle, the passenger's side rear door of a late-model Cadillac essentially lost its' outer skin. The side-swipe crash caught the rear door at the front edge and tore away the outer metal. This completely exposed the inner workings of the door. As the skin peeled rearward, the actual frame of the door itself twisted and moved rearward. The door was jammed in the closed position.

Although this was a minor incident with no injuries, it brings to mind the reality check that rescue teams may have to confront jammed doors that have had their outer door skin peeled away on impact.

Such was the case for Plano, TX, responders at the scene of a collision involving a Camaro/Firebird vehicle with a fiberglass outer door skin.

In this case, the driver was trapped and the jammed door had to be forced open. Much to the surprise of the rescue team, when force was applied by a power spreader, the entire plastic skin immediately fell off. Rescuers had to squeeze the door high at the latch end and manually pry downward to create a sort of pry point. The power spreader was re-inserted and with a tip working in contact with the inner portion of the door, the door opened at the latch.

What would you do if you were confronted with a situation like these "skinned" doors? If you're not sure your crew could handle this unique challenge, then re-create it in training.

Take a junk car and cut away all the door skin with an air chisel tool. Then shut and lock the door and have your team experiment on what works or doesn't work well for this "skinnless" door. You're simulating a Saturn, Corvette, or any one of the uncrashworthy vehicles on the road today. Try latch and hinge attacks to see what you like. Develop a Plan A and a Plan B. If you can open the skinned door, then you'll be better prepared to attack a jammed fiberglass, plastic, or thin-skinned door in the real world.

Crash Course Teaching Point: Rescue teams should be able to open any jammed door, regardless of the structural condition of the door or the material that the door skin is composed of.

Be Informed...Be Ready...Beware!

RON MOORE, a Contributing Editor, is a battalion chief/fire training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He is the author of the University of Extrication series, featured each month in Firehouse Magazine and is the moderator of the University of Extrication interactive forums on In 1984, he received the International Society of Fire Service Instructors George D. Post Instructor of the Year award for development of the first school bus rescue training program in the United States. In 2000, Ron was awarded the International Association of Fire Chief's "Excellence in Rescue" award. You can reach Ron by e-mail at