Steerng Column: Part 3 - Side-Resting Vehicle Column Evolutions

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Subject: Steering Column

Topic: Steering Column: Part 3 – Side-resting Vehicle Column Evolutions

Objective: Given the scenario of a driver trapped in a side-resting vehicle, driver’s-side down, the rescue team will demonstrate multiple techniques for the rescue of a trapped driver using tools within their rescue tool inventory.

Task: The rescue team shall place a vehicle in a side-resting position, driver’s-side down and complete two different column movement evolutions using two different tools or techniques; Plan A and Plan B. Each evolution shall be accomplished in an elapsed time not to exceed five minutes from start to finish.

Part 3 of our University of Extrication series on steering columns focuses on procedures for pulling a steering column when the vehicle itself is side-resting, driver’s-side down.

Early in the process of deciding on the most effective method to use to solve a “driver trapped†extrication problem, rescuers should take into consideration the type or design of steering column: standard column, rack-and-pinion, etc. The rescue officer should determine if a tilt or telescoping feature is present on the column. A steering column with a tilt or telescoping feature may be able to be manipulated enough that the victim can be freed or at least the victim can be provided with some additional “breathing†room as the rescue team sets up to move the column. In addition, cutting away the bottom portion of the steering wheel ring or removing the entire ring by cutting away the supporting spokes will provide additional working room along the abdomen and chest area of the trapped driver.

Since the vehicle is side-resting with the driver’s side down, it is not practical to “roll†the dash or “jack†the dash to free the patient; the driver’s door can’t be opened. Confronted with this scenario, options to free the driver include several “back to basics†evolutions that many rescuers may find themselves unfamiliar or uncomfortable with accomplishing.

As power rescue tool rams came into vogue years ago, many rescue teams essentially abandoned the tried-and-true column-pulling procedures that existed and worked quite well in the pre-power ram era. The use of come-along tools at rescue scenes has faded over the past years. Rescuers familiar with porto-power systems are a dying breed as most rescue companies have discarded these tools in favor of relying exclusively on power hydraulics. For teams with all the power rescue tool bells and whistles that manufacturers have to offer, even training in using power spreaders or power rams as pulling tools is almost a lost art today.

The side-resting, driver’s-side down entrapment scenario can be your wake-up call. It’s time to get back to basics! Jacking a dash is a fantastic technique for freeing a trapped front-seat occupant; my favorite. Rolling a dash is effective as well but in this specific situation, these preferred methods are not possible.

Rescue teams can train and develop alternative column movement techniques by placing a vehicle in a side-resting position and solving the trapped-driver scenario. You’ll need a rated anchor chain and a working chain for the column wrap, some wood cribbing and a pulling tool from your tool arsenal.

The anchor chain is attached to a secure portion of the vehicle’s front undercarriage structure. Once secured, cribbing is placed across the front end of the vehicle to spread the load across the crumple zone front end. A pulling tool such as the power spreader, power ram, or come-along tool is anchored to this front chain.

Chain that is also rated for the pulling capacity of the tool is wrapped low around the column as close to the instrument panel as possible and below any tilt-column knuckle joint. The chain moves over the instrument panel and out towards the front of the vehicle.

To make the effort of any pulling tool most effective, a sliding box crib is used. A sliding box crib consists of two pieces of wood placed parallel to each other running from the firewall towards the front of the vehicle. A third piece of cribbing, the “sliderâ€, is placed across the top of the two parallel cribbing pieces.

With the pulling tool positioned across the hood area of the side-resting vehicle, the front anchor chain is attached to the front of the pulling tool. The chain that wraps the column is placed over the top of the slider crib and then connected to the pulling tool.

As the tool operates, the chain tightens and the pull moves the sliding box crib towards the front of the vehicle. As the slider crib moves, it focuses the pulling effort of the tool directly into a lifting action of the steering column.

If using a power spreader, each pull is limited to the distance that the arms are opened at the start of the pull. If a power ram is used, each pull is limited to the distance the ram will retract. Make sure the ram is placed in a straight line. An extended ram is vulnerable to side stresses if it were bent over the front end of the damaged vehicle for example. If a come-along tool is used, the distance between the tool and the working hook is the travel distance limiting factor for each pull.

Let’s get back to basics. Unlike what you normally do to free a trapped driver, you have to admit, this side-resting scenario should serve as a reality check! Can your team rescue this patient as easily as if the vehicle were resting on its wheels on a level surface? Your training now will make all the difference when this scenario becomes your rescue reality.

TASK: The rescue team shall place a vehicle in a side-resting position, driver’s-side down and complete the column movement evolution using a minimum of two different tools or techniques; Plan A and Plan B. Each evolution shall be accomplished in an elapsed time not to exceed five minutes from start to finish.


Ron Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com “MembersZone†and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.

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