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'Crash Course' Quick Drill Series - Part XVIII

In your next drill, require the team to gain access to the engine compartment without using the latch.

In the "old" days, it seems that when fire/rescue personnel needed to open a hood, the preferred tactic was to attack the front hood latch. The basic Halligan or pry bar worked most of the time. Now we encounter materials around this latch area that aren't very strong. Plastic, fiberglass, lightweight aluminum are probably what you'll be prying off of and they don't help us out much at all.

This damaged Toyota Camry, involved in a head-on collision, provides us with a good opportunity to discuss alternative hood opening tactics. If you look closely at what the crash has done for you, a wise responder will see the crush around the hood latch and realize that's a problem. There isn't much substantial stuff to pry off of. A look rearward however reveals some thin hood hinges that are completely exposed; yours for the taking.

A most efficient tactic to open this hood would be to actually leave the hood attached at the front hinge. Don't even waste your time there. Attack the hood hinges instead. Cut them with a cutter. Twist them off. Saw through them with a hacksaw; whatever it takes. You can cut both hood hinges and actually lay the hood forward using the front hood latch as if it were a hinge.

The hood does not even have to come completely off. It will lay forward enough to give you total access to the engine compartment and the vehicle battery which is probably why you needed to get into the engine compartment in the first place.

Crash Course Teaching Point: Practice alternative engine compartment access techniques at your next rescue drill. Leave the hood shut and latched. Require the team to gain access to the engine compartment some other way. Hopefully they will pry the hood up at the rear corners, expose the hinges, cut them and lay the hood forward. Two firefighters, two minutes maximum!

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. Ron has presented two TrainingLIVE webcasts: The Top 10 Challenges of Vehicle Rescue Today and U of E: School Bus Emergencies To read Ron's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Ron by e-mail at