NFPA 1670 Vehicle Rescue, Technician-Level Competencies – Part 2

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SUBJECT: NFPA 1670 Vehicle Rescue, Technician-level Skills and Competencies
TOPIC: Advanced Hands-on Training Skill: Floorboard Opening of a Side-resting Vehicle
OBJECTIVE: Make an opening in the floorboard of a vehicle while it is in a side-resting position
TASK: Given the scenario of a side-resting vehicle with a simulated person trapped inside, work only from the undercarriage side to make an opening in the floorboard sufficient in size for every member of the team to climb through and exit the vehicle from the other side.


Photo by Ron Moore
Making an opening through the undercarriage of this Dodge Durango would be difficult. You can see objects such as the frame crossmembers, drive shaft, exhaust system, and even the plastic fuel tank that would have to be removed before any floor access opening could be started.

Opening the Floor of a Side-resting Vehicle

This scenario requires a team to work only from the undercarriage area of a side-resting vehicle. From that vantage point, the team must make an opening in the floorboard of the vehicle of sufficient size that every member of the team can climb through it and come out from the other side. Whether a rescue team would ever have to do this at a real crash scene is not the point. The point is that many crashes have occurred where the team was required to make openings in the underside of the vehicle to access trapped patients or to at least free them enough to be extricated from the roof side of the vehicle.

To set up for this scenario, a vehicle must be placed on its side, preferably with the driver’s side down. The simulation is that a person, a driver, is trapped inside. Rescuers must make an opening in the floorboard to access this “patient.” For training purposes, everyone will climb through the hole when it is completed.


Photo by Ron Moore
After the initial “punch hole” was made with a halligan tool, the electric reciprocating saw is able to enlarge the opening. This crew is cutting an opening that is two feet by six feet in the rear floorpan area.

The tactics for creating the opening in the floorpan of the vehicle include cutting your way or prying your way through the floorboard structure. You will be dealing with various thicknesses of metal, along with an assortment of items such as the frame or uni-body structure, exhaust system, drive shaft, steel tube lines and cables, carpeting and insulation, bolts and brackets. The best results come from a combination of cutting and prying your way through this material.

The floorboard opening procedure must begin with an undercarriage size-up. You need to find the weakest “link.” The weakest point on the floorboard of a sedan vehicle is typically the area where the rear-seat passengers place their feet. This area generally consists of just a metal floorpan and some carpeting. This is not true, however, with all vehicles, especially minivans with the new stowable seat or cargo area in the floorboard. Once your weak area is located, it may be a relatively easy area to make a two-by-six-foot opening rather than a square two-by-two-foot opening. It’s your call. You have to get every member of your team through the opening, so consider that when planning your work.


Photo by Ron Moore
Once you have a starter hole in the floorpan, a power spreader or even a ram can be used to tear open the floorboard.

Once the area you intend to breach is identified, an initial “punch hole” is needed as a starter point for the floor opening. Use a pick-headed axe or a halligan-type tool for this. From that initial hole, you can enlarge your opening by cutting with an air chisel or reciprocating saw, for example. The alternative is the “brute force” method, which involves sticking the tips of a power spreader into the starter opening and simply tearing the floorpan apart.

Once the metal floor is removed, cut away any carpeting, insulation and electrical wiring you may run into. Move any interior components such as a seat or seat cushions to clear your opening even further.


Photo by Ron Moore
This crew cut through the rear-seat floorboard area and created a “door” in the floor to allow members to pass through. Note the carpeting that is being used to protect the cut edges.

Each member of the team must then climb through the hole and exit from inside the vehicle. Use a top-side door or a broken-out rear window, for example, to get out of the vehicle.

There is a safety caution worth repeating because of the side-resting vehicle: Rescue personnel should never kneel when working close to a side-resting vehicle. Always maintain a squat position; bend at the knees. With this posture, if the vehicle would shift or a tool slip or fail, you are in a better position to spring away from the hazard. If you are kneeling with your knees touching the ground, you’ll be trapped!

TASK: Given a side-resting vehicle with a simulated person trapped inside, work only from the undercarriage side to make an opening in the floorboard sufficient in size for every member of the team to climb through the opening and exit the vehicle from the other side.


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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