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Pickup Truck Autopsy - Part 1

The purpose of this two-part article is to provide you, your rescue personnel and your department Training Officer with an increased awareness of the unique rescue challenges presented by pickup truck vehicles.

The purpose of this two-part article is to provide you, your rescue personnel and your department Training Officer with an increased awareness of the unique rescue challenges presented by pickup truck vehicles. Pickups have features and equipment that differ from what we are used to with typical automobiles. In this University of Extrication feature presentation, step-by-step procedures are detailed so departments may conduct effective hands-on training with acquired pickup trucks. If a pickup can be obtained for training purposes, this extrication information will allow crews to maximize their hands-on skills training.

Pickups have become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, of the nearly 15.2 million vehicles purchased in the United States in 1997, four of the top ten most popular were pickups. Ford Motor Company's F-Series pickup, with sales of 746,111 vehicles in 1997, has remained the best selling vehicle in America for the past 16 consecutive years. Ford averaged selling one F-series pickup every 40 seconds of every single day throughout the entire year. The second best selling vehicle in America in 1997 was also a pickup truck, the Chevy C/K model. The seventh most popular vehicle sold in the US. was the Dodge Ram. Holding down tenth position was the Ford Ranger pickup. Totaled together, these four pickup models sold almost 2 million models in the US. in 1997.

This article is illustrated with color photos (coming online soon) depicting rescue evolutions performed on 1998 model year GMC Silverado Z/71 pickup trucks. Each truck was equipped with all standard equipment and had the extended cab feature complete with a passenger's side third door option. The vehicles were donated for this specific educational purpose by General Motors.

A complete hands-on training video program of all extrication procedures performed on these vehicle is available from American Heat Video Productions., Dallas TX. The two-lesson video program is organized into several segments and comes complete with written training materials. American Heat can be contacted at 800-845-2443. The pickup truck rescue programs are #732-0050 and #732-0112.

The Pickup Truck Autopsy Checklist
The basic philosophy of a pickup truck hands-on training session is to systematically perform as many rescue assignments on this one vehicle as possible. Upon the conclusion of the training, you'll find there won't be much of the truck left. Participants will have accomplished most all tasks that can be expected to be needed at an actual crash scene.

To begin the rescue training, our first objective is to explore various vehicle stabilization and hazard control procedures.

TASK A: Stabilize truck on level surface, resting on 4-wheels
Our first assignment requires chocking and blocking. Try to get the cribbing deep under the sides of the truck, contacting the full frame rails of the chassis. Crews will suddenly realize that the typical pickup truck sits higher off the ground than an automobile. Normal height step chocks may not be tall enough to stabilize the truck. Additional cribbing is generally necessary.

Remember to utilize large wheel chocks similar to what is used on fire apparatus to prevent rolling of the truck. Pickups typically have larger 17-inch diameter tires. The truck can actually roll right over a small 2 x4" block of wood placed in front or behind the tires. Just think, what if you had to stabilize Bigfoot at a monster truck rally?

TASK B: Force hood at front latch
Gain access to the engine compartment without using the normal inside cable release mechanism. Work towards the hood latch and attempt to pull the cable near the latch. The Hood Tool, a cable grabbing tool designed by a Tulsa, Oklahoma firefighter is outstanding for this evolution.

TASK C: Disable vehicle electrical system/battery
It is always desired that we take away the electrical power early in our rescue operations. In the real world this is not always possible. For training purposes though, this task should be emphasized as to its' importance at actual crash scenes. Although the battery was actually removed prior to the start of the training session, crews should simulate that it is still intact. The negative battery cable can be actually cut or crews can simulate disconnecting it first, followed by the positive cable. It is important that this task become second nature for fire and rescue crews. It is an important safety concern for responders working at the crash scene.

If your department policy is to cut battery cables, always cut the SAME cable twice. This removes a chunk of wire and make it nearly impossible for the ends of the cable to ever re-contact each other accidentally. If you disconnect and remove the cable at the battery post, insulate it with layers of protective tape so there is no bare metal showing.

Now utilize your available resources to tip the truck onto its' edge, driver's side down.

TASK D: Stabilize vehicle on edge
Along the undercarriage, note the body-on-frame construction and the potential for the bed of the truck to be rather flimsy, offering little support.

When the vehicle is fully stabilized, discuss what worked and what didn't. Tear down the stabilization equipment and have several other crews work with different tools and equipment to complete stabilization in a different manner.

When complete, remove all stabilization equipment and place it back in service in the Tool Staging area. Now, roll the pickup truck completely onto its' roof.

TASK E: Stabilize vehicle in roof rollover position
The truck will rest either horizontally or will be engine heavy with the front of the hood touching the ground. Crews begin stabilization of the truck is this rollover position. Again, have several crews try different tools and equipment within your inventory. Discuss what worked and what didn't, then tear down the stabilization equipment and return it to the tarp.

Now, utilize pulling equipment such as a come-along, winch or local tow truck operator, to roll the truck over onto its' four wheels. This is difficult because the tendency is for the truck to slide on its' smooth roof. Pre-planning by the assigned personnel can control this unwanted action.

Our next skills training assignments concentrate on gaining quick and initial access to the interior of the vehicle. These jobs would allow medics to contact the patients for initial assessment at an actual crash scene.

TASK F: Glass removal-side and rear windows
Assign one crew to remove all side and rear tempered glass windows and render the window openings safe. Require that each window be removed with a different tool or technique. Do not allow the same tool to be used twice. Typically five tools will be required. Your acquired truck may have separate vent or wing windows. With this configuration there are actually seven different glass sections to be broken out. Be creative and think 'sharp pointed'.

Require that precautions be taken to protect simulated 'patients' from any injury due to your glass breaking techniques. Be gentle and remember, safety first.

If you really want to see something neat, place a spark plug inside a small paper bag and smash the ceramic top section with a hammer. Take the small porcelain nuggets out of the bag and throw them at the window glass. You'll be absolutely amazed at the results!

TASK G: Glass removal-windshield
Assign a crew to protect the simulated patient and medic in the front seat of the truck. Have this team completely remove the windshield glass and render the opening safe.

After initial access evolutions have been completed, our training focuses on creating sustained access openings on each side of the truck. We'll want to open, widen and remove the doors.

TASK H: Driver's side front door open at latch
Have a team simulate that this door has been tried and is found jammed. Utilize your normal rescue tools and techniques to force the door open at the latch side.

TASK I: Widen the driver's front door
Once opened, a crew should be assigned to widen the door on its' hinges but not remove it from the vehicle. As the door is manually forced beyond its' normal opening arc or as the door is pulled around towards the front fender, pay attention to the opening at the driver's seat area. Rescuers will soon realize that once a front door goes beyond 90 degrees to the vehicle, the actual door opening does not increase significantly. This is important to remember. At a crash scene, it may be just as effective to simply bend the door forward rather than take a longer time to remove it. It's your call.

TASK J: Remove front door at the hinges
Now to simulate the requirement for total door removal, a rescue crew removes the door completely from the truck.

TASK K: Driver's sidewall removal
If the acquired truck has a standard cab or extended cab without a third or fourth door, a crew is assigned to work at opening and removing the entire sidewall structure from the front door Nader latch in the B-post to the rear cab wall. With an extended cab, this is simply multiple layers of thin metal and some inner trim material. It can be completely removed, cut and folded rearward as if it were a door, or cut and laid flat to the ground like a ramp.

If a truck at a crash scene had only one door on each side but had a crew cab rear seat, this task would open the entire sidewall on each side of the truck allowing for removal of the rear seat patients through the side of the truck.