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.


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.