Floor Jack or Not?
Received a question from a fire department officer asking about the pros and cons of hydraulic floor jacks being carried on a rescue unit. The question was what about using them at an entrapment scene.
In all my travels over the years, I have encountered maybe a handful of fire department rescue units that carry hydraulic floor jacks for use at auto extrication and entrapment scenes. To carry this tool would be by far, the exception to what I see across the United States. There has to be a reason for this.
When questioned about how this repair facility, tire changing, vehicle maintenance tool actually functions at incident scenes, comments such as 'It's quick", It's easy to use", It wasn't expensive" are relayed to me. The same individual admits that they've never really used it in the Real World; they just think it would be a good idea.
On the other hand, when one really looks at this tool, there are potential reasons to doubt its usefulness and question the degree of safety that it offers to our members. The device is typically on wheels; fixed wheels on one end and swivel wheels on the other. That may make stability on inclines a safety issue. Remember, tire changing and body repair shops usually have flat, smooth, concrete floors; not asphalt, gravel, or soft ground like we might encounter.
The device has a 'hair trigger' release that will drop the jack's piston almost instantly. One wrong move by the jack operator and the victim or a crew member could be caught.
The tool does not fit into tight spaces like the tips of a power rescue tool spreader or a rescue airbag would.
Storage of the unit, assuming a crew is carrying a 5-ton or larger capacity jack, is an issue. These units are not designed to be folded or placed in a typical compartment. These larger lifting capacity units are also heavy in weight. The ergonomics of handling and carrying a floor jack is a consideration as well.
These issues and others could easily be evaluated by using a floor jack and completing several scenarios in a simulated realistic environment.
When I do find floor jacks at a fire station, they are typically provided to the members for vehicle maintenance tasks on vehicles while in quarters. Jacking and shoring tasks at entrapment scenes are left to more common vehicle rescue tools, designed for rugged environments and with familiar safety features incorporated into them.
What do you think...?
proabley no more dangerious than usung spreaders to lift.
And I'm not nuts about doing that either!
Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel
Theoretically, if you are cribbing as you go, it shouldn't make that big a difference. But I think a floor jack is not suitable for extrication use.
Originally Posted by EastKyFF
agreed -just making a point while he was talking about floor jacks, there are several 'suspect" tools.
Absolutely nothing wrong with floor jacks. We have one on the squad.
However, they are used only as lifting devices, not stabilizing. So lift an inch, and crib an inch. And if you need to life something quickly, they work great.
I've heard it used more for vehicle fires and fuel spills, when you want to lay a foam blanket down and get get under the car (or so I was told).
I think it is a great tool to have in the "tool box". No it will not fit all applications, however I believe it has a purpose. There is not one tool that will handle any and all situations, thats why rescue companies carry a vast compliment of tools. The floor jack has some significant lifting capabilities, low profile allowing access to limited spaces, quick to deploy. Lift a car off a "back yard" mechanic or pedestrian struck by car and is now under the vehicle. We as rescuers tackle complex and dangerous task, that is why we must understand and know our equipment limitations AND fully understand the task we are trying to accomplish. Any tool is unsafe if applied incorrectly, we must use the floor jack in a safe manner, not over rate its WLL and crib as we lift.
We carry two floor jacks on our rig and use them pretty often. They're much quicker to get into operation than an airbag setup and much more stable than lifting with the spreaders. They fit into pretty tight spaces (about 3 1/2" is the smallest), have a relatively long throw compared to other lifting devices (ours lift about 16 inches I believe) and usually don't require any cribbing to take up room before the actual lift. And as was also mentioned before, they're usually cheap and easy to find.
They do have some issues that might make them less useful to other companies. Like HeavyRescueTech said, they need to be used in conjunction with cribbing, which should the release should never come in to play if the need to reset comes into play (which I can't recall having to do - due to the long throw I mentioned before). They have a somewhat limited lift capacity - usually about 2 or 3 tons - which means theyre pretty limited in their uses - basically people under cars. The other issues I've seen are that they're generally not built to be bounced around on a rig hitting potholes at 30 miles an hour 2,500 times a year and need to be looked at pretty often to make sure the frames aren't bent, the wheels are still rolling and the lift plate isn't missing. They're also heavy and somewhat cumbersome and take up a good amount of space on the rig.
IMHO, the bottom line is if you're in an urban area running a couple of people under cars a month they're a really useful tool to have on the rig.
We used the floor jack the other day for a pt that was pinned and dragged for about a mile under the car. He need to be extricated right now. As others have stated lift and crib an inch. It was very quick the total operation was done within 5 mins of arrival. Much quicker then if we had set up the air bags.