Randy Schmitz, senior firefighter for the Calgary, Alberta, Canada Fire Department and one of the judges for the event, explained the requirements and judging criteria. Teams consist of six members – one command officer, one member for patient care and the remaining four members being working members doing the extrication effort.
Teams are judged during their operation on 13 points including: incident command, patient care and safety, path of patient egress, tool knowledge, the amount of metal moved/removed, how the member doing patient care enters the vehicle, vehicle stabilization, knowledge of supplemental restraint systems and their control, glass management and teamwork between the extrication team members.
Firefighter Schmitz knows what to look for in these types of competitions — he heads the Alberta Vehicle Extrication Association and specializes in vehicle extrication as he instructs other firefighters. He and the other judges look at the steps the teams take to accomplish the ultimate goal – safety for all involved, teams and patients. Tool knowledge played a crucial role in the success for the team and the scenario.
Teams competed in three categories: unlimited that allowed any type of tool use to include hydraulic, battery-operated, hand-operated and electric-powered; limited with only hand-operated and electric-powered tools and a rapid category using the unlimited format. All categories had a time limit — unlimited and limited utilized a 20-minute time limit involving some kind of automotive calamity and a patient in the vehicle. The rapid category time limit consisted of a 10-minute time limit with a critical patient involved in the scenario.
Watching several teams attack their objectives within the category of choice, several ideals became apparent. The communication between team members, knowledge of vehicle construction and tool use appeared as a resounding theme between all groups. Some moved as well-oiled machinery with strong command presence; others used knowledge and technology to accomplish the tasks at hand. All performed well and should be proud of the way they represented their respective agency.
One of the teams of interest, the Palm Harbor Fire and Rescue team from Florida flew around their scenario, a Ford Aerostar minivan with the top crushed and a utility pole inserted from front to back against a jersey barrier used during road construction or improvement with a patient entrapped. This team participated in the limited category for the scenario. They utilized a clamshell technique – removing the posts and framework, high-lift jacks to stabilize the roof while stabilizing the four points of the vehicle near the wheels. The medic entered, began treatment and preparing for removal of the patient.
This particular team is very familiar with this competition. Having competed since 1996, they claimed the crown in 2006. District Chief Dan Zinge oversees this team from Station 6 C-Shift as the station houses the team with all three shifts participating. This particular team is new, as four members joined the team three months ago. The team competes the same way they train for real emergencies — they keep it simple. This allows techniques to become second nature — better for the team and the patient as well.
The Palm Harbor department protects a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial properties with highway issues as well. They train for the probabilities of incidents involving vehicle collisions along with traditional firefighting topics.
Winners were named later in the day after all the teams finished. Competition will resume next year in Canada as the event itself rotates between our neighbors to the North and the USA. Moreover, learning what other agencies are doing with the same circumstances we face is a great learning tool. What can be brought home and shared will improve the home operation in many ways. It can open ways to train to stay up on the latest. Keep up the good work, teams!