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Modern Devices Aid First Responders at Tractor Overturn Scenes

Modern Devices Aid First Responders at Tractor Overturn Scenes
Air bags, struts and other equipment make rescues easier.

When you find someone trapped under a tractor or an ATV, your first response should be to call 911 for help. In many areas of the state, the first responders will include a fire truck crew with tools that can help them free the person as quickly as possible. Then either the firemen or an EMT crew also dispatched to the scene can assess the victim. If the person is still alive, the can carefully remove them once the tractor is lifted off them, and then place them on backboards, all the while keeping their head still in case there are spinal injuries.

REAL AS REAL CAN BE: It's a mock demonstration, but the firemen treated it as a real situation. They were able to lift the cab structure enough with blocks and air bags to remove the victim.

In very touch-and-go cases where the victim is still alive, the first responders may call for a life-line helicopter. Several operate within the state. The advantage is that they can get a patient to a medical center where trained specialists can work on them much more quickly than if the patient was transported by ambulance. Rides in an ambulance also tend to be bumpy and rough, since most are built on truck chassis. That's not good if you suspect head and neck injuries.

The Wabash Township Fire Department of Tippecanoe County staged a demonstration with a real tractor and a 'dummy' victim recently. The department is volunteer, with one full-time employee and one part-time employee.

"The first step is to assess the scene for our safety as we begin to work," says Kevin McCombs of the Wabash Township Fire Department. They need to make sure electrical lines aren't down, and that volatile liquids aren't leaking from the tractor that could result in a fire. For the demonstration all fluids were removed from the tractor, and the batteries were also removed. Before removal, it was an older tractor, but a working tractor. It was equipped with an older style canopy.

The next goal is to stabilize the scene. In this case the tractor laying on its side was fairly stable. If the vehicle is not stable, the firemen can use struts that adjust to different lengths to stabilize it so it won't move while they're working to remove the victim.

The third stage is to remove the victim. This rescue team uses blocks of wood to get under each post of the cab structure. Then highly compressed air in a bottle dispenses air to lifting bags. The department uses three bags – one that lifts 19.5 tons, one that lifts 14 tons and one that lifts 22 tons. They are usually instrumental in raising the side of the tractor where the victim is trapped.

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