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A team successfully extricating a live patient from the ‘Limited Pit’.

TERC USA – Transportation Emergency Rescue Committee

TERC is dedicated to providing todays emergency rescue personnel with the latest innovations, technology, and education in auto extrication and patient removal, through hands-on training and sanctioned extrication challenges. TERC – USA is an IRS registered 501 (c) 3 Not- For- Profit charitable education organization.

The basic concept of TERC is education and training in a competition setting based on real life motor vehicle crashes that have occurred on the worlds roadways. The scenarios that are based on these real-world accidents are set up for the competition, some are set up with real patients inside the vehicles, and some with mannequins for the more difficult scenarios. I will explain the actual details of the competition later in this article. Although some may call it a competition, it is a challenge. A challenge indeed, as some scenarios are set up to challenge even the most experienced teams of extrication technicians.

TERC is a member based organization that have committees in the USA, TERC USA, Canada, TERC Canada, and Sweden, TERC Sweden. Each committee is a standalone organization all with the same common goals and ideals. Each has an executive board, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and regional representatives throughout their respective countries. TERC USA also has subcommittees such as a judging committee, an educational committee, and a tool/manufacturer liaison.

What does TERC have to offer? It is the way we present our challenges and trainings to the members. Most firefighters train in extrication with vehicles on all 4 wheels down and go through all the basic evolutions, pop a door, push a dash, remove a roof, third door, etc. what we offer is real life accident scenarios. That’s what sets us apart from the mundane training, we offer complex, scenario based training. You can train anyone to pop a door, but, we train to think which is the best, safest, most efficient way to extricate a patient, plus it’s not just extrication, its scene size-up, scene safety, stabilization, glass management, incident command, time management, patient safety, vehicle hazards, new vehicle technology etc. We train and learn from some of the nation’s top auto extrication specialists. We see the latest innovations from auto extrication tool manufacturer’s. And we keep current with new vehicle technology and new vehicle materials.

A team being critiqued by the judges after their scenario.

A team being critiqued by the judges after their scenario.

TERC has its roots based in Canada. The following is a reprint taken directly from the TERC guidelines; Somewhere, right now, there is an automobile accident that has trapped its victim in the tangled wreckage. With advances in automobile design by todays automakers, methods for removing these victims are changing with each model year. In order to keep up with these changes, there must be a method of exchanging information between agencies responsible for the disentanglement of the victims. In 1984, Fire Chief Alan Duquis of the Office of the Fire Marshal, Ontario, Canada, originated the concept of an International Automobile Extrication Challenge and Learning Symposium. The number of transportation accidents was increasing both in Canada and the United States resulting in a higher number of deaths and serious injuries. This prompted Chief Duquis to provide a medium where an international forum of experts can come together and exchange information, ideas and life saving techniques. This medium would provide a wealth of information to all who attended. Everyone who participated would teach, learn, share, and develop lasting friendships with their peers from around the world. The International Association of Fire Chiefs sanctioned the Transportation Emergency Rescue Committee in 1986. This provided centralized coordinating body to promote the furtherance of extrication education.


The main objective is education! To learn (from one another), to teach (each other), to research new innovations, to try the latest tools, and most importantly to network with each other. At these events, lasting friendships are made by rescue personnel from all over the world. These friendships are reignited at the many events held around the country and the world, and many new friendships are developed at these events. These friendships have evolved into a community. The many, many, participants that attend these challenges are the true essence of the “brotherhood” of firefighters. It’s more like a family reunion when an event is held, but all are there for the same thing, to learn, to teach, to share their knowledge with one another. When the event is over, they bring back that knowledge to their own communities where the people they serve benefit from what they have learned. Now with social media so prevalent, that too plays an important part of sharing knowledge with one another.


Challenges can be local, regional, national, and international. Most challenges today are hosted in either the United States or Canada. But the concept has expanded to events held worldwide, such as Europe, South America, United Kingdom, and Australasia to name a few. These overseas events are managed by various similar groups to TERC such as Australasian Road Rescue Organization (ARRO), the United Kingdom Rescue Organization (UKRO) and several others. These groups have formed an organization called the World Rescue Organization (WRO).

The challenges are comprised of three “pits” The “limited pit”, the “unlimited pit”, and the “rapid pit”. As described earlier each pit is set up to mimic real world automobile accidents. The vehicles in the scenario are pre-damaged with heavy machinery as the scenario is “set up”. The pit is also set up with hazards that would be encountered in the field. These hazards can range from fixed objects, such as concrete barriers, fire hydrants, electrical or street light poles, to movable hazards such as downed power lines, motorcycles, haz-mat spills, propane tanks, etc.


Each team consists of 6 personnel, and each team has a dedicated Incident Commander who is the team leader and directs the control of his or her team. The team shall also have a dedicated medic/EMS person in charge of patient care. The other four team members are involved with vehicle stabilization, and tool work. Each team can set up and choose what tools that they will be using before their scenario. The team is then sequestered, as each team is not allowed to see what scenario is being set up before they can compete.


Limited Pit:

During the Limited Scenario, each team is given a total of 20 minutes to work using only hand and pneumatic tools (air chisels, sawzalls, hand operated hydraulics). Props can be used to simulate downed wires or fuel hazards, and concrete fixtures such as highway dividers can be used to block access into the vehicle making the teams “Think” of the safest and most effective way of removing the patient. Depending on the Competition a “Live” patient is usually present in the vehicle providing real feedback to the rescuer’s.

Unlimited Pit:

During the Unlimited Scenario, each team is given a total of 20 minutes to work using all available hand and heavy hydraulic tools (jaws of life). Complex scenarios are usually found during this event using multiple cars, props or concrete fixtures which will result in a “Mannequin” being used but is wired with microphones the medical judge can hear the dialog being given by the rescuers.

Rapid Pit:

During the Rapid Scenario, each team is given a total of 10 minutes and an identical scenario all around. During this time all hand and heavy hydraulic tools are allowed and a “Live” victim is present in the car. After a few minutes the live patient will simulate a rapid decline in health and rescue crews must work quickly and safely to extricate the victim. Again, props can be used to simulate different scenarios to allow the teams to explore other options to extricate the patient.

A complex ‘Unlimited Pit’ scenario being set up.

A complex ‘Unlimited Pit’ scenario being set up.


Each scenario is judged by a team of three judges/assessors. One judge assesses the incident command and overall control of the scenario, one judge assesses the medical/patient care aspect, and the other judges assesses the technical aspects, tool work, stabilization, etc., and all three judges evaluate the scenario as a whole also. The team sits with the judges after the scenario and the judges and the team interact with each other to provide a critical evaluation of the scenario and the work performed during the scenario, with safety being of paramount importance. All the teams are judged by what work was done during the scenario, not on what the judges felt should have been done. The judges follow a highly-detailed criteria worksheet to compile points for each team. Based on this information, scores are tallied and awards are presented. The awards are as follows; first, second, and third in each pit and an overall score. Awards are also given for best medic, and best incident command. Occasionally awards may be given for a team’s sportsmanship, or best stabilization.

This is a brief description of what a competition/challenge is really all about. There is always an educational symposium that the participants attend before the event. These symposiums are usually given by some of the top auto extrication specialists in the country, or the world. Also in attendance are the many vendors or tool manufactures showing and demonstrating the latest tools and technology that they have to offer. Anyone attending are encouraged to use and demonstrate the tools.


So, in a single weekend, anyone attending a TERC event, has the ability to see over thirty car accident scenarios, and see how other fire dept. personnel from other regions, or from other countries operate. They have the opportunity to try new tools, new techniques, network with their peers, and exchange valuable information and ideas with one another. Some may go home with a trophy, or a plaque, but all the participants are winners, as are the communities they serve.

Please consider becoming a member of the TERC organization! I urge anyone who is interested in gaining a better understanding of auto extrication to attend an extrication challenge and see firsthand what it’s all about. Check out our Facebook page for more information and to find out where these events are held https://www.facebook.com/groups/tercusa/.

For more information, go to www.tercus.com

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Carl Fargione is the current chairman of the TERC USA organization. He is a retired member of the FDNY, with 25yrs of service (1983 – 2008). Former Chief of Dept. with the Hagerman Fire Dept. Currently a commissioner and training officer with the Hagerman Fire Dept., and Capt. Of the Hagerman Fire Dept. Auto Extrication Team. To contact me personally, tercchair@optonline.net or 631-831-5371.