They say that having a near-death experience can change a person’s perspective and that’s what happened to me. In 2016 whilst on a humanitarian training mission in Tajikistan and travelling along the Pamir highway through the Khorog mountains the vehicle we were travelling in was hit by an oncoming vehicle.
Our vehicle came to rest inches from the edge of a 100ft ravine (no barriers) into a river deep below. Luckily no one was injured in this collision, but it certainly made me think how ironic it was that we were travelling to deliver vehicle-extrication training and trauma-care training to volunteers in the Khorog and yet we had no rescue gear ourselves whilst travelling along the seventh most dangerous road in the world.
This incident was one of the catalysts for the formation of International Road Rescue and Trauma Consultancy (IRRTC) in 2017 whilst training Tajikistan’s first ever Road Traffic Collision instructors on behalf of Staffordshire Emergency Service Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA), Eastern Alliance for Safe Sustainable Transport (EASST) and FireAid.
I’m sure many reading this article will know that 1.25 million road users are killed globally every year and another 50 million are injured (WHO global statistics) and this incident made me wonder what more can be done to improve these awful statistics and provide rapid provision of effective roadside rescue in all countries.
Even in major cities across the world it can take as long as 15–20 minutes for an emergency response to arrive at the scene of an accident from the time of call and in rural or remote areas it can be much longer. These times I know from experience after 30 years as an operational fire officer can be affected by weather conditions, location of incident, road conditions, crew availability (Retained/Part time or volunteer stations) and traffic build-up.
It is true that modern vehicles are stronger and safer than vehicles of years gone by, but the flip side to this is that when these vehicles are involved in severe collisions it is much more difficult to release any trapped casualties inside due to the strength of modern materials such as high-strength steels etc. Many of you will have years of vehicle-rescue experience and have witnessed numerous first-hand incidents where the only way to release occupants is with the use of specialist hydraulic rescue equipment.
With the above in mind I would like you to consider the following question?
Should other emergency services and non-emergency organisations be trained in vehicle rescue so that the first to arrive on scene can perform rapid release or begin release operations?
I know that the above question may seem alien to many, but consider that medical response worldwide tends to be a mix of varying levels of expertise ranging from trauma consultants in helicopters to voluntary responders with limited trauma experience in their own vehicles. However, they all have one thing in common: they are trying to save lives. Therefore, why don’t we at least consider the possibility of having ‘Rescue first responders’ who may be able to provide initial stabilisation of a scene, casualties and begin rescue operations until a full response arrives and the rescue is then transferred to them?
In many situations in the UK the police or medical services are on scene first and assess the situation and then mobilise the fire service leading to delays in rescue activities. If they had even a limited capability and basic awareness, they could carry out a rapid release of a severely injured vehicle occupant or begin rescue operations in readiness for a full rescue attendance when it arrives. In fact, there are already many countries who have adopted this approach.
Another example, which I have experienced personally, is being caught in traffic on the ‘Smart’ motorway system with all running lanes unable to get to the incident because there is no hard shoulder and you are faced with four lanes of solid traffic build-up. Some of you will have experienced this, I’m sure.
So, in this instance, consider that often in these situations the Highways Agency (UK) are very often first on scene and could carry out a life-saving rescue with basic battery-powered rescue tools, PPE and casualty protection. The technology is now out there to achieve this, the only thing that needs to change is the understanding of what now can be achieved and a willingness to embrace change to save lives.
Does the injured person care which organisation rescues them as long as the rescuer is making their situation better and they are receiving good quality care and support?
For many years it was only possible to have a sufficient rescue capability if you had a large hydraulic generator, hydraulic hoses and large heavy rescue tools. This meant that it was not realistically possible to provide a portable rescue solution.
However, advancements in hydraulic-tool design and the advances in battery technology now mean that it is possible to produce tools capable of in excess of 30 tons of cutting and spreading forces that can now be combined into smaller and lighter tools without the need for generators or hoses. As a result, it is now possible to have a state-of-the-art rescue capability in any vehicle, which will allow an immediate rescue intervention on the scene of any accident or incident.
There is now a wide range of small, powerful rescue tools that will permit rescue operations and greatly increase survivability rates by allowing rapid extrication of seriously injured casualties whatever your location.
These tools and associated training will also be particularly useful to the following sectors:
- Law enforcement agencies
- Medical response organisations
- Security, Close protection and military organisations
- Remote medical teams
- Motorsports organisations
- International media teams
- Emergency Responders worldwide
- Mining, Oil and Gas sectors
- Any organisations working in remote locations
This list is not exhaustive and in relation to using these tools it is vitally important that they are used in the correct manner and that personnel are familiar with the wide multitude of techniques employed during rescue operations. Failure to do so could result in damage to the tools or even worse – injury to the users or occupants.
Therefore at IRRTC as well as our standard rescue courses for the Fire and Rescue Service, ranging from basic hydraulic safety up to Road Traffic Collision instructors and Heavy Vehicle Rescue, we have developed two ‘specialist rescue courses’ – a ‘2-day introduction to rescue’ and a ‘5-day full rescue course’ which are now accredited through Skills for Justice (SFJ) in order to ensure that any organisation that wishes to adopt this capability is effectively trained to use this equipment safely. These courses have been developed for rescue with limited personnel and equipment in mind.
In addition to these courses we are also aware of the very limited capabilities nationally to carry out effective rescue from railway incidents so we are now developing a passenger rail rescue course with a full-size rail derailment scenario and the ability to carry out physical internal and external space creation, hot cutting, rope access and egress, confined space as well as scene safety and rescuer safety. This will be the first training site of its kind in the UK specifically developed to prepare responders for major rail derailment and rescue operations.
Medical vs physical rescue
The way to view rescue provision is to consider this: it has an equal weighting in relation to the problem. This means that ideally the methodology is 50% technical/physical rescue and 50% medical rescue. These two ideally work harmoniously with each other, to simply save life in the context of a vehicle accident. It must be borne in mind, however, that even with the odds stacked against you, having a technical rescue capability and a medical capability is not to be underestimated.
Our methodology is borne out of military experience, humanitarian experience, professional rescue experience and exposure gained from operational functionality over a prolonged period. This methodology works, it gets results, it can make a difference meaning it can save lives anywhere in the world.
It is certainly clear to us that when it comes to trauma field care then the military are among the world leaders and when it comes to vehicle rescue then Fire and Rescue Services are the experts. So, therefore we have brought together the best and most experienced instructors in both fields to help develop packages and educate others to help preserve life.
In order to ensure the very best trauma-care qualification is delivered IRRTC have now affiliated with ATACC and we are delivering the Rescue Trauma and Casualty Care qualification (RTACC) to provide a three-day high-intensity pre-hospital-care course preparing learners for real-world traumatic injuries with immersive and realistic scenarios using live casualties and simulated wounds.
We hope that you have found this article thought provoking and if you would like to know more please, visit our website to find our full contact details and further information of instructional staff, training venues and services available.
Ultimately, we just want to help save lives globally.
For more information, go to www.IRRTCrescue.com