Blog by Jacob Johnson
Lt. with Pearland Fire Dept. in Texas

The expression, “back to the basics” is often stated during training, but what does it really mean? Is it a quick 30-minute review of a topic, or is it an in-depth, eight-hour class? To really answer that question, your department needs to complete a needs assessment. This will explain what people know and don’t know.

In most cases, getting back to the basics means refreshing and strengthening your foundation or knowledge on a given subject. Quite too often firefighters forget the basic tools that helped us reach the point we have in our career. The basics will never go away and should never be forgotten.

When dealing with high-risk, low-frequency type calls, it’s the basic material or maneuvers we don’t utilize that impact us negatively on scene. It’s the basics we forget when we are caught in a tight situation and need help.

So, how do we make sure to remember the basics?

Simple train.

We need to train on the basics of every aspect of the fire service. This will strengthen our foundation, and since we are talking about the basics, let’s discuss the foundation of extrication.

Stabilization, or cribbing, is the foundation for a successful extrication of a patient from a vehicle.

To start, review the basics of cribbing by simply taking your crew/department to the truck and going over what type of cribbing there is in the department. Is it plain wood cribbing? Is it fiberglass cribbing? Do you have struts and jacks on the truck? If so, how do you use them? That will start the needs assessment for the department.

Once you have established what you have on the truck, go over it. Pull it out of the compartment and demonstrate uses for a wedge, a step chalk, a strut, jack and discuss, all of which you’ve probably done for cribbing in the past. Set up simple scenarios in the back of the station or at the training field and use practical applications to refresh the memory on how to use cribbing.

One thing with all training, especially when getting back to the basics, is some people think it’s boring and some people think they are too smart to train on a particular subject because they already know it all. My suggestion would be to embrace that attitude and don’t forget about it. If there is a person like that try to utilize them in your training. Have them teach the class and spread their knowledge to the others.

A good portion of those people will realize they needed a refresher, and by teaching the class themselves; they will learn or remember more because they are involved instead of them just sitting in the back of the class updating their Facebook status.

Cribbing must be stressed as one of the most important parts of extrication. If you can’t crib, you can’t cut!

Safety is the goal and the only way to extricate safely is to have a stable vehicle to cut on. Sometimes it’s hard to fully stabilize a vehicle, but your goal is to be as stable as possible.

As for training on cribbing, there are a few ideas that may work for your department. The first thing you will need is a vehicle. Call your local tow truck drivers and junkyards and ask them for a car.

It will be a donation from them and a tax write off for giving you the car. Most of them will drop the car off where you need it or they will allow you to come to the junkyard and use the yard for training. This will accomplish two things: First, you will start a working relationship with the drivers, which could potentially help make scenes go more smoothly in the future. Secondly, tow truck drivers can help with your training. They know how to stabilize a vehicle and you can incorporate some scenarios where a tow truck is used to crib so the extrication can proceed.

Remember, extrication requires thinking outside the box and using critical thinking skills. Use all tools needed to help your department. Whether it’s using tow truck drivers or wood cribbing, make sure you try and cover all sorts of different situations that could occur on the fire ground. Most importantly, make sure you train on getting back to the basics.

After all, it’s your foundation for success.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December of 2010.

About the Author
Jacob Johnson currently works for Pearland Fire Department as a driver/operator. He has been in the fire service for more than 10 years. He has taught at extrication schools, recruit academies, and several suppression schools throughout the years. His certifications include: FF Intermediate, Driver/Operator, Fire Officer 1, Fire Instructor III.