Taking the Challenge

Pipestone Flyer

Leduc County-Nisku Extrication Team performs a mock  extrication similar to the one used during the recent 2012 North American Extrication Challenge held in Nova Scotia.  The team came in Second overall. Under the protective green tarp, a "driver" sits behind the wheel while another team member sits in the rear seat evaluating the victim and keeping her calm by describing what is happening.


From September 11-15, 2012, the Leduc County-Nisku Vehicle Extrication Team competed with 14 other teams from across Canada, the US, Sweden and the UK at the 2012 North American Vehicle Extrication Challenge near Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

In a special ceremony, on September 25, Leduc County Deputy Mayor John Schoenwille presented the official award plaque to Incident Commander Rob Csolle and the entire six-man team and congratulated them on their Second Place North American win and their 4th Place Overall finish. The team was the only western Canadian team that qualified for the North American Challenge. 


What are judges looking for in competition?


During competition, teams are judged via checklist on incident command, patient safety, tool knowledge, and stabilization.  Each team competes in two scenarios-20 minutes in length. These times are designed to fit within the "Golden Hour" from the time a patient is in an accident until they are into surgery in the hospital.  Sometimes only hand tools are allowed (this is known as a “Limited Pit”); at other times all tools, including hydraulic tools–the "Jaws of Life"–may be used (Unlimited Pit).   

It is estimated expenses run about $15,000 per competition.  The team does fundraising to meet travel expenses.  

Each day 3205 people world wide will die as a result of a road collision–that's equal to eight jumbo jet crashes. In addition to the 1.17 million people killed each year on the world's roads,  a further 35 million are estimated to be injured. With a major highway like Highway 2 running through the center of Leduc County, it's imperative that the team be well trained because an estimated 30% of calls Leduc Fire Services–Nisku & District Station No. 1 receives are to motor vehicle accidents. 


Why take the challenge?


Auto extrication challenges at the local, provincial, national and international levels help train and test this specialized  team in simulated crash scenes. Not only does the team practice automobile scenarios, they also train for big rig accidents. The objective is to get the victim out of the vehicle within minutes. The goal is to improve extrication safety by staying current with vehicle extrication practices and to share a wealth of ideas for improving life-saving techniques. 

Incident Commander Rob Csolle said, "We prefer to look at it as challenging ourselves rather than competing with others." 

A "video clip"of what happens during a typical extrication.

Watch an extrication demonstration and you will know that "competing with others" is the last thing the team thinks about as they work.

Speed is the operative word. Noisy is too! It's pure hubbub! You wonder how any progress can be made in such a cacophony of sound and motion. There is so much happening concurrently. It is a miracle the team isn't tripping over each other–but they do not! They are the model of efficiency thanks to many hours of practice and hundreds of extrication challenges. It can be likened to a well-executed dance-one meant to save lives as the precious seconds tick away. 

Leduc County Communications Officer Amanda Miller sportingly played the driver "victim" during a mock accident demonstration immediately following the County award ceremony.  


Here is what happens at an extrication:


First, a team member assesses the damage and dangers by doing a walk around evaluation. Once all the  dangers are contained, the victim is tended to.  As the saying goes, you are of no help if you are injured. After the hazards are neutralized, the vehicle is blocked to stabilize it and tripping hazards–mufflers, fenders, running boards–are pushed out of the way–even under the car if it is safe and handy. Tools are laid out, I suspect,  in a prescribed manner.

Meanwhile, the team medic is quickly assessing the victim's medical condition visually and by questioning her.  

Simultaneously, team members quickly wrap heavy-duty sticky tape (it looks like a large roll of clear food wrap) around the entire cab covering all the windows. Then, team members bang out the remaining windows and begin cutting the vehicle posts to ultimately lift off the car roof. 

Now that there is an open window in the back seat area, the medic slides in through a smashed out window opening over a board resting on the window sill (which still holds glass shards) in order to avoid injuring himself. He then takes a position in the back seat behind the driver. As the medic continues asking medical assessment questions. He stabilizes the victim, takes vitals, does neuro checks, and reassures her by explaining, in a matter-of-fact manner, what is going to happen and he begins the necessary preparations for emergency transport. 


Now you see them, now you don't.


Up to this point, foot-long boards have been somehow wedged between the non-broken windows and the victim offering protection from flying glass. Now, a  large tarp is quickly maneuvered over both the victim and the medic as the remaining windows are smashed very quickly. 

The whole time this is going on, the incident commander is shouting out directions and ever circling, circling, circling the vehicle–observing and making appropriate evaluations.  The scene is noisy–all those power tools screaming, glass breaking, and members calling out what has been completed or what they are going to work on next. During this whole experience, the medic keeps talking to the victim, asking for contact information, and assessing her medical condition.


Blame it on the safety features.


The exercise has taken longer than everyone would like but it cannot be helped. Ironically, the very safety features that protect passengers in a serious roll over now hamper the speed of cutting through the vehicle posts. 

At last, the roof is lifted, exposing the medic and the victim huddled under the tarp.  A backboard and neck brace are raced to the victim. Extra team members climb into the cab to help secure and gently lift the victim out of the vehicle. She is now ready for transport.  

In a rapid extraction exercise such as this, teams are given 10 minutes; at 3 minutes the patient becomes unstable. When seconds count,  Leduc County-Nisku Extrication Team has the training and the hands-on practice to respond quickly, efficiently, and safely.

If you are interested in watching the team in action, they will be putting on a live extrication demonstration at Black Jacks, in Nisku, in the near future during the annual "Don't Drink and Drive" campaign. (Donations gladly accepted.)

If you would like to help with fundraising, Csolle said they are looking for sponsors. They also need cars to practice on. Please call the County if you can help.

Congratulations to the entire team for making us proud and for doing so well at the 28th Annual North American Vehicle Extrication Challenge. It's assuring to know we have such a well-trained extrication team in our County. A BIG thank you to Incident Commander Rob Csolle, Medic Rod Phillips, and Extrication Specialists Duane South, Tylor Bennett, Dave Sharratt, and Mike Overly.