Securing the scene at Motor Vehicle Collisions

April 18, 2024

The first few minutes of motor vehicle collisions (MVC) on-scene hazard mitigation, by David Dalrymple

Upon arrival on scene at the MVC we rapidly go to work performing many tasks in rapid manner.

However, the number, type and manner of hazards at the MVC today can be bewildering.

And while scene hazards really have not changed all that much, the vehicle is the dynamic hazard at each and every vehicle related incident.

But how do we stay on top of such things in a field that can change weekly if not daily?

Well thankfully we do have ways to find critical information about vehicle technology related concerns and easy access to find them.

It’s as simple as using an app on your smartphone or tablet or iPad.

The bottom line is that we can always secure the power of the vehicle by employing power isolation which is a multi-step process in securing the vehicle power.

 On-scene hazard information

So let’s look at on-scene hazard information and how to access it.

First off, apps for smartphones and iPad/tablets & computers/MDTs.

The longest one around and the gold standard is Moditech Crash Recovery Software (CRS).

It’s been available since 2005 and has progressed from a software program on a laptop to today an app for smartphones, iPads, tablets and other devices.

CRS is available on three levels of service, based upon how it searches for the correct vehicle and its ability to update its database during the year.

Those three levels of service give you a year of CRS database access.

How it searches for the correct vehicle by 1) type in or taking a photo of the vehicle license/number plate 2) type in or scan the BAR code of the VIN vehicle identification number 3) manually search the CRS database using the supplied prompts.

Once the correct vehicle is found it is displayed on the screen as a glass cutaway with various color-coded devices depicted in the vehicle in the correct location for that vehicle.

Those colors are shown in a keyword labeling to what they represent.

When you touch the screen and on the device a photo and description is displayed on an inset screen.

When the vehicle is an alternate fueled vehicle the first screen displayed tells you that this vehicle is alternate fueled and needs to be depowered or disarmed.

This screen tells you how to perform the steps to perform it plus gives you visual cues in steps of actual photos of devices of the vehicle and how to perform it, plus secondary and even tertiary ways.

Location of 12v battery, side curtain inflation cylinders, gas struts, advanced steel reinforcements and much more can be found plus vehicles back to 1989.

The CRS database is extremely comprehensive, covering more than cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.

Large trucks, Buses, Motorcycles, Special vehicles, Motorsports and even Landscaping, Construction & Farming vehicles are part of the database due to some of these vehicles being hybrid powered or electric powered.

Part of each vehicle database has information on firefighting and what to do if the vehicle is submerged.

 Staying up to date

Now how does your device keep its CRS database current during the year? Easy, it updates itself wirelessly from the internet depending upon the time of the year.

Sometimes it’s weekly, sometimes it’s once a month.

The key tip for using CRS, the device that you are doing to use it in the field make sure you keep your device in a rugged waterproof case.

Moditech CRS is available for Europe, North & South America, Africa and Far East/EurAsia.

The cost per license depends upon the service level however each is very reasonable in today’s day and age.

Along with Moditech CRS there are similar apps for smartphones, iPads/tablets and computers/MDTs.

One of these are Rescue Sheets, run by the EuroNCAP.

Similar but halfway around the world AussieNCAP also runs a Rescue sheet program for vehicles sold in their sphere of influence.

Euro NCAP has made a requirement for all automotive manufacturers to supply rescue sheets for all vehicles they intend to sell in Europe or even potentially sell.

Then these rescue sheets are stored electronically in a database and all emergency responders have access to the database.

These rescue sheets use the color coded as Moditech & ISO and are rendered just like CRS database vehicles, i.e.

glass cutaway with the hazards depicted correctly in the vehicle.

The app works for the database of the vehicles of the area its affiliated with.

For example, NCAP Rescue works on European vehicles while LatinNCAP works on South/Central American vehicles and AussieNCAP works on Australia and Far East vehicles.

Sadly we have no NCAP app in North America which would give us a free searchable database to use.

EV Rescue is a fairly new app, based around Electric vehicles.

There are two vehicle manufacturers who use a QR code sticker on the vehicle itself that will give you all the hazard information about that vehicle.

The first one is Mercedes Benz (MB).

MB has been installing these stickers in all new vehicles since November of 2013.

These get installed in two locations on the vehicle, one on the inside of the fuel/charging port door and the other in the driver’s door jam around the door latch.

Now say it’s an older MB how will it get the correct information, well each MB that goes back to the dealership for service is checked for the correct QR code.

If it’s not present, the correct one is placed onto the vehicle in the same location.

How do we access the information? Easy: just scan the QR code with your smartphone or iPad/tablet and the information displayed is much like a Moditech CRS glass cutaway screen.

An excellent tool for responders and actually secondary responders as well.

The other vehicle manufacturer is General Motors (GM) but only their alternative fueled vehicle models.

The QR code stickers are in the same location as MB but differences between these are the GM version has reminders about key removal distance and an 800 number to call for help on vehicle hazards on scene.

 Power isolation

A critical action today to make all vehicles as safe as they can be is power isolation.

 To achieve complete power isolation, the initial step involves chocking the wheels and engaging the emergency brake to secure the vehicle.

Following this, the vehicle must be turned off, and all keys should be collected to prevent unintended activation.

The next crucial step is to locate the vehicle’s 12v battery and perform a double cut on both cables, starting with the negative and then the positive, to fully disconnect the power supply.

Finally, documenting the entire process is essential for record-keeping and ensuring that the power isolation has been thoroughly completed.

Remember that keys today are almost always wireless fobs however the trend is going to a wireless card and an app on a smartphone.

Also today’s keys need to be kept 50 feet away from the vehicle, much farther than before.

It used to be a 15-foot radius around the vehicle however this changed a number of years ago.

However, you can use a device called a Faraday bag that blocks RDIF signal that will block the keys signal to the vehicle.

Just drop the wireless device (key fob, card or app equipped smartphone) into the Faraday bag and the vehicle can no longer see it.

It works that fast and that well.

Over 50% of 12v batteries today live outside of the engine compartment, the next most likely location is in the rear of the vehicle.

Consider vehicle damage and such in your vehicle survey when checking for the 12v battery.

And remember many high-end vehicles have two or more 12v batteries, for example all Mercedes vehicles have two 12v batteries if not three.

We are starting to see the first vehicles now with 48volt support batteries.

Think high voltage plus a coolant system.

Power isolation can be a double-edged sword.

There are so many power accessories and devices on vehicles today that some of these actually help us in the job we need to do.

Our size-ups need to be more focused, quicker and more effective than ever before.

This is important information about vehicle technology related concerns that needs to be addressed at every vehicle related incident today.

This cuts into the trauma clock that our patients have and that we face.

While some of these hazards have been around us for some time, we have not had the depth and layering of concerns like we do have with today’s vehicles.

Safety systems (SRS), motive power and vehicle materials and construction affect our operational considerations more so than ever before and have changed our management of patients and their care in the environment.

Technology is never going away.

Rescuers we must find ways to mitigate it better and faster than before.

Bottom line: trauma is the disease of time.

This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of Fire & Safety Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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