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How one multipurpose tool makes a huge difference in stabilizing vehicles for extrication work

Having a solid foundation is necessary for safe and successful vehicle extrication missions


A thread-based strut system offers more surface area and redistributes the load through the threads of the piston and lock collar.


Sponsored by Paratech

By Yoona Ha and Dalan Zartman for FireRescue1

When it comes to answering a call involving a motor vehicle that is on its roof or on its side with occupants trapped inside, firefighters understand that taking a structured approach to a chaotic situation can go a long way.

Unstable vehicles can pose a huge hazard for everyone involved, so vehicle stabilization is a key component of a safe and effective extrication. But the reality is that many departments still struggle with vehicle stabilization due to two factors: a lack of resources and a lack of training.

Fortunately, there are many tools available to help with appropriate stabilization. We asked Tom Gavin, national sales manager at Paratech, a rescue equipment manufacturer, to explain what firefighters should look for in-vehicle stabilization tools. Ease of use, strength and versatility are traits to consider.

Why System Details Matter: Threaded Strut vs. Pinned Strut

You may wonder how knowing a small detail like what kind of struts a system uses, could really make a difference for fire departments. But it comes down to this: Thread based strut systems create more surface area, which offers more strength, safety and versatility.

The majority of strut manufacturers use a pin system with their struts. The pin or pins work with the body of the strut and concentrate the weight being supported onto a surface area that is a fraction of an inch. This is often referred to as point loading. This means that the strength of your stabilization system depends on the strength of a small diameter pin resting on a hollow pipe. One of the first rules of shoring is to collect the load, support the load and redistribute the load. We should never be concentrating the load.

A thread-based strut system offers more surface area and redistributes the load through the threads of the piston and lock collar. This is an easy system to deploy and is ideal for supporting heavier loads like large trucks and buses. Paratech’s threaded struts offer multiple inches of surface area as opposed to just a fraction of an inch.

“This gives us a great advantage when responding to any kind of shoring situation because we are spreading the load out over more surface area,” said Gavin.

The greater the surface area the greater the strength and safety. In fact, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers with the FEMA Urban Search & Rescue Program tested the strength of Paratech’s gold Long Shore Struts and found that they withstood far more force than pinned strut systems.

Threaded struts also allow the rescuers to maintain constant contact with the load as the strut is being extended or retracted. This is much safer than having to reset pins and try line up the holes while working around a heavy load. Ultimately, the threaded strut allows rescuers to place struts at any angle and any length and adjust them continuously without ever losing a safe connection to the load. This provides a much safer and efficient management of the load being supported.

One other feature that differentiates Paratech from other strut manufacturers is that they don’t build their struts using pipe that can be inconsistent in thickness, but rather Paratech uses extruded aircraft grade aluminum tubing for added strength. Using the extrusion eliminates potential weak points in the design and provides optimal and reliable performance even under tremendous loads.

When responding to a motor vehicle accident and especially if the vehicle is on its roof or side vehicle stabilization is not a step you should skip.

Stabilization and Lifting Systems

There will be occasions in vehicle extrication responses where after implementing an effective stabilization plan the vehicle will need to be lifted gain access to or remove a pinned patient. There are numerous systems available to accomplish this task with some much stronger and safer than others.

Paratech offers two different type stabilization and lifting kits. The light to medium vehicle lifting device is called the strut driver. This donut-shaped tool attaches to any gray Acme Thread Strut and uses a crank handle and metal gears to easily lift up to 6,000 pounds with a two to one safety factor. Put a pair of strut drivers in place, one on either side of the vehicle and you have a stable lifting system that can lift anything from a Mini Cooper to a medium-size truck or bus.

“When you add the strut driver, it enhances the capabilities of the strut by allowing it to be used as a lifting device,” said Gavin. “The strut driver allows a stabilization application to seamlessly convert to a lifting operation.”

The Paratech HydraFusion is the company’s medium to heavy vehicle lifting kit. It is a 10-ton hydraulic ram that can work easily with the gray Acme Thread struts or the gold Long Shore struts, which can lift a wide range of vehicles. The HydraFusion can lift 20,000 pounds the threaded lock collar on the device offers a four to one safety factor .

A threaded strut system gives you more flexibility

One big advantage Paratech threaded struts have over others is the Paratech struts are multi-purpose tools. They are designed as interchangeable systems with mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic capabilities that can stabilize, lift and shift heavy loads. The same strut you purchased for vehicle stabilization can be used in a building collapse, a trench rescue, even rope rescue scenarios. To change the use of the strut, all you have to do is change the strut’s head.

When you combine the design features that come with the extruded body, threaded collars and pistons the Paratech struts are not going to be the least expensive struts on the market. But as Gavin, who has spent more than four decades in the fire and emergency services industry advises, you really get what you pay for. Fire chiefs need to think about the long-term application of these rescue tools.

How much money do you have in your budget and how much room is on your apparatus for specialty tools? A strut that can do only one thing. Wouldn’t you be better served with a multi-purpose tool? So how about a strut system that could stabilize vehicles of varying sizes?

A strut system like the one from Paratech can keep up as your department’s responsibilities expand. Building collapses, trench rescues or heavy vehicle accidents may be few and far between in your response area, but it’s always better to be on the side of being over-prepared, as we often learn in the fire service industry. Should those incidents happen, you want to have a strut system that can handle the job.

“Your responsibility as a fire chief is not just for the public but to your people first, so why not get it right the first time by giving your team quality tools that can get the job done safely and efficiently?” Gavin asked.

About the author

Dalan Zartman is a technical-rescue curriculum subject-matter expert for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security. He has also taught more than 100 technical-rescue courses at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as regional training program director and advisory board member. Zartman is a member of and instructor for the Central Ohio Strike Team and the Washington Township Fire Department. He is a certified rescue instructor, rescue technician level II, fire instructor II, firefighter and EMT.