Stuck and Stucker: Truck Drivers Learn a Hard Lesson in Emergency Scene Management
I’m a bit of a car nerd. I like driving them, working on them, racing them, I even like reading about them. Thanks to my father (he used to rally-drive), I learned to do handbrake turns as a teenager before I learned to parallel park. I didn’t ever think there was much of a connection between my fascination with cars and emergency planning, but if you keep your eyes open, you find lessons everywhere.
SpeedWeek is an annual event held on the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. Miles of flat, level and salt-encrusted desert make an ideal racing surface for drivers from all over the world to run time trials and attempt setting land speed records. At the 2007 event, thanks to a rare torrent of rain, the salt surface was especially thin in places and a motor home transporting a racing crew broke through and got stuck. The crew called for help and two trucks arrived. And also got stuck.
The truck drivers called for help from a third truck nicknamed “Big Blue”. Big Blue arrived and set about freeing the other two trucks.
It got stuck too.
By 10:30pm, the three trucks were mired, in places, six feet deep in the clay-like mud under the salt pan. The motor home hadn’t moved. All four vehicles wound up spending the night in the desert. In the morning, a fourth wrecker truck (that’s five vehicles altogether for those scoring along at home) arrived and began carefully extricating the other wreckers and the motor home, one by one.
The hard lesson the truck drivers learned is one that applies to all responders, whether they are firefighters, policemen, or occupational first aid: always perform a scene assessment as soon as you arrive and before you enter the scene to give aid. Neglecting to do this can result in a situation becoming twice (or three times, or four times…) as bad as before as the responder becomes an addition to the problem rather than contributing to a solution. Utah Salt Flats Racing Association