Recovery Class - 18 April 2009

By Mark

Photos Here!

In the past couple of years the Two Rivers Jeep Club was unable to hold any type of recovery training.  Brenda approached the board and asked if she could try to get a class put together and the board thought that was a great idea.  Brenda made contact with Tim Miller, a certified United Four Wheel Drive Association recovery instructor and Tim agreed to teach the class.  Brenda did not have the time to organize the rest of the class and I was asked by Dave Christensen if I would do so.  I then made arrangements with other people to speak and the class was scheduled.

We then held a basic recovery and critical incident command class on April 18, 2009.  The classroom part of the training was held at the VFW hall in Pittsfield.  Forty one people signed in for the class and I saw a few more there that did not sign in.  The weather was cloudy, 55 degrees and it rained off and on throughout the day.

As the organizer I chaired the meeting and spoke about several things including the rational for holding such training and the responsibility of board members, trail guides, and everyone on the trails.   In addition I spoke about some of the basics of incident command and its importance during emergency situations.  I provided the emergency phone number for the Pike County Sheriff’s Department and it appeared that everyone in attendance with a cell phone saved the number to their phones.  I then covered the following suggested guidelines that the club has in place and which are handed out and listed on the web site.  These included Trail Etiquette Guidelines, Emergency Response Guidelines, Equipment/Vehicle Checklist for Members, Trail Guide Responsibility Guidelines, and the Trail Head Driver’s Meeting Checklist.

Chief Steve Gambrill spoke about trail guide responsibilities and incident command.  He has been a Fire Chief for over twenty-eight years and is an instructor in Fire Science at Richland Community College in the Decatur area.  Chief Gambrill did an excellent job in covering the subject matter and his experience in this area was quite apparent.

Charlie Ater spoke about straps and covered more than just the basics.  He explained the difference between a tow strap and a snatch strap, when each should be used, and when it was time to go to a winch.  He explained some of the forces that are involved when using a snatch strap such as kinetic energy, how they stretch and what makes them work. 

Jeff Sorensen spoke about assessing the injured at the scene.  Jeff is a Paramedic in the Rockford area and provided much necessary information to everyone on how to deal with the injured, assess their injuries, and how to decide when further medical help is needed. 

Tim Miller then spoke, reinforcing much of the same information and covering items that had not been spoken about previously.  He spoke about recovery equipment, the good and the bad, and how to use and attach it properly.  He also got people to speak about bad things that they had seen on the trail and discussing the different situations.  The class was then moved to Murphy’s Law where “hands on training” was to take place.

Chad Suhre provided a well used Jeep Cherokee for the class.  Chad and his son Cory had spent a lot of time making it environmentally friendly so that it could be rolled over repeatedly and not drop fluids on the ground.  Chad thought that with fewer solid points of attachment for recovery equipment the Cherokee would be a better vehicle to train with, and I think everyone found this to be true during the field training.  Once at the trail the Cherokee was rolled toward a creek where it came to rest on its side against a tree, sitting on an incline.

It was left there as Tim took everyone to a creek bed where a Jeep had been stuck in the creek.  Tim then explained that this was a strapping situation and why it was so.  He covered straps and the proper attachment of them to both vehicles.  Tim also spoke about the dangers involved and how to make sure that the scene was safe before staring the recovery.  A second Jeep was set up to make the recovery.  Tim then acted as the trail guide demonstrating the proper method of making the scene safe and then instructing both drivers on how to recover the stuck Jeep by use of a snatch strap.

Another Jeep was then stuck attempting to climb out of the creek.  Tim explained why a winch would be a better tool for recovery for this situation.  He set up a second Jeep to make the recovery and trail guide Randy Newport supervised this recovery.  Once again, all safety precautions were demonstrated and explained.  Tim physically showed everyone how to properly attach a cable dampener and then it’s proper use was demonstrated as the Jeep was winched from the creek.

A Jeep Cherokee was then made stuck at the same creek exit, and it was used as another winching demonstration.  The Cherokee had bolted and welded on tow points and Tim explained why these particular points were safe to use.  Trail Guide Don Maxheimer then supervised the recovery, with Tim again explaining all safety procedures and Don demonstrating them.  When the Jeep with the winch was unable to make the recovery due to it sliding on the wet ground a second Jeep was brought in to secure the primary recovery vehicle.  Connection between the two recovery vehicles was explained and demonstrated.  Don then demonstrated the proper method to command the situation, giving both drivers instruction as to what to do, when to do it, and stopping the recovery a few times as the cable dampener was repositioned.

We then moved to the overturned Cherokee.  Tim, Randy, and the Chief discussed the situation with everyone and demonstrated one of the proper methods to make a recovery in this situation.  A strap was placed from the Cherokee to another Jeep to keep the Cherokee from rolling downhill once it was back on its wheels.  A Jeep was set up on the uphill side that would use a strap to pull the Cherokee back onto its wheels.  A third Jeep was set up on the opposite side of the creek that would use it’s winch to control the Cherokee as it was rolled back onto it’s wheels.  The lack of a frame and good tow points was discussed and recovery equipment attachment points were demonstrated.  Tree savers were used to attach cable to the Cherokee.  Randy once again took charge, demonstrating the proper method of ensuring the safety of all present and then guiding the three drivers involved in putting the Cherokee back onto its wheels.

Several people enthusiastically helped to roll the Cherokee over again, this time missing the tree and landing it upside down in the creek.  Cory volunteered to act as an injured person and managed to climb into the Cherokee.  I surprised those in attendance by pointing to Jeff, Dennis, Brenda, Justin and Hamer and telling them that this was their mess and to handle the situation.  Jeff determined that Cory needed medical attention and then the procedures taught in the class room were put to work.  While Jeff stabilized the victim, first responders were called (simulated), the vehicle was secured, and made ready for recovery.  After the victim was removed from the vehicle the vehicle was properly and safely recovered by those assigned the responsibility to do so.

While moving the Cherokee for its next accident an unintended demonstration of the weakness of attachment points was shown.  A tree saver was wrapped around the “D” pillar of the Cherokee, the pillar between the rear window and the tail gate door.  While being winched over a downed tree the “D” pillar completely broke away from the Cherokee.  All safety issues were being properly demonstrated and the only damage was to the Cherokee.  I think many people learned something from this incident.

We had a huge amount of ground at our disposal for the class for the training.  I wanted to roll the Cherokee down a large hill, letting it land where it would on its own so that recovery of an actual wrecked vehicle could be made.  It was towed to a hill that was at least a hundred feet high and after everyone was safely out of the way (and we got Doug under control and off of the Cherokee’s roof) it was rolled over the edge.  As with all situations that are not completely controlled, and which are left to chance, not everything went as planned.  The Cherokee made one complete roll and came to rest on its wheels.  It was pushed over again, making one complete revolution and coming to rest on its wheel again.  It then stayed on its wheels while rolling backwards, struck a tree, and then rolled to the bottom of the hill in a large arch staying on its wheel.  Recovery was fairly simple but proper safety and recover was stressed and demonstrated. 

Before the Cherokee was rolled down the hill Tim had collected money from people who wanted to bet on how many times it would roll over before coming to a stop.  Elmo had the closest guess and he promptly donated his winnings of about $50.00 to the club for use in the food basket program.    

One last recovery was made using the Cherokee.  Again the Cherokee was to actually be wrecked and then recovered.  It was then rolled straight down a hill on its wheels and into a creek.  As planned it stayed on its wheel and came to rest straddling the creek with its front end smashed against the creek bed.  Doug Maxheimer then demonstrated proper recovery and safety techniques.

Throughout the day there was a lot of discussion and questions answered about all aspects of recovery, incident command, and medical assistance.  Tim, the Chief, Jeff, myself, and others provided additional information and answered those questions. 

We had planned on breaking up for dinner after the training and then returning for a night run and a run the next morning.  Due to the rain and the forecast of continued rain all night and the next day both runs were cancelled.  The Chief led those that stayed and wanted to wheel to a spot where there was a couple of good mud holes and then a hill climb.  The first Jeep was driven by Shaun and with lockers engaged he managed to make it to the top of the hill.  Brenda was next, she doesn’t have any lockers, and she chose a great line and was able to get to the top of the hill.  From that point on the conditions became worse.  A lot of mud was left on the hill by the first Jeeps and it started raining.  Dennis thought he had picked a good place to vide the action but he and his camera got a cod coating of mud.  A few Jeeps made the climb but most did not.  One Jeep lost its driveshaft during the attempt and another rolled a tire off of the bead.  By that time everyone was wet, muddy, and had spent a lot of time on the trail and we called it a day.  Driving through Pittsfield I saw several groups of Jeeps at various restaurants and it looked like the businesses had a good day from member of the club.

I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves and learned something from the training.  If we get enough positive response this is something that we could probably do again next year and possibly make it an annual event.  I want to thank Tim Miller, Chief Gambrill, Charlie Ater, Jeff Sorensen, Chad Suhre, Cory Suhre and Brenda for everything that they did.  Their cooperation made it pretty easy for me to put the class together.  I also want to thank everyone that pitched in on the trail, moved the Cherokee, and helped to demonstrate proper and safe recovery methods.  Your assistance was greatly appreciated.

Created: 26 Apr 2009