Preparation for the case of emergency – extrication practice
On the Moscow weekend, Martin Tomczyk was the driver who had to make himself available to the extrication team. And it wasn’t the first time in his career. “I always am a very difficult ‘casualty’ for them,” says Tomczyk. “after all, I am on of the tallest drivers on the grid.” For the BMW driver who has been racing in DTM since 2001, this practice already has become a kind of routine – and for the extrication team too. An urgent necessity. After all, this rescue squad has to spring into action whenever a driver isn’t able to climb out of his car by himself, following an accident. Usually, every racetrack has got its own team. These six-member teams are specially trained for DTM and other motor-racing events to relieve and protect a driver’s spine while extricating him from the car.
In some cases, however, they must be fast. Whenever there is a risk of fire, extricating the driver as fast as possible represents the top priority. Peter Beurschgens, the DMSB’s representative with responsibility – inter alia – for the education of the medical-car crews, explains: “In this situation, getting a driver out of the car is the only thing that counts. Therefore, we have to accept a possible injury, even a spine injury. Rescuing the driver’s life has got top priority, in this kind of situation.” But of course, this approach only is used in the case of a true emergency.
After all, the extrication teams have passed special courses where thy were taught how to extricate a driver from his car as gentle as possible. A team consists of six people – an emergency doctor and five experienced paramedics. These six team members use to cooperate in the same line-up and also jointly obtain the extrication certificate in the respective courses. And to keep the team fit and well prepared, an extrication practice is held prior to every race meeting.
At the beginning of an extrication, the drivers is examined. Is he responsive? Does he complain about pains? Then, the drivers’ door is removed and a special cover in the roof – a feature every DTM car is equipped with – is opened. This cover allows the team to remove the driver as carefully as possible. That’s the first measure executed in the case of an extrication. Then, the neck area of the driver is stabilised by dint of a soft collar before the team keeps on working through the opening in the roof. The opening mow is used to push – in careful team work – the so-called KED system, an emergency brace, between seat and driver. Before the injured driver can be extricated from the car, he now is positively constrained: hands, head, torso, legs – all is fastened with special belts. Only when no part of the body can be moved any longer, the driver is carefully lifted out of his seat, laid on a stretcher and extricated from his car through the drivers’ door.
“A really unpleasant feeling, even if we’re just practicing for the case of emergency,” says Tomczyk. “It makes you hope that you never get in such a situation. All the better that these situation are practiced. Yes, it is nightmarish but at the same tine, it gives you the feeling of safety. And the guys really do a great and enormously important job.”