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EMS Patient Handling Tips

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EMS Patient Handling Tips

Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

Accessing Patients on Trails

Name: Greg Friese

Saturday is National Trails Day. On this day, and many others, large numbers of people in your service area take advantage of the amazing recreational and fitness opportunities that trails provide.

These are Everyday EMS Tips for the unique challenges of accessing and extricating patients from the trails in your community:

1. Pre-plan for trail rescue by equipping vehicles with maps of trails in your service area. Mark the access points and make sure you know the limitations for vehicle access.

2. Know the capabilities of trail surfaces to support vehicle traffic. A trailhead wide enough for an ambulance or rescue truck may not stay that wide. Or be able to support the vehicle weight.

3. Request additional resources early, like an ATV with rescue trailer, so it is ready if the ambulance cannot access the patient.

4. Always have the essentials with you for BLS assessment and the treatment of ABC life threats. Patients are invariably much closer or much further from the trail head than anticipated.

5. Warn other trail users of an on-trail emergency. Ask them to slow down before passing the incident or reroute as needed.

6. Follow local protocols for selective spinal immobilization because if applied appropriately this may make patient extrication significantly easier and faster.

7. Leave at least one person at the ambulance. After finding the patient, you may realize that the safest and easiest extrication point is different than the ambulance location.

8. Celebrate National Trails Day by scheduling a training exercise to locate, access, and extricate a simulated injured hiker from a remote trail in your community. Apply those lessons to preplanning for a future incident.

Take a hike, run, or bike on a trail in your community on Saturday with your friends and family. Look for me on the Green Circle Trail in Portage County, Wisconsin. Use the comments area to tell me where you will go on National Trails Day.

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at
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