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7 tips to access and extricate patients on trails

Updated May 20, 2015

Tips for the unique challenges of accessing and extricating patients from recreational trails

The first Saturday in June 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.Remember these tip for the unique challenges of accessing and extricating patients from the trails in your community:

1. Be ready

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 trails

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. Ask for help

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

4. BLS care anywhere

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. Incident notification

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

6. Walk-out or carry-out

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

7. Bring ambulance to the patient

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.

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.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.