Proper vehicle stabilization is the foundation of any extrication. Stabilization is sometimes as simple as placing wheel chocks under the front and back wheels. Sometimes, on more complex incidents that involve pushing, prying, cutting or lifting, you may need to beef up stabilization efforts and use wheel chocks and box cribbing.
Using a box crib is undoubtedly a solid and safe way to achieve stabilization, but it is also quite labor-intensive. A minimum of one or two firefighters must monitor the safety of the crib support while also adding to the box crib as the vehicle is lifted. In a perfect world, we'd have as many firefighters on hand to accomplish the variety of tasks we face on any given extrication incident. But in reality, most of us are already performing many jobs simultaneously and, quite simply, there never seems to be enough capable hands. How do you get these extra hands that are not only trained and capable but also solid and reliable?
I had the opportunity to train with something I consider to be like having an extra set of hands: the Auto Crib-It stabilization tool by Power Hawk Technologies. These piston-actuated stabilizers are taller than most step chocks, and have a measured stabilization height of 14 inches on the Model AC-14 and 17 inches on the Model AC-17 with a loaded weight rating of 2,000 lbs. and 2,800 lbs., respectively. The AC-14 is considered the "standard" model, while the AC-17 is designed for taller, wider SUVs and light trucks. The units are made from high-strength steel, and the AC-14 weighs 14.5 lbs. and the AC-17 weighs 23.5 lbs.
These lightweight wonders not only deploy rapidly but, once positioned, they self-actuate with a piston, meaning they are practically "hands-free." Once the Auto Crib-It is properly positioned under the rocker panel (or parallel to avoid a tripping hazard), it automatically adjusts and locks into place as a vehicle is lifted or if weight is shifted. Once set, the vehicle is rock solid and shows minimal or zero movement.
Not only did I have the opportunity to use the Auto Crib-It in a controlled training situation where I could really push the tool to the limits, but also on live calls where the scene is far from controlled and we constantly face uncertainly. In both situations, the results were always the same: The unit deployed rapidly, allowed for hands-free work and provided a solid foundation.
The only slight negative to the Auto Crib-It is that it is so solid in its stabilization that it is sometimes difficult to lower/decompress the crib and release it from the automobile. But this can be accomplished easily enough with one or two firefighters relieving the weight off the crib by manually lifting the vehicle, which is basically an exact reversal of the deployment. If you do need to do this, simply grab a fender/quarter panel area and, with knees bent and using proper lifting technique, safely raise the car to relieve pressure off of the Auto Crib-It. This can be done with spreaders as well; it's just more labor-intensive.
All in all, this crib is an excellent tool. It's compact, lightweight and strong, and I would consider it a must-have on any engine or truck. I definitely give the Auto Crib-It two thumbs up. It may offer hands-free help, but once you get your hands on it, you won't want to let it go.
Sidebar: Power Hawk's Auto Crib-It
+ Comes in two models—a standard model and one for SUVs and trucks
+ Lightweight but sturdy and strong
+ Taller than most step chocks
+ Deploys rapidly and self-actuates with piston for practically "hands-free" operation
- Sometimes difficult to lower/decompress the crib and release it from the automobile
Power Hawk Technologies Inc.
300 Forge Way, Ste. 2
Rockaway, N.J. 07866