A Stokes basket is a metal wire (or plastic) litter used by First Responders in difficult terrain.
Originally designed by Charles Francis Stokes, a Navy Surgeon General in the early 20th century, these baskets have been updated to keep pace with our changing requirements. Once used primarily in mountainous areas with transport occurring on the backs of donkeys and horses, the appearance of helicopters on the historical scene expanded the ways in which rescues could be conducted.
After the person’s immediate first aid needs are tended to, he/she is fastened into the litter, and then the litter can be moved. In my own case, I had a ski accident that included a deeply lacerated arm. I was dripping blood onto the snow, but since I didn’t ordinarily need poles to ski, I thought I could ski down the rest of the mountain to the First Aid Station on my own, holding the injured arm in front of me.
Wiser heads than mine prevailed. The mountain rescue team wrapped my arm, lowered me into a Stokes basket, and strapped me in. I was towed about a half mile across a mogul field by a pair of guys from the Ski Patrol. It was a bumpy ride over that mogul field, but there was no other way to get me down to the waiting ambulance.
I was towed behind skis, but snowmobiles, horses, and ATVs have all been employed to get the injured through the woods or hill country.
With specially attached ropes and in limited situations, people can be also be lifted to safety by helicopter. Natural disasters sometimes cut people off from ground transportation, so people have been airlifted out of wildfires or flooded areas without the helicopter ever having to set down. Somebody on the ground helps the injured person get into the basket, attaches it to the pulley system, and then the helicopter takes them to safety. The photo shows the same Stokes basket (with demo dummy) and the single rope leading to the tie-down spot.
The view of the underside of the six-foot Stokes basket reveals the mesh insert that keeps the patient’s limbs from falling through the open steel frame. In addition, the dark blue insert provides some comfort and support to the upper body.
Stokes baskets are also used to rescue victims from confined spaces, like caves or collapsed buildings. I recently discovered that some baskets used in surface water rescue have floats attached. If used in mountain rescue, the litters might come with a lid/cover to either protect the person from falling rocks or keep the patient from falling out, should it tip.
Design improvements have included using multiple attachment points, separate hold-down cables, and powered extension hoists. The multiple attachment points can prevent the basket from spinning while being transported by helicopter. Powered hoists can be valuable during steep terrain rescues and/or if there is not enough manpower onsite to do the heavy lifting. The U.S. Navy has used the Stokes basket to transport patients through narrow corridors and doorways.
The close-up shot of the ‘bear claw’ shows the holes at the bottom through which the carabiners and ropes are attached; the other ends secured at the Stokes basket. The ropes attached to the vehicle that supplies the lifting power are secured at the top of the ‘bear claw.’
On the right: the rope is wound through the brake bar rack to more securely anchor the rope to the vehicle. Less slippage occurs with its use.
Ropes come in different strengths for different needs, so the ropes are different colors to keep it simple for the rescuers. Because of the incredible demands placed on the ropes (weight, tension, water, scorching heat, and freezing cold) the ropes need to be tested for soundness on a regular basis. Too much weight at any given time can compromise the integrity of the rope, but even with normal wear and tear, they are replaced every few years.
Life expectancy of the ropes seen in the photos is about seven years. Somebody’s life depends on that rope not snapping, but even at a cost of about $15.00 per foot, fire departments try to budget for replacement at about the five year point.
The type of rescue involving a Stokes basket/lifting with ropes is a low frequency, but high risk operation.
On land, firefighters are frequently called upon to handle rescues of this type. At sea, this job falls to the Coast Guard. They have the trucks/helicopters, equipment, and training to ensure the happy ending to an otherwise awful tragedy.
Taken by Patti Phillips during a Writers’ Police Academy demonstration in Wisconsin.
It’s with great pleasure that we thank you, the readers, for hanging out with us for five years.
We’ve taken some really amazing trips to American Civil War battlefields, endured fog and pouring rain on both American and international golf courses, been trapped in elevators, survived bomb scares, witnessed bloody crime scenes, and lived to tell the tales.
Some intriguing people have agreed to do interviews about their jobs and in the process, have opened the eyes of our readers far and wide about the rigors of law enforcement in its many forms.
Police Academies, Fire Fighter Academies, Emergency Medical Training Schools, Firearms Training sites, Criminal Investigation Facilities – have all generously allowed us to take photos and chat with the instructors at length. Fascinating stuff.
We’ve met with Visiting Detectives – an assortment that included a psychic detective, a vegetarian detective, and a time-traveling detective from the 1800s. Sheila chimed in while they worked on puzzling cases with me. The Vegetarian Detective brought brownies. Yum.
Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1, which included stories from 2011 and 2012 no longer available on the website, was published in response to the readership that wanted the (over 50) stories from the first year collected into one ebook. Don’t have your copy yet? Click on the link and find it at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HI6YBDG
You’ve made the journey fun. And then some. 🙂
During the years, we kept track of which posts were the most popular, which ones you kept visiting over and over again. For research? For another laugh? To prove a point? For some of you, all three. Here is the result.
Click on the links and take a look at your Top 10 Favorite Kerrian’s Notebook posts in reverse order thru 2016:
And the most popular post?
Thank you, one and all! 🙂
Next time you’re in town, give us a call. We’re always happy to chat about the latest trip or the trickiest case. If you’re lucky, you might even meet one of the Visiting Detectives. There’s always a pot of coffee on and a piece of pie just begging to be eaten.
*Fingerprint photo taken by Patti Phillips at SIRCHIE, in Youngsville, North Carolina.
We’ve been seeing quite a few ambulances in the neighborhood lately. It’s human nature to wonder who is sick or hurt and to see more than one a week at certain houses is more than a little worrying. We are lucky enough to live within four miles of the hospital, so response time is pretty quick – 7-8 minutes from the time the call is made to get help. But, we have two Senior citizens living close by and sadly, the sirens have been blaring every few days. A couple of times, the crisis was managed at the house and other times, our old friends made the trips to the hospital.
What does a paramedic actually do? Suppose the patient is not at home, surrounded by friends and family?
The paramedics are responsible for pre-hospital care. They do all they can to keep the patient alive until the person can be seen by a doctor. They cannot act on their own, however. After hearing the patient’s Vital Sign numbers, the Emergency Room doctor at a health care facility (usually the closest hospital) gives orders to the paramedic via phone or other device about the procedure to follow. This is no easy task, because the EMTs/paramedics must communicate not just the numbers, but also the state of the patient’s appearance and what may have caused the problem to begin with. A medical history isn’t always available (as at an accident scene), and the reason for a sudden loss of breath sounds or heart beating may not be apparent.
A paramedic’s first job is to keep the patient alive, and that may mean getting the heart started again, getting breathing going again, and/or stopping blood loss.
There are protocols to follow.
One person is in charge of the case at the time. He/she delegates the jobs for the rest of the team to carry out.
It is a two person job to clear the airways, monitor the patient’s vitals and administer whatever drugs are necessary to get breathing started.
If the heart has stopped, there is a mathematical procedure to follow: 32 chest compressions followed by two breaths, with the team switching positions every five minutes. Ever try to do this? It’s not easy to keep the compressions going for five full minutes. They must continue the process until the heart beats on its own or until the ambulance reaches the hospital. They keep “working on the code.” If they can get started on the chest compressions within three minutes, then there is a greater likelihood that oxygen will get restored to the brain.
But, that’s not all that is happening on the ride to the hospital. Blood sugar and other levels are checked while in transport. These days, an ambulance is a mobile intensive care unit. It’s the paramedics’ lab. Tablets are proving to be invaluable, because they can deliver more information to the doctor – including cardiac readings – and then the doctor can make more informed decisions about the transit care.
Ever take a ride in an ambulance when you weren’t a patient? I got to do that once and I was surprised to find out that the siren wasn’t nearly as loud when we were sitting inside. I also discovered how much bouncing goes on in the back of the ambulance. Roads are not as smooth as you might think and some neighborhoods have speed bumps installed that slow down the ride considerably. But, one of the guys revealed that they train while the ambulance is moving – including inserting lines for fluids! They anticipate the normal bumps and rocking that occurs and develop a rhythm for doing their jobs. A bit like getting used to working at sea.
Because there may be a shortage of doctors available to give medical orders (they may be busy with another patient from an accident, or another heart attack victim) some regions of the country now have paramedics that are so highly trained that they can work under a doctor’s license without contacting a hospital. This requires special certification – not every paramedic is allowed to do this.
The average pay for paramedics is a little over $40,000 a year. What kind of training is needed? The first step is Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training – about 150 hours (9 weeks). After passing certification tests and working in the field for at least six months, then the candidates become eligible to attend Paramedics school – an additional 1200-1800 hours of training (perhaps two years). Then, you can work in a fire station, in a hospital, or anywhere that employs a paramedic – even at a resort. Of course, you have to be able to lift sick and injured people, have a stomach for working with broken bones, nauseous patients, and bloody accident scenes. Think you can do that? It’s a rewarding career if you can.
A related article shows what an EMT might do at the scene of an explosion, before the patient ever gets into the ambulance. The event was a simulation, but the pictures may be too intense for some people. Click here to read “How many bodies at the scene?”
*Photos by Patti Phillips