By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.
There are only two types of wheelers: those that have been stuck and those that will be stuck. It can happen through mechanical failure or operator error, but when a rig is stuck, the first thing to do is make sure that the vehicle is stable and the people are safe. It’s natural that everyone involved wants to jump out and rush to be heroic, but safety must come first.
Once any true emergencies have been eliminated (i.e. something is on fire or someone is injured), a vehicle recovery should be executed in a calm, thorough, and systematic manner.
One can find many wonderful articles about different pieces of recovery equipment and how to use them properly and safely. This is all good, but the process of deciding what to use in which situations is critical. In my recovery training courses, we practice IPDE: identify, predict, decide, execute.
Step 1: Identify. Take a visual inventory of everything around, above, and below the vehicle. Why is the vehicle no longer able to move on its own power? What did the driver see, hear, and feel leading up to the vehicle getting stuck? Is it up to its rocker panels in mud with tires spinning? Is the undercarriage wedged on a rock? Did it just run out of gas?
Step 2: Predict. Examine all the possible courses of action to get the vehicle moving again. Look at the space that the vehicle will occupy as it moves during any recovery procedures. In which directions is it possible to move the vehicle given the equipment, situation, and environment?
Step 3: Decide. Determine the course of action you will attempt based on the following priorities. The Safest: Which option provides the least danger to the people involved? The Most Effective: Of the safe options, which is the most likely to work given the equipment and terrain with which you are working? The Easiest: Of the safe and effective options, which one requires the least exertion and strain on both the people and vehicles involved? Are there fewer hazards in moving the vehicle in one direction as opposed to another? Is it better to use a kinetic rope or a static winch? Is there a suitable winch point? Is it better to use a high-lift jack instead of dragging with a rope or a winch?
Step 4: Execute. Once you have decided on your course of action, execute it thoroughly. If, at any step, the process is not going according as predicted, stop, reassess, and start back at the first step.
The people that are the most effective at recoveries are not necessarily the ones who have the most equipment, but the ones who are the most resourceful. The most critical piece of equipment you have is your brain.