Improvised stretchers

Many improvisations are possible, depending on materials available.

Clothing stretcher
It is possible to make an improvised stretcher when no rope is available by using two strong jackets, such as parkas. The sleeves are turned inside out into the jackets that are then done up. Two poles are then slipped through the sleeves, as shown in Figure 40.3

Tent or groundsheet stretcher
A groundsheet (of sufficient size) or tent can be wrapped around two poles (body width apart) to overlap at least twice. The casualty’s body weight holds the tent or folded groundsheet in position, as shown in Figure 40.4.

Figure 40.4 Tent/groundsheet stretcher

Pack stretcher
Packs can be used to reinforce stretchers, or be lashed and splinted together to create a stretcher. These improvised stretchers are usually only suitable for short carries and there is little doubt that long carries require a well-built, rigid stretcher, as described previously.

One-person carry
One-person carries can be used when the casualty is light and small, but they are effective only for short distances. The carrier must obviously be strong.

Crossed slings and pole carry
Two slings of rope or strapping are worn across the body in bandolier fashion, with a short, well-padded pole passed through the back of the ropes on the carry, as shown in Figure 40.5. The casualty is carried piggyback with the legs resting on the pole.

Figure 40.5 Crossed slings and pole carry

Two-person carry
This is less strenuous than a one-person carry, but is limited to wide tracks and even terrain.

Two-person sling and pole carry
A pole is passed through slings (as in the one-person carry) or pack straps worn by two people. The pole is padded and the carriers link arms to provide a backrest, shown in Figure 40.6.

Figure 40.6 Two-person sling and pole carry

The pack may also be used—one way is to lengthen the straps of an empty pack, and sit the casualty with legs through the straps of the pack, which is worn in the usual way. Padding is required.

Anyone who has participated in any sort of patient evacuation will tell you that it is surprisingly hard work, even with a large group over short distances. Before attempting an evacuation with available group resources, consider the practical implications of whether you have the resources necessary to complete the task. It may be that patient transfer to a more accessible or comfortable intermediate location may be the better option, or perhaps seeking external assistance. Emergency personnel will always say that evacuating people is what they are trained and paid for, and would prefer to be called when not really required than to have their absence contribute to a tragedy.