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Mountain Rescue Litters


Many types of litters are available for evacuating casualties in rough mountain terrain. Casualties may be secured to litters in many different ways, depending on the terrain, nature of injuries, and equipment available. All casualties must be secured. This should be done under medical supervision after stabilization. It is also important to render psychological support to any victim awaiting evacuation.

If the litter must be carried, belayed, and then carried again, a sling rope should be wound around the litter end and tied off in a l-meter-long loop. This enables the carriers to hook and unhook the litter from the belay. Slings are available to aid the soldiers with litter carrying. Utility rope or webbing 6 meters long may be used. The rope is folded in half, and the loose ends are tied together with an overhand knot. These slings are attached to the litter rails (two or three to a side, depending on the number of litter bearers) by a girth hitch, and then routed up along the handling arm, over the shoulder, behind the neck, and then down along the other arm. The knot can be adjusted to help the outside arm grip the webbing. These slings help distribute the load more evenly, which is important if a great distance must be traveled.

a. Manufactured Litters. The following litters are readily available to mountaineering units.

(1) The poleless, nonrigid litter (NSN 6530-00-783-7510) is best issued for company medics since it is lightweight, easy to carry, and readily available. Casualties should be secured with the chest strap and pelvic straps, which are sewn on one side. This litter may be used when rappelling, on traverse lines, and on hauling lines in the vertical or horizontal position. It can be improvised with poles.

(2) The poleless semi-rigid litter (NSN 6530-00-783-7600) may be used the same as the nonrigid litter. It offers more victim protection and back support because of the wooden slats sewn into it.

(3) The mountain basket-type rigid litter (NSN 6530-00-181-7767) is best suited for areas where several casualties are to be transported. All other litters may be placed inside this litter basket and transported across traverse lines. This litter is rectangular and has no vertical leg divider so that it will accommodate other litters. It is also known as a modified Stokes litter.

(4) The Stokes metal litter (NSN 6530-00-042-8131) is suited for situations as above; however, the casualty must be moved in and out of the litter since no other litter will fit inside it. Some Stokes litter frames have a central weld on the frame end, which is a potential breaking point. Winding the rope around the frame end will distribute the force over a wider area and stabilize the system. (See FM 8-10-6 or USAF TO 00-75-5 for additional information on the Stokes litter.)

(5) The standard collapsible litter (NSN 6530-00-783-7905) (rigid pole folding litter) is most readily available in all units and, although heavy and unsuited to forward deployment, may be rigged for movement over rough or mountainous terrain. The folding aluminum litter (NSN 6530-00-783-7205) is a compact version of the pole litter and is better suited for forward deployment.

(6) The UT 2000 is manufactured in Austria and is specifically designed for mountaineering operations. The litter consists of two parts that join together to form a rigid litter. Each part has shoulder and waist straps that can be used to man-pack the litter making it extremely light and portable. When joined together the shoulder and waist straps are used to secure the casualty to the litter. Strapping is also provided to make a secure hoist point for aircraft extraction and high-angle rescues. Wheel sets are another accessory to the UT 2000 litter (either two wheels or one); they attach to the litter for use during a low-angle rescue.

(7) The patient rescue and recovery system (NSN 6530-01-260-1222) provides excellent patient support and protection (Figure 11-2). However, it is not a spinal immobilization device. A backboard must be used with this system for patients who have injuries to the shoulder area. This system will accommodate long and short backboards, scoop stretchers, and most other immobilization equipment.

Figure 11-2. Resuce and recovery systems (NSN 6530-01-260-1222).

Figure 11-2. Resuce and recovery systems (NSN 6530-01-260-1222).

b. Field-Expedient Litters. A litter can be improvised from many different things. Most flat-surface objects of suitable size can be used as litters. Such objects include boards, doors, window shutters, benches, ladders, cots, and poles. Some may need to be tied together to obtain the required size. If possible, these objects should be padded.

(1) Litters can also be made by securing poles inside blankets, ponchos, shelter halves, tarpaulin, jackets, shirts, sacks, bags, or mattress covers. Poles can be improvised from strong branches, tent supports, skis, and other similar items.

(2) If poles cannot be found, a large item, such as a blanket, can be rolled from both sides toward the center. Then the rolls can be used to obtain a firm grip to carry the victim. If a poncho is used, the hood must be up and under the victim, not dragging on the ground.

(3) A rope litter is prepared using one rope (Figure 11-3). It requires 20 to 30 minutes to prepare and should be used only when other materials are not available. Four to six bearers are required to carry the litter. The rope litter is the most commonly used field-expedient litter.

Note: Above the tree line, little material exists to construct litters.

Figure 11-3. Rope litter.

Figure 11-3. Rope litter.

(a) Make 24 bights about 45 to 61 centimeters long, starting in the middle of the rope so that two people can work on the litter at one time.

(b) With the remainder of the rope, make a clove hitch over each bight. Each clove hitch should be about 15 centimeters from the closed end of the bight when the litter is complete.

(c) Pass the remainder of the rope through the bights outside of the clove hitches. Dress the clove hitches down toward the closed end of the bight to secure the litter and tie off the ends of the rope with clove hitches.

(d) Line the litter with padding such as clothing, sleeping bags, empty boxes.

(e) Make the rope litter more stable by making it about 6 inches wider. After placing the clove hitches over the bights, slide them in (away from the closed end) about 15 centimeters. Take two 3- to 4-meter poles, 8 centimeters in diameter at the butt ends, and slide each pole down through the bights on each side. Dress down the clove hitches against the poles. Take two 1-meter poles, and tie them off across the head and foot of the litter with the remaining tails of the climbing rope.

Note: The above measurements may have to be altered to suit the overall length of rope available.

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