During my initial training as a firefighter in Michigan I was shown the benefits of using a come along. This training included a “steering column pull” for auto extrication that would pull the steering column and the dash away from the patient freeing them from their entrapments. I was even shown an example where we literally folded a car in half to show how powerful the come along was.
A few years later I was hired by a large city in Canada that taught us this same technique, the only problem was that steering columns were now adjustable and this created a hazard as the rack and pinion system is broken up into two, three, or even four parts. When applying force on these parts the rack and pinion system is the weak area that could snap off and injure the patient or rescuers. As soon as it was realized that the rack and pinion system was on most cars the come along tool took a back seat in the auto extrication toolbox.
The come-along is a hand operated ratchet lever winch. The lever is used to pull the cable into the wench and the ratchet is the brake that keeps the wire from unwinding (similar to those seen on boat winches). It is light and compact that can be deployed in many situations. The only problem with this tool is the ignorance that surrounds it.
I myself used to say to my coworkers, that if you wanted to look like you had no idea what you were doing then take out the Come Along tool and that would prove it. Funny, the more education and training I get with such tools, the more apt I am to use hand tools over the gas powered hydraulic option. This is a great example of why I always say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
Recently myself and a couple other instructors from Brotherhood Instructors, LLC. attended a course put on by Michigan State University about industrial machinery entrapments. We used the come along in a few scenarios and it worked great. The come along was used to lift devices, shore equipment, and binding heavy objects in place. Keep in mind when using this that it is either a whole “click” on the ratchet or none. It does not have the capabilities of moving smaller distances.
With the most standard come along assemblies it has the pulling power of 3000 lbs if used with the pulley, or it has 1500 lbs of pulling force without using the pulley. There are of course, larger and smaller models.
Pull the come along off your truck with your crew and go over the pros and cons of using this device. If you realize the potential of this piece of equipment it may go from your “plan D” to part of your “plan A” during your initial actions.