Rescue Sheet Saves Lives – Completely Analog

Modern safety technologies effectively reduce the risk of injury in traffic accidents. But if, in serious cases, occupants do become trapped in the vehicle, it can make their rescue more difficult. This is where the rescue sheet provides an important service – and it is still in analog form.

Rettungskarte. Photo: DEKRA
DEKRA offers a free sticker for the windshield, indicating that a rescue sheet is stored in the vehicle. Photo: DEKRA

When worse comes to worst, today’s drivers are better protected than ever: Modern safety technologies and high-strength materials ensure that passenger compartments remain stable even in high speed crashes, and reduce the risk of injury to vehicle occupants. This development has been driven particularly by the increasing importance of the Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) crash tests – even though these tests are not required by law, they have spurred on vehicle manufacturers to make passenger compartments in modern cars ever more stable. This has been a major factor in the sharp drop in traffic fatalities in recent years.

Nevertheless, this very welcome development also has a downside: If, in extreme cases, occupants become trapped or enclosed in the vehicle, the considerably more stable designs can make rescue more difficult. Particularly with older hydraulic spreaders and cutters, rescue workers often find it difficult to open a body deformed by the accident, and to free the vehicle occupants. Such delays can have serious consequences, because every second counts when rescuing seriously injured people.

Standardized information helps rescuers

The so-called rescue sheet counteracts this problem. The concept was developed by the VDA’s Rescue Working Group, whose members include vehicle manufacturers, representatives of fire departments, and other experts from the rescue sector. In 2009, this working group presented a concept for cross-manufacturer, standardized rescue data sheets. The standardized design contains a schematic representation of the respective vehicle as viewed from the side and above. All relevant components, such as the position of body reinforcements, the battery, airbags and their control units, the fuel tank, or high-voltage batteries, as well as other components, are identified. In the case of electric and hybrid vehicles, information is also provided on how the high-voltage system can be reliably deactivated by emergency services.

Vehicle manufacturers create these rescue sheets and keep them up to date. With the information they provide, the time needed to “cut open” an accident vehicle in an emergency can be significantly reduced. Especially considering how practitioners from the rescue sector clearly describe the situation: Vehicles involved in accidents are sometimes so badly deformed that even trained eyes are often unable to identify the specific model.

The rescue sheet is available online for free download

Vehicle owners can download the rescue sheet for their vehicle type free of charge online. It is best to print out the document in color and attach it behind the sun visor on the driver’s side. This arrangement means that rescue workers know where to look for the important information in the event of an emergency.

DEKRA also provides extensive support for this sensible protective measure. The recently redesigned website provides a central point of contact where motorists can download the rescue sheet suitable for their model and find all other information on the topic. DEKRA also offers a free sticker for the windshield, indicating that a rescue sheet is stored in the vehicle.

Analog on paper as a universal solution

For some, printing and filing out vital information analog on paper may seem somewhat outdated in the age of smartphones and internet. Markus Egelhaaf, DEKRA expert in the field of accident research, explains the background: “Of course, there are also increasingly digital ways of obtaining this information. Some fire departments, for example, can use a license plate query to determine the vehicle type, retrieve the associated rescue data sheet, and transmit it to the incident command.” The problem is that this is not universally the case – either in Germany or abroad. In general, however, the rescue sheet is known in all European countries, and its format is even standardized worldwide. This is why, incidentally, it is recommended not only for German drivers traveling abroad, but for all motorists in all countries, to place the sheet behind the sun visor of their vehicle – even if the quality and breadth of the implementation of this concept naturally varies from country to country. Markus Egelhaaf: “Considering these circumstances, printing out the rescue sheet on paper and placing it behind the sun visor is a safety or fallback solution that no motorist should forego in their own interest.”

Grüner Trenner Infokasten Box Kasten
DEKRA Unfallexperte Markus Egelhaaf
DEKRA Expert Markus Egelhaaf. Photo: DEKRA

Three questions for Markus Egelhaaf, DEKRA Accident Research

What role does DEKRA play when it comes to the rescue sheet?

Egelhaaf: We support the concept wholeheartedly and provide every motorist – regardless of whether they are a DEKRA customer or not – with access to their vehicle’s specific rescue sheet, if offered by the manufacturer. In addition, there are other service offers such as the free information sticker for the windshield or a protective cover for the printed sheet, which is also free of charge. We bundle all these offers on the website, which we recently fundamentally revised.

What is your recommendation for drivers?

Download the sheet for your own specific vehicle model – depending also on drive variant and body shape, if applicable. Then print out the document in full color and place it behind the sun visor on the driver’s side. If there is no flap there, a sturdy rubber or Velcro strip will do. Additionally, place a sticker on the windshield outside of the driver’s field of vision, indicating that a rescue sheet is stored in the vehicle. You should also check about once a year whether the sheet is still legible and up to date.

Could certain aspects of the concept be improved?

Digital access to safety-relevant information by emergency services as early as possible is an important step. The exact vehicle type is automatically transmitted with eCall, i.e., electronic emergency calls, or can be determined by suitably equipped control centers by querying the vehicle license plate number during the emergency call. However, this “digital rescue chain” is not yet in use across the board – it is therefore important to expand it quickly and consistently.

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