Clearing the Scene of a Road Crash

Clearing the Scene of a Road CrashOnce a road crash has occurred, many different services arrive on the scene with a wide variety of activities taking place.

The first hour after an accident is called the Golden Hour – physicians say seriously injured car crash victims need to reach comprehensive medical care within 60 minutes to ensure a good chance of survival.

At the accident scene, this scenario leaves little time for rescuers to extricate the wounded and speed them toward the hospital.

It is of the utmost importance that these services can work effectively not only on saving lives, but also prevent secondary crashes and further injury.

Who has to take charge and what is the correct protocol on the scene of the road crash?

We approached SANRAL to gain some insights about Road Incident Management and the processes required from the moment of crash response to ultimately clearing the scene of a crash.

What is Road Incident Management (RIMS)?

Incident Management is the:

  • Co-ordinated and
  • Pre-planned use of human, mechanical and electronic resources
  • To manage incidents and to restore traffic to normal operating conditions

The Role-players in Road Incident Management (RIMS)

  • The Centralised Communication Centre (CCC)
  • The Emergency Services
  • The Specialist Services
  • Non-specialist but essential services
  • The affected parties

Incident Management - the Chain of Events

  • Incident detection - Establishing location
  • Mobilisation and response of services
  • Situation analysis
  • Scene management
  • Clearance
  • Follow-up

Roles and Responsibilities of Role-players

Roles and Responsibilities of Role-players


  • Secures/cordon-off incident scene
  • Control access to the incident scene
  • Control crowd - to maintain public order
  • Assist with traffic control
  • Mobilization of tow operators, when needed
  • Mobilization of pathology services, when needed
  • Incident investigation
  • Completion of the AR form

Traffic control

  • Secure scene
  • Advance warnings
  • Road/lane closures
  • Alternative routes 
  • Bystander Management
  • Cordon-off scene
  • Access control
  • Coordinating of towing services through the coordinator
  • Declare road safe and open
  • Inform CCC

Fire Brigade / Firefighters

  • Firefighting/Fire prevention
  • Search & rescue
  • Hazardous material
  • Ensure safety on the scene
  • Advise Management Team of risks
  • Remove patients from the source of exposure
  • Coordinate specialist teams
  • Tremcard/material safety Data Sheet
  • Prohibit smoking on scene
  • Prevent pollution
  • Warn public / Coordinate evacuations

Emergency Medical Services

  • Prioritise & treat patients
  • Notify hospitals
  • Assist SAPS with declaring fatalities
  • Casualty Management (Triage)
  • Red (immediate, highest priority)
  • Yellow (delayed)
  • Green (minor)
  • Blue (diseased)

Forensic Pathology Services

  • Specialized investigation (ie. cause of death/incident), on-scene and postmortem.
  • Assist SAPS in making a case
  • Removal of deceased


Normalise, restore and safeguard any dangerous area

Emergency trailer with material and equipment for the use of services

  • Flagmen
  • Lights and Generator
  • Radios
  • Absorbent
  • Accident ahead signs
  • Spades, Grinder etc.

The Centralised Communication Centre (CCC)

The Centralised Communication Centre (CCC)

Who is the CCC?

  • Each system in the province elects its own CCC.

What is the Role of the CCC?

  • Gather accurate and vital relevant information from the caller to pass on to responding services
  • Assess the information and dispatch appropriate services
  • Refer to the Incident Management Guideline Plan
  • Notifies back-up/secondary services
  • Prompts the Coordinator about arrival and departure times, progress on the scene
  • Time the incident stood down
  • Keeps record of the incident.

Guidance to Role-players when Responding to the Scene of a Road Crash

  • When notified - depart immediately to the scene
  • Always drive responsibly - to drive fast does not mean drive reckless
  • Activate your vehicle's lights and siren
  • When approach scene - slow down
  • OBSERVE - look for dangerous goods labels / other suspect goods etc

Arriving on the Scene of a Road Crash

  • Park your vehicle in a safe manner to warn oncoming motorists of the danger
  • At night - do not point vehicle headlights to oncoming traffic
  • Secure the scene - barricade scene
  • Control the traffic
  • Make contact with CCC and provide a METHANE/SITREP report
  • Institute RIMS protocols (JICP, SMT etc.)
  • Identify all vehicles and persons involved
  • Gather info on injured persons first - if possible

Scene Management Image

Scene Management and On-Scene Coordination

Why do we have On-Scene Coordination?

  • To ensure that activities on the scene are coordinated and no duplicate request occurs from the scene.

What does On-Scene Coordination Involve?

Step 1: Setting up of a Forward Control Point (FCP)

Step 2: Establishing a Management Team

Step 3: Electing a Coordinator

Setting up of a Joint Incident Command Post (JICP) / Forward Control Point (FCP)

What is a joint incident command post?

  • Reporting location
  • Meeting place for the Management Team
  • Identify where to report when arriving on the scene
  • Information dissemination

How is a joint incident command post set up?

  • First-person on the scene: Cone/chequered flag on the vehicle
  • Establish direct communication with CCC
  • Park vehicle outside immediate operational area - in a safe place
  • Establish at every incident where more than one emergency service is present.

Scene Management: The Management Team

Scene Management: The Management Team

What is the Management Team?

  • The first person from each service to arrive at the incident scene will serve as the communication representative for his department
  • Maintain throughout the incident

Why is a Management Team Set Up?

  • To develop a plan of action for the incident
  • To coordinate decisions and actions on the scene
  • To encourage services to work as a team and make joint decisions

The Coordinator

Who is the coordinator?

  • The Coordinator of an incident will be the person elected by the management team

What does the coordinator do?

  • Responsible for communication to the CCC
  • Ensures that the CCC is updated on the progress of the incident
  • Co-ordinates decisions made by Management Team

Road Crash Scene Clearance

Road Crash Scene Clearance

  • Debris clean-up
  • Removal of stationary vehicles
  • Liaise with owner/driver
    • Operator on scene
    • Operator contracted to owner
    • Private operator
  • Responsibility of RRM emergency standby team and SAPS to coordinate
  • Important
    • If a driver is incapacitated SAPS/Traffic to make decision
    • Traffic has the right to overrule driver’s wishes if (= Regulation 320):
  • Hazardous situation
  • Obstruction
  • Stationary vehicle procedures

Follow-up and Post Incident Assessment (PIA)

Follow-up and Post Incident Assessment (PIA)

What is a Post Incident Assessment?

  • Multi-disciplinary facilitated meeting regarding the management of the particular incident
  • Discuss any difficulties in a positive and constructive environment
  • A neutral facilitator will co-ordinate Post Incident Assessment (PIA)

When should a Post Incident Assessment take place?

  • Regular multi-disciplinary Post Incident Assessments (PIA’s) will take place timeously after incidents.
  • These should be held within a reasonable period from the time of the incident
  • “Lessons learnt” will be circulated to all services involved in the system.

Who can call for a Post Incident Assessment?

  • The Incident Coordinator or any other service
  • The Project Team or the CCC can be contacted directly

When should a Post Incident Assessment be Held?

After any of the Following Incidents

  • An incident involving hazardous chemicals
  • An incident involving road closure or use of an alternative route
  • An incident involving two or more emergency services
  • An incident where the Coordinator / any other service feels the incident was not handled correctly
  • An incident where the Coordinator / any other service feels the incident was well handled

Dangerous Goods Incidents

  • What is a dangerous goods incident?
  • The golden rule
  • Safety precaution on-scene
  • Road closure
  • Specialised clean-up
  • Further training and development of services

HAZMAT Response Steps Image 1

HAZMAT Response Steps Image 2


HAZMAT Response Steps Image 3


[A word of appreciation to SANRAL for the assistance received]

Also view:

Accident Scene Safety

Road Safety and Safeguarding Accident Scenes

Accident Scene Safety and Paramedics

Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods

Road Incident Management (RIMS)

Road Incident Management (RIMS)

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