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Casualty on unstable ground

Hazard Knowledge

People may become trapped, buried, or injured as a result of accessing unstable ground, or from an area of ground becoming unstable, sometimes without warning.

The hazards that may impact on the condition of a casualty who has become trapped on unstable ground include:

  • Exposure, which can lead to hypothermia or heat illness
  • Crush injuries
  • Asphyxiation from water or a free-flowing solid such as sand or mud

The situation may be worsened by the response of the casualty or the activities of emergency responders. The casualty may be numbed if they are trapped in mud at a low temperature, resulting in them being unable to feel the impact of any tools being used to extricate them. Any injury to the casualty caused by digging may not be immediately recognised.

Through knowledge and information sharing between various agencies and local emergency planning groups, fire and rescue services should be aware of specific areas within their service boundaries where there is a risk of people needing to be rescued from unstable ground.

Rescues from unstable ground may require assistance from specialist teams, such as urban search and rescue (USAR), technical rescue, other emergency services or appropriate resources.

For further information about incidents that involve bodies of water refer to Operations - Working near water or other liquids.