Wreckmaster Blog

wm_img_blog_5-discipline v.jpg

Be safe out there Part 1: How to survey the scene

Posted by Justin Cruse on November 22, 2017

The tow life is not for the light hearted. Quality operators must be quick in their thinking, sound in their judgment, and able to predict, anticipate, and act in a timely and appropriate manner to the changes that can occur on every call. In this five-part article series, we share the WreckMaster approach to minimizing risk and increasing efficiency and effectiveness. We've taught these techniques to law enforcement agencies, fire fighters, DOT, and all four branches of the U.S. military. And now we're sharing them with you—because we want all tow operators to be safe out there.



While tow truck operators do have some control over their level of risk, there are situations that arise that can't be anticipated. Circumstances and conditions affect the type and level of risk at any given time, especially participating in recovery which can change moment-by-moment. Tow truck operators are dealing with the victims, the casualties, the loads, the environments, the trucks, the rigging, the other responders sharing the scene, and—of course—the traffic whizzing by on the other side of that thin white line.

These are all factors that must be managed to minimize the risk associated with the activity. 

WreckMaster trains towing and recovery operators and roadway vehicle incident responders to employ a routine that gets the greatest result from the least amount of effort while minimizing the chance of injury, damage and loss.

We refer to this routine as "The Discipline.”

Simply put, The Discipline is the word “SCENE.” Each letter stands for another step in the process.


S stands for “SURVEY”

C stands for “CALCULATE”

E stands for “EXPLAIN”

N stands for “NOs”

E stands for “EXECUTE”




When you arrive at a roadway vehicle incident, the first thing you need to do is park out of the way, then survey the scene.

To effectively gather and process all the information necessary to form a plan, you need to be calm. Take a couple of seconds to collect your thoughts, take some deep breaths or coach yourself.

Next, introduce yourself to the other scene responders, identify who is in charge and inform them that you'll be conducting a survey of the scene to determine the equipment and personnel you'll need and estimate the time required. 

A clip board with a note pad can help you stay focused and give you a written record of the survey so nothing is overlooked or forgotten (pre-print a checklist for added security in very stressful situations). Use a digital camera or your phone to take photos so you have a visual reference as well. Both will also be useful in the event there is any litigation about the incident in the future.

Many elements may affect the outcome, such as the time of day, victims, traffic, weather, visibility, surface environments, condition of the casualty and the load, if present. Make sure you take all of these into consideration.

Once all the pertinent information is collected, answer the following questions: 

  • What is required for traffic control?
  • What is the recovery technique I'll be using?
  • What are my equipment (rigging, trucks etc.) and personnel needs?
  • How will I prepare the casualty for recovery?
  • How will I prepare the casualty for towing or transport?
  • What is needed for load and debris removal?
  • Where will recovery units be placed?

Use your answers to plan your approach.

Completing a careful and responsible survey requires distraction-free attention to detail. You'll be searching for anything and everything that could impact the outcome of the job. It takes sound judgment and years of experience to make accurate predictions and determine the execution tactics for success. 


Welcome to the first step of the WreckMaster Discipline! Next time we'll tackle the second step—'C' for 'calculate.'

Topics: Useful towing tips, Tow truck safety

Wreckmaster original is now even better. Check out the skates.