The rustic bush stretcher comes into its own when helicopters are unable to fly and vehicles unable to reach a remote location. It can be built on the spot, provided saplings of suitable length are found and an appropriate cutting tool is available. Note that the saplings need to be very long so as to allow sufficient room for eight stretcher-bearers to line up along it for the arduous carry out.
Despite its appearance, the bush stretcher provides a reasonably comfortable ride for the casualty and is sufficiently rigid to enable it to be passed safely over obstacles.
- Obtain two firm, straight saplings, 5 to 6 metres long when trimmed and 8-10cm in diameter, and four shorter pieces, approximately 4 cm diameter and 1.2 m long. Assemble all available cord and light rope in the group.
- Place long saplings on the ground, with their butts at opposite ends and about 60 cm apart. Lash cross-pieces as shown in Figure 11.1, using square lashings (Figure 11.2) to the poles and a diagonal lashing (Figure 11.3) where the cross-pieces intersect. All cross-pieces must be placed on top of the stretcher poles and sprung down into position as required.
- Trim the ends of the cross-pieces as close as possible to the poles, leaving no sharp edges. The bottom sides of stretcher poles must be trimmed as clean and smooth as possible for comfort on bearers’ shoulders.
- Lace evenly, but loosely, across the stretcher with cords. Make sure the cross lacings are not too far apart and secure each turn with a half hitch. At least 15 metres of cord is required.
- Carefully pad the stretcher with groundsheets, sleeping mat, spare clothing etc., or, if unavailable, sheets ofbark covered with bracken make a very good substitute.
- If the going is likely to be at all rough, secure the casualty to the stretcher with more rope, placing spare clothing under the rope to prevent chafing.
Assemble a team of at least eight bearers, plus two relief teams of eight persons each. Note that in any group of people some will be too tall and some too short to be fully effective as stretcher-bearers. Further people are necessary for route marking, trail clearing and casualty monitoring.
Square lashings are used to fasten cross-pieces to the poles. Begin by forming a clove hitch around one of the pieces. The lashing is then bound as shown in steps 2 to 4 completing at least four turns. Binding turns should then be applied around the knot so as to tighten the lashing (step 5). Finish with a clove hitch or a round turn and two half hitches.
Use this lashing where the cross-pieces intersect. Begin with a timber hitch around both pieces. Tighten it to draw the two pieces together. Three or four binding turns are made around one fork, four more around the other fork. The turns should be beside each other not on top of each other. A number of binding turns should be made between the pieces to tighten up the lashing. Finish with a clove hitch or a round turn and two half hitches.