Use This Time to Inspect and Upgrade Your Rescue Gear

Thursday, April 09, 2020

For those of you who have had to drastically change your travel plans – which pretty much includes 90% of us – and if those travel plans were to attend rescue training, we hope that you have had a chance to read our recent blog article Roco Tips for Maintaining Rescue Skills in the Midst of Coronavirus

If you have had to cancel or postpone your planned training, chances are there are funds that were earmarked for your rescue team that may be diverted to another department or otherwise be lost if you don’t use them before the end of your fiscal year. Maybe those same funds can be used to support your rescue team in other ways.Roco's Rescue Gear Service Life Checklist

 If you use your rescue equipment regularly for training, to rig for potential rescues, or during live rescues, chances are, that equipment has seen some significant wear. Nylon gear is especially prone to degradation and is a likely candidate for replacement. In addition to the ASTM F1740-96 ten-year service life of nylon rescue gear, keep in mind that several manufacturers still place a shorter service life on nylon gear than the ASTM standard.

In addition to the service life of your gear, now is a great time to do a thorough inspection of ALL your equipment. Become familiar with the inspection criteria that the equipment manufacturer may have provided. Some hardware items include built in wear indicators. Learn which items have them, and inspect those items to see if they are still serviceable. For all your gear, check for proper function, obvious damage, indication of shock loading or loading beyond the rated working load, and history of the equipment, if known.

In addition to taking advantage of any available funds to replenish unserviceable gear, now may be the perfect time to purchase some of the gear that you have wanted to introduce into your rescue equipment cache. There are some incredible new pieces of kit that make your job as a rescuer easier and safer. Visit our blog to read about some of these items. If you are still using your trusty brake rack for friction control, give one of the newer devices a try, like the updated Petzl I’D or the new Maestro. The Omni Block pulleys are another great option to try out. There are just too many to list, so take the time to find out what is out there, what may be a great fit for your team and rescue needs, and look into spending some of that money while it's still available.

We’ll be posting informative videos in the coming days that showcase some of the latest equipment advances, so keep an eye on our blog and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date. As always, if you have questions or want to discuss if a particular piece of gear is right for you or our team, feel free to call us at 1-800-647-7626.  

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Roco Tips for Maintaining Rescue Skills in the Midst of Coronavirus

Monday, April 06, 2020

We are all being confronted with a pandemic that is compelling us to make significant changes in how we go about our day, both on and off the job.  With the current travel restrictions and the need for social distancing, we are challenged to adjust our behaviors while still being prepared to perform our rescue duties if called upon. 

Maintaining rescue skills proficiency was already challenging enough before Coronavirus, and it may be even more challenging now.  Although most training has been postponed at the Roco Training Center, it is still vitally important to keep your skills sharp. Confined spaces are still dangerous, and rescues will still happen. As always, it’s important to be ready.

We would like to offer some tips to help you maintain both your individual and team proficiency.  These tips are not intended to provide the same level of proficiency that attending a formal refresher class would, but we feel they will go a long way in helping you keep your skills at an acceptable, if not a highly polished level.

A rescuer acts as a litter attendant, or "barrelman", during an exercise at the Roco Training Center.

Our Roco training department has put together a list of skills to concentrate on while doing your own in-house independent training.  We based these on the skills that have demonstrated the highest degree of erosion or loss of proficiency over time, and also the skills that are most likely to be called upon for your rescue duties. 

First on the list are knots.  We should all be able to tie the knots we will need for any given rescue system, but let’s take it a step further and strive to become knot craftsmen.  So break out your rope and webbing shorts, and go through your knots.  The beauty of this practice is you can certainly maintain social distancing as you practice either alone or in small groups. 

Let’s go beyond the basics of dress, load and safety, and start to tie knots that make the system more efficient and safer.  For anchor knots like the figure 8 on-a-bight, start gauging how much rope you need to tie the knot with the resulting closed loop being more compact.  My gauge is to end up with a loop that I can easily clip three carabiners into, but not much bigger than that.  Those big loops end up being a hindrance when we are trying to clear a litter out of a vertical portal, or getting a rescue package up and over a parapet or guardrail.  By keeping those finished closed loops nice and compact, you economize and maintain that headroom. 

Work any twists or crossed material out of the knot before loading.  This isn’t just a question of appearance, but in many cases helps maintain the strength of the rope or webbing as you tie the knot.  The biggest advantage of reducing or eliminating twists or crossed material is that it is much easier to untie the knot and is certainly easier to recognize the knot as being correct during final safety checks. 

Practice tying knots around anchors coming from different angles and positions relative to the anchor.  It is easy to tie a clove hitch around a horizontal pipe.  Now start practicing tying it around a vertical anchor.  Or better yet, while you are standing on the opposite side of the anchor from where the standing section of rope is coming from.  It is the same knot, only now you are seeing it from a different orientation. 

So, challenge yourself to become a knot craftsperson.  Tie knots in the dark or blindfolded, behind your back, with winter gloves on, or any other way that is more challenging than in an air-conditioned well-lit room. 

To identify the skills that you should be practicing beyond basic knots, refer to your rescue preplans and list the skills required for your most likely rescues, as well as your worst case scenarios.  Don’t worry about building scenarios yet, instead divide the individual and team skills into discernable categories using the equipment that you have in your rescue cache.  During your rescue plan reviews, make sure to keep an eye out for any plans that need to be updated. 

The most common skills used, and the ones that seem to have a high degree of perishability, are:

  • anchor and system rigging
  • patient packaging
  • mechanical advantages, and
  • converting mechanical advantages to lowers (or vice versa)
A rescuer selects equipment while practicing proper rigging.

ANCHOR AND SYSTEM RIGGING

Anchor rigging is half science and half art.  Of course, we need to identify the anchors that we can use as either single point or multi-point anchors.  Single point anchors are generally easier, but even they can be done with an eye for efficiency vs. just slapping a sling around it and calling it good.  Can we extend that single point anchor to be in a better position to see the load or to be able to communicate more efficiently? Should we extend the anchor out from the wall a bit to allow room to operate a friction control device, versus being jammed against the wall and having to be a contortionist to operate the device?

For multi-point anchors, can we consistently end up with a two-point bridle that approximately shares the load equally between legs?  Are we maintaining safe angles and not approaching that 120 degree critical angle?  Are we hogging the anchors and leaving the safety line system with few or no options for their anchor? 

CONVERTING MAs TO LOWERS

If we anticipate converting a lowering system to a haul system or vice versa, can we make the conversion efficiently?  This is where the use of modern friction control devices makes our job so much easier and safer.  If you are using a device like the Petzl I’D or Maestro, or the CMC MPD, or any device that can be used for friction control and as a change of direction and progress capture in a haul system, it is good to practice the conversion back and forth from haul to lower and lower to haul, even with a load suspended. 

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGES

Practice building vertical simple MAs, horizontal Z-rigs, and also compound MAs.  Make sure there is always a progress capture or ratchet built into the system.  On the final checks, the system must be the proper ratio, including a final change of direction if called for, have a functioning ratchet, and all carabiners must be locked.  If you want a little tip that works no matter what you are doing, it is this credo: 

 

"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."

PATIENT PACKAGING

If you have a rescue manikin in your facility, now is a great time to practice social distancing by practicing patient packaging.  No matter which type of litter you are using, there is a lot of value in practicing with that litter to correctly secure the patient in the litter and then to create a safe and efficient bridle to attach the rescue system.  Practice this for both rigid and flexible litters and for horizontal and vertical orientations. 

For all the skills we have already listed, you can perform the practice solo and then step back to let one of your teammates do a quality and safety check on your work.

Finally, we all like to have some fun when we practice, so why not inject a bit of competition into the scene?  We love to have races to see who can build mechanical advantages fastest, but the most important thing is not the time. When scoring your contest, focus on the accuracy and safety of the finished product.  You can set up multiple lanes separated by the social distancing guidelines and have one team member be the timer and score keeper. 

So remember that team performance is dependent on individual skills coming together to build and operate the right system for the situation at hand.  Now is a great time to focus on individual skills so when this pandemic is finally past us, we can rock it as a rescue team.

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COVID-19 Update

Monday, March 16, 2020

Roco Training Center

To Our Customers and Friends,

Roco Rescue is up and running and doing everything we can to keep our employees and customers well and safe. In light of COVID-19, we are taking extra precautions in accordance with recommendations by the CDC. As such, extra cleaning and sanitation is taking place at the Roco Training Center where we continue to serve emergency responders on a daily basis. We plan to provide rescue training and services as long as our customers need us.

As we face this uncertain time, we will continue to update you, and do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of service.

On behalf of all of us at Roco Rescue, thank you for your continued business. We pray that you and your family stay healthy and well!

The Roco Rescue Team

 

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Confined Space Rescue Planning: Key Considerations

Monday, March 02, 2020

Do you have a rescue plan for your permit-required confined space entry work? One that has been practiced regularly and revised if necessary? If you can't emphatically say "yes" to these questions, consider this sobering statistic: Over 60% of confined-space fatalities in multifatality confined-space incidents involve the would-be rescuer. This is often due to poor and/or quick decision-making when things go wrong... in other words, not sticking to the plan (if one exists). Having a plan in place that accounts for all the "what-ifs" can prevent these fatalities from happening.

What elements should a permit-required confined space rescue plan include? Roco Rescue Safety Officer Pat Furr outlines these in an article in Safety + Health (the official magazine of the National Safety Council).

Read the article in its entirety and click here to download our Confined Space Entry Quick Reference Checklist.

CS Preplan Checklist

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When Learning the Ropes, There’s Always More to Learn

Monday, February 24, 2020

By Brad Warr, Roco Rescue Chief Instructor

I took my first rope rescue class in 1995. I spent a lot of my youth in the outdoors and did some knot-tying and rappelling at scout camp. I have fond memories of flying down the (super-sketchy) zip line at summer camp. Climbing over the edge at my first rope rescue class wasn’t terrifying, it was exhilarating. It was also confusing - really confusing.

Scaling a vertical surface

Urban and industrial rope rescue had collided with wilderness rescue techniques. NFPA regulations relating to technical rescue were being adopted by fire departments across the country. Industrial rescue teams were adopting those same standards and the race to heavy rigging was well underway. 

Questions Abound

Confusion reigned, in part because it was a time of great change, but also because I was so green. I remember having so many questions. Did my rope need to be brand new for every rescue? Why did a figure 8 have ears? So, I wrap three but only pull two? Why should I avoid descenders with too many moving parts and why do my double pulleys weigh 6 pounds? Mechanical cams will strip my rope but if I wrap a couple of those little cords around my big rescue rope then I am safe? It was a lot to digest.

Now, 25 years later, I have learned so much. Mostly I have learned that there’s always more to learn. I have learned that money spent on quality training is money well spent. I have been privileged to train with some of the best instructors in the world. It has taught me that if I am to be successful as a rescuer and as an instructor that I must evolve… much like the equipment has evolved and will continue to evolve over time.

Equipment Advances & New Techniques

Brad Warr teaching at the Roco Training Center

Today our descenders have pulleys, our pulleys have swivels and the equipment we use is incredibly reliable and, well, mechanical. The equipment is sleek. It’s smooth. Best of all, it’s not complicated.

We’ll be doing a demo of some of that equipment and the techniques that drive the hardware (teachings adapted from our rope rescue training courses) at the North Dakota Safety Council's 2020 Safety Conference. We’re proud to be partnering with the North Dakota Safety Council to make industrial safety training and services more accessible in a region experiencing rapid industrial growth. Roco Rescue Director of Training Chris Carlsen and I will be offering a different hands-on session on each day of the conference. Sessions and topics include:

  • Advanced Rope Rescue. Learn the most efficient rescue techniques, using modern rescue equipment and systems. Recent advances make it possible to perform the same task with a higher degree of safety while also being more efficient in terms of manpower, equipment and time.
  • Mechanical Advantage Systems. We’ll teach you the principles of mechanical advantage in an easy-to-understand way. Covered topics include calculating input and output forces, determining appropriate equipment requirements for a given situation, as well as often-overlooked considerations such as frictional loss and sheave diameter. This is a hands-on class, taught on a 2-story training prop.
  • Vertical Mobility in Place of Traditional Means of Access. Rope access is significantly safer and in most cases more cost effective than traditional means of access (scaffolds, man-lifts, etc), which explains why it is gaining acceptance in a wide variety of industrial settings. We’ll teach and demonstrate several different rope access techniques and talk about scenarios in which they might be applied.
  • Intro to Rescue Advancements. A great opportunity to see the latest advancements in rescue equipment, systems and techniques, attendees will get hands-on experience as we demonstrate the latest techniques and equipment - and show how many tasks can now be done with a higher degree of safety and efficiency. Today’s lightweight precision manufactured equipment as well as modern synthetics have increased safety and give rescuers greater flexibility and multi-functionality than ever before.

A Safer Way

Even if you’re not attending NDSC’s conference this week, these are the types of topics you can expect when you come to Roco Rescue for training. We stay on top of the very latest developments in rescue and distill what’s most useful and most effective into our courses, in an easy-to-remember fashion. Our instructors are skilled rescuers and teachers who adapt their methods to a variety of learning styles.

We hope to see you at the NDSC Safety Conference or in one of our rope rescue certification courses. Check out your training options below, or call us to arrange for us to come to your site for training.

View Training Options

 

Brad Warr is a Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue and a Captain at the Nampa (ID) Fire Department. Brad joined Roco Rescue in 2003 and teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, and structural collapse. He is also a member of Roco’s Contracted Safety & Rescue Team, providing standby rescue services for plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. His responsibilities include training for the department’s Heavy & Technical Rescue Team. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked for three years as an Emergency Response Technician for a large manufacturer in Boise, Idaho, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.

 

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