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The Quest for the Perfect 8

Friday, August 25, 2023

Anyone who is a fan of football, more specifically the National Football League, has heard of legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. If you are really into NFL football, you know that not only was Lombardi one of the best Head Football coaches in history, he was also a legendary wordsmith. I cannot count the times I have heard a quote that I recognized, reached for my phone to google it and found that it was attributed to Coach Lombardi. Like I said, wordsmith.

Leave it to a firefighter to think they can improve on the words of a legend. On a column of the tower at my department in Idaho, written in magic marker, are the words…

The 6 P’s


vince lombardi statueThe actual Lombardi quote is much more prophetic. “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

How do we apply this to technical rescue? Rope and confined space rescues are inherently ugly. No matter how grandiose the final product may look, the process to get there is like our favorite restaurant, we may love the food, but we don’t want to see the kitchen where it gets made. The initial plan for a rescue rarely survives first contact. The better we are at adjusting our plan on the fly, the better the outcome. Perfect is not a word I would choose to describe a well-performed technical rescue. Despite that, our training regimen should include components where perfection is the expectation and the goal.

One place we can easily implement the expectation of perfection is in our knot craft. More specifically, the Figure 8 on a bight. The venerable Figure 8 on a Bight is found in every rescue curriculum, making it an easy target in our quest for targeted perfection. Embarrassingly, the perfect 8 was not a staple of my personal rescue toolbox for the start of my rescue journey. Granted, my 8’s were safe. They were recognizable, but they weren’t perfect.

As my wallet caught up with my thirst for rescue knowledge, I was able to attend more and more classes and workshops with instructors and mentors who helped shape me as rope practitioner. Delaney, Cartaya, Rush, Harbach, Wood, Evans, McCuller, Luscinski, Bradbury, Spect, O’Connell and Carlsen. If you know any of those names and have been lucky enough to train or work with them, you are truly blessed as a rescuer. While they all have varying approaches to solving problems, they also have many things in common. The most noticeable being that when they have 100% control of the circumstances, they never take short cuts…not ever. Oh, did I mention that their 8 on bights are perfect?

The venerable Figure 8 on a Bight is found in every rescue curriculum, making it an easy target in our quest for targeted perfection.

I have found as an instructor, that the perfectly tied and dressed Figure 8 on a bight is often an early indicator of a rescuer’s future success. As Lombardi said, “Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.” Consistency in knot craft creates positive habits that carry over to every other facet of technical rescue.

Figure 8 on a BightPerfect 8’s also have numerous benefits in the field.

Knot Security: Properly dressing the Figure 8 on a bight ensures that it is tightened and seated correctly. A well-dressed Figure 8 is less likely to slip or come undone under load, providing greater safety.

Strength and Reliability: A properly tied Figure 8 on a bight maintains its intended shape, distributing the load evenly across its structure. This enhances the knot's strength and reliability, reducing the risk of failure.

Ease of Inspection: A well-dressed Figure 8 on a bight is easier to inspect visually. A well-dressed knot allows for quick identification of any potential mistakes or mis-ties.

Untying Efficiency: Dressing the knot appropriately ensures that it is easier to untie after use. Knots that have been properly dressed are less likely to jam or become excessively tight, making it simpler to undo the knot when needed.

The benefits of a properly tied knot are well documented. What we can’t measure is the countless benefits that come from the mindset of always tying a perfect Figure 8 on a Bight. Our purpose as rescuers and practitioners of rope work is to perform high risk skill sets quickly, safely and efficiently in oftentimes unyielding circumstances. WE MUST PERFORM.

And, like the coach says, “Winning Isn’t Everything, It’s The Only Thing.”

BradNew1Brad Warr is a Senior Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue. He joined Roco Rescue in 2003 and currently 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 Teams (CSRT), providing standby rescue services for plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa (ID) Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. He retired earlier this year. His responsibilities included training the department’s Heavy & Technical Rescue Team. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked as an Emergency Response Technician for a large manufacturer in Boise, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.


Additional Resources

Heat Is On…Take Action Now!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

heat stress_23It’s all over the safety news right now – heat stress is finally getting the recognition it deserves for the millions of employees who have to work out in the heat every day. As the heat wave continues, we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of our personnel and watching out for any signs or symptoms of heat distress. 

The July/August 2023 issue of ISHN featured an article written by our own Chris McGlynn and Chris Warrick that explores what we can do to combat this dangerous hazard. Click HERE to read the original article. 


Additional Resources

Mental Health Care for Rescue Professionals

Friday, August 4, 2023

Emergency responders are more likely to develop significant mental health problems than the general population. It is estimated that nearly 30% of first responders will develop depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even suicidal ideations at some point during their lifetime [1]. Unfortunately, a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health prevents many of these dedicated individuals from seeking help when they need it the most. It’s time to break the stigma and normalize providing help for those who dedicate their lives to helping others.  

Rescue workers are exposed to harrowing scenes of devastation, suffering, and loss on a regular basis. Repeated exposure to these critical incidents can impart serious psychological scars throughout the course of even a short-lived career. Some studies suggest that emergency workers are 3 times more likely to develop mental health issues as a result of these exposures [2]. Despite this idea becoming more and more mainstream, emergency workers rarely have an opportunity to process these emotions, and worse, the culture sometimes discourages and chastises this type of vulnerability.  

mental_health2The misguided notion that seeking help is a sign of weakness or an inability to handle the job perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental health in emergency response professions. Consequently, many workers suffer from mental health issues silently, unable to admit they need assistance. This hesitancy to seek help leads to coping with unhealthy habits, placing them at high risk for developing alcohol and substance abuse issues. The reluctance to seek help, combined with these risk factors, can lead to severe and sometimes fatal outcomes.

The importance of mental health support for rescue workers has never been clearer. Just as they are equipped with the physical tools to perform their duties, rescue workers should be provided with adequate mental health resources which are crucial in safeguarding their emotional wellbeing and overall performance. Early intervention is key, and recognizing signs of mental distress, such as changes in behavior, increased irritability, emotional exhaustion, and social withdrawal, can make a significant difference.

It’s time to break the stigma and normalize providing help for those who dedicate their lives to helping others.  

While therapy and counseling are often used as reactive measures, there is a need for proactive programs on the front end. Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams are becoming a staple in emergency response agencies. These individuals proactively combat the mental health endemic by helping clinicians deal with stress at its inception. By fostering a culture where seeing help is encouraged and normalized, we can empower emergency response workers to take care of their mental health without fear of judgment. 

mental_health1As emergency responders, we are an integral part of ensuring the safety and health of those in our workplace and communities. While performing this job requires incredible amounts of dedication, courage, and resilience, we must also remember that we are not invincible. By advocating for the normalization of seeking help, we can better support the emotional well-being of rescue professionals and enable them to perform at their best while facing the challenges of their noble profession.

[1] https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/dtac/supplementalresearchbulletin-firstresponders-may2018.pdf

[2] https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/733519


Additional Resources

How Sure Are You That You Don't Need On-Air Rescue Practice?

Friday, July 28, 2023

On-Air Rescue PracticeMany times, we hear teams say they don’t need to practice “on-air” rescue scenarios because their employees are not allowed to work in IDLH or low O2 areas. That always makes us ask, what about the confined spaces that have the potential for atmospheric hazards? What about those spaces that may unexpectedly become IDLH or low O2 – what then?  

It's important to note that OSHA states that a confined space must only have the “potential to contain” a hazardous atmosphere to be considered a permit-required confined space, which requires rescue capabilities.

For these unexpected instances, do you have the appropriate rescue response in place? At Roco, we believe that not training your rescue team to respond to IDLH emergencies is like setting up an expensive home protection system and then not turning it on.

Rescuers need to be prepared for the worst – as well as the unexpected – should an atmospheric hazard develop within a space. This is just one of the reasons that permit spaces can be so deadly.

NIOSH Fatal Facts:

  • A little less than half the deaths from atmospheric conditions occurred in spaces that originally tested as being acceptable for entry. Something happens unexpectedly, and things go very wrong, very quickly.

  • Approximately 60% of all fatalities in confined space incidents where multiple fatalities occurred were “would be” rescuers.

OSHA’s Confined Space Standard Box

As rescuers, we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario as well as the unexpected! This is especially true when it comes to confined spaces. 


Roco Courses With On-Air Confined Space Scenarios:






Real Rescue: Mandan Refinery Technical Rescue Team

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Mandan Refinery in North Dakota is the biggest refinery in the state. The site and its leadership take its rescue program seriously, having made significant investments in rescue equipment and training for employees. This paid off recently when an employee’s previous knee injury decided to rear its ugly head and lock up 30’ off the ground, requiring technical rope rescue skills to safely move the employee to ground level.

mandan 1

Mandan Refinery Fire Chief Jamie Reinholt was in the area when a radio call came in for a response to assist the employee. He arrived to find that the employee was on a 30’ elevated unit deck and was unable to straighten out their knee due to a prior injury. Chief Reinholt quickly determined that a limited rescue response would be needed to lower the patient to the ground.

Late morning temperatures were in the 50’s, but high winds in the 30-mph plus range added to the challenge. Ten rescue team members ultimately responded to the scene and were assigned to patient packaging and rigging teams.

The packaging team assisted the patient into a horizontal stokes basket, where they were secured to a backboard using Tiger Straps. Because the patient was unable to straighten their leg, a rope bag was used to fill the void under the knee, placing the patient in a position of comfort. A Roco horizontal stokes bridal was connected, readying the patient for lower.

mandan 2bThe rigging team accessed the deck above to set up a mainline and belay system. The anchor location provided a ready-made high point to assist with loading the patient over the edge. The rescue involved deploying the tried-and-true CMC MPD descent control device paired with an anchored Petzl ASAP, utilizing the rescue-rated Petzl Asap’Sorber Axess deceleration device. Tag lines were added, and the experienced rescue team lowered the patient to the ground where he was driven off-site for medical follow-up.

The site did an on-scene tailboard review of the rescue, which led to ongoing planning of similar rescues.

Roco Rescue is honored to present the Mandan Refinery Technical Rescue Team with the Roco Rescue “Real Rescue” Award.



Real Rescue Plaque


Roco Would Like to Recognize Your Outstanding Rope Rescue!

Nominate your rescue team so we can recognize your professional efforts with a Roco Outstanding Rope Rescue Plaque. All reports that we receive highlighting an actual rescue event will be considered.

Click here to download the Real Rescue Form. You can then email form to info@RocoRescue.com.


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