Q & A with Roco Chief Instructors About 2021 Training Courses

Friday, February 12, 2021

My team has always attended the Roco Industrial I/II, will team members attending the new Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ course have difficulty fitting in with the team?

Troy-Gardner-headshot-w-Roco-hat-editNot at all. The concept of the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course is still focused around producing a well-rounded, proficient rescuer. The primary differences you will notice center around streamlining the techniques utilized by rescuers to be more proficient in “must have” skills, use of updated equipment created through advances in technology, and performing as a member of a team. One of the primary reasons for the course evolving is to provide students with the ability to return as a better TEAM MEMBER and not just a proficient rescuer.

– Chief Instructor Troy Gardner

I previously attended an Industrial I/II course, but it has been several years. What are some of the differences the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course provides?

D024BA00-MAESTRO-L-focus-2_LowRes

There are several noticeable differences you will find in the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course. The biggest difference you will notice is with the equipment utilized during training. The technological advances in rescue equipment over the last several years are impressive to say the least and offer a safe and more efficient approach to rescue.

For example, the Petzl I’D has been the staple of rescue operations for two decades now. It is hard to find a rescue team that does not utilize the I’D as their primary device, or at least knows of its capabilities. Petzl introduced the Maestro in 2020 which dramatically increased the efficiency of our rescue systems with an intuitive design and ease of functionality that makes it well-received by the beginner and the experienced rescuer alike. Also, devices like the ASAP Lock fit the need of being an engineered safety device while increasing the efficiency and reliability of the operator.

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We also recognized, through input from our instructors, that rescuers would benefit by replacing skills that required continuous practice, such as diamond lashing for patient packaging, with manufactured systems like CMC’s Patient Tie-in System. This allows new rescuers the ability to gain confidence and proficiency by using a simple system vs. trying to absorb more advanced skills and still perform the tasks.

Chris Carlsen, Roco Rescue

Our instructors also recognized the need for students new to rescue to gain a true understanding of how important proper belaying is for safety. To build proficiency in this skill, students are required to “belay a falling load” where they learn the skills necessary to safely and effectively “catch” the load using various techniques.There are several other exciting changes we have made that will benefit the student and produce a higher level of rescuer.

 – Director of Training Chris Carlsen

I work at a fire department that does not respond to any industrial facilities. Would I benefit from attending the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course?

Brad Warr, Roco RescueChoosing the right rescue class can be a daunting task. At Roco Rescue, our instructor cadre is well represented by the fire service and would like to include a few questions for you to think about when determining which course you should attend.  

  • Does your response area have multiple story structures that could present difficulties assisting occupants during emergencies using standard means of egress?
  • Do road crews, utility workers or telecommunication industries in your area perform activities above and/or below ground?
  • Have you ever packaged a patient onto a backboard in a cluttered back bedroom and struggled to get them out? only to find that moving the now boarded patient will be extremely difficult utilizing traditional means?
  • Have you ever pushed your SCBA personal skills to their limits in really tight spaces?
  • Has your crew struggled to move a heavy load that left you wondering if there was an easier way?

If you have ever had any of these questions come up, or one of the many other related questions that apply to fire departments across the globe, then Roco’s Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials should be at the top of your list. It addresses both the needs of municipal (urban) rescue as well as that of industrial or manufacturing facilities.

– Chief Instructor Brad Warr

The Industrial I/II course was already a full week with a lot to learn. Will my team members struggle to keep up in the new program?

Eddie Chapa, Roco RescueNot at all. In fact, we believe you will have rescue team members returning to your organization with a higher level of retention than ever before. There are some incredible new advancements in equipment and techniques out there, which make it even easier for the novice to acquire the skills to become a proficient rescuer.

Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ has been streamlined to provide a stronger emphasis on key areas of instruction. We have also incorporated numerous improvements in teaching methodology as recommended by our most experienced Roco instructors. This allows students to gain more repetitions in needed skills and retain a higher level of information.

Our goal is to make a better, more prepared rescuer. We believe the new Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ from Roco will do just that.

– Chief Instructor Eddie Chapa

Will sending our rescue team members to the Urban and Industrial Essentials course meet OSHA requirements for confined space rescue?

Chris Carlsen, Roco RescueAlthough OSHA does not provide a specific checklist of the skills or exact performance objectives required to be deemed a competent rescuer, 1910.146 Permit Required Confined Spaces does give us some guidance of what a rescuer should be. In 1910.146 (k)(1)(iii)(A) it states that a rescuer shall “Have the ability to reach the victim(s) within a time frame that is appropriate for the permit space hazards(s) identified”. 1910.146(k)(1)(iii)(B) further states that the rescuer shall be “equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services”.

The Roco Essentials™ course is designed for developing a rescuer who is confident and proficient in the skills necessary to perform rescues in both urban and industrial environments. This ensures that students will be able to return to their team and execute the required tasks necessary to expedite rescue efforts safely and effectively.

OSHA 1910.146(k)(1)(ii) also requires that the host employer “evaluate” a rescue team’s ability – in terms of proficiency with rescue-related tasks and equipment, and the ability to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified. Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials courses conducted at the Roco Training Center provide students with realistic scenarios from all six (6) confined space types, including elevated vessels and towers. The course also includes simulated rescue from IDLH atmospheres requiring the use of SCBA. These scenarios can be used to document a team’s practice requirements listed under 1910.146.

– Director of Training Chris Carlsen

I would really like to send our team members to a Roco certification class, but we do not have the time or funding to dedicate to a Fast-Track course. Is the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course a good compromise?

Kenny Greene, Roco RescueI would not consider the Roco Essentials™ course a compromise by any means. It is a building block of rescue knowledge that your team can use to create highly proficient rescuers. The course is designed to give the rescuer confidence in many of the skills needed to obtain certification to NFPA 1006 by utilizing a very heavy “hands-on” approach to training. Rescuers who attend the Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials course not only obtain a high level of proficiency in these skills, but they also gain a great understanding of what it takes to make a Rescue Team effective. Rescuers completing this course can also achieve Rescue Technician certification by attending our Confined Space Rescue Technician course.

– Chief Instructor Kenny Greene

 

Is the Petzl Maestro Good for Industrial Rescue?

Monday, November 16, 2020

By Brad Warr, Roco Rescue Chief Instructor

Question: “I noticed that some mountain rescue teams are making the switch to the Petzl Maestro descent device – is this something an industrial rescue team should consider?”

Thanks for the great question. It’s been almost a year since the Petzl Maestro has been on the market, and we have noticed a big uptick in back country teams adopting the Maestro as their primary anchored descend control device. In fact, many of our instructors’ own home-based rescue teams have already made the switch to the Maestro and many of these teams respond to mountain rescue calls.

Petzl_Maestro_RocoTrainingCenter_1To decide whether the Maestro would be a good choice for an urban/industrial rescue team, let’s look at why a mountain rescue team would choose the Maestro. Mountain and back country rescue teams covet light weight, easily transportable equipment. Smaller diameter ropes, lightweight carabiners, pulleys and rope grabs are the norm when you must pack in your own gear. Anyone that has hefted a Petzl Maestro would never consider the device to be petite. At nearly two and a half pounds, the device is far from the featherlight kit usually found in back country response packs. Yet despite the rotund nature of the device, it continues to find its way into the equipment caches that ride on the shoulders of mountain rescue teams. That says a lot about how these teams feel about the Maestro’s performance.

The “intuitive nature” of the Maestro is one of the descender’s strong suits. This is also one of the reasons we chose it for use in our new entry level Roco Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ course. Often attended by brand new rescuers taking their first steps into technical rescue, the Maestro was the perfect fit. At the completion of the first 50-hour course, all Roco instructors commented on how much easier it was to train new rescuers to use the Petzl Maestro compared to other popular descent control devices. It allowed our students to progress quickly while increasing their safety as well.

Petzl_Maestro_RocoTrainingCenter_2Mountain rescue teams are also very aware of the corollary between “friction management” and system efficiency. When you are working in small teams with potential for lots of friction running over rock and dirt, a device that can greatly increase friction reduction during hauls is very appealing. The Maestro delivers friction reduction in spades. The faceted sheave in the Maestro delivers up to 95% pulley efficiency.

The Maestro’s ease of use, consistent control and efficient operation were a few of the reasons we chose it for our courses. While Roco’s advanced classes delve into other personal and anchored descenders, we feel the Maestro gives the highest likelihood of success for new and experienced rescuers. The Petzl name behind the device gives us confidence in its dependability.

As an Urban/Industrial rescuer, we can take the experiences of top mountain rescue teams in the country to heart. If they are willing to carry the extra weight of the Maestro based on its performance, then perhaps we should carefully consider the Maestro as our primary choice for descent control.

To learn more about the Petzl Maestro, read our full review or join us for one of our newly designed rescue courses for 2021. Roco’s new Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ 50-hour entry level course strives to create rescue team members that can contribute from Day 1.

Check out our current open-enrollment course schedule for upcoming training dates, or review our complete course descriptions to find the right course for your needs.

 

Brad Warr

Brad Warr is a Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue and a Captain at the Nampa Fire Department. Brad joined Roco Rescue in 2003, teaching a wide variety of technical rescue classes including rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, and structural collapse. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked for three years as an Emergency Response Technician for a large computer chip manufacturer in Boise, Idaho, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.

The Roco RDX®: Designed to Make Fast Roping Safer

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

An Innovation from Roco Rescue’s Ish Antonio

Pat Furr: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of my Roco Rescue colleagues, Ish Antonio who manages our Tactical Division. Ish will be telling us about the Roco RDX® which is a device that was developed in our Tactical Division and is used during helicopter fast rope insertions.Tactical operators fast roping from a helicopterThis is not a device that would be used in your typical rescue effort, but for certain tactical operators, it makes their job significantly safer without compromising their speed of insertion.

Ish and I have known and worked together for nearly 40 years now, first as US Air Force Pararescuemen (PJs), and the last 19+ years with Roco Rescue. Our career paths in the Air Force were pretty intertwined, with Ish and I being assigned at the same unit a couple of times, and also with Ish assigned to a unit that provided fixed wing support for our helicopter squadron. In other words, we have a long history as both teammates and friends.

Ish has always been on the leading edge of coming up with innovative solutions to the operator’s needs. The Roco RDX is just such an innovation and I will let Ish explain what it does and how it works.

Ish Antonio: First, let’s talk about fast roping. We often arrive at the scene of an op by means of a helicopter, and frequently we can’t land the helicopter due to obstructions on the ground, or the landing zone is just too small, such as a rooftop in an urban environment. There are several options to get the operators inserted. They can be hoisted in using the aircraft hoist. They can rappel in using traditional rappel techniques. Or for large teams or for increased speed, the fast rope operation is the preferred method.  

The fast rope technique uses a two and a half inch braided rope that is attached to a highpoint at the aircraft exit. The difference between a fast rope insertion and being hoisted or rappel, is that with a fast rope, there is no positive attachment between the rope and the operator. 

So in essence, when you fast rope, you are holding on for dear life in the truest sense. Think of sliding down an old school fireman’s pole, only from much higher and usually at night with a lot of gear strapped to your body.

A lot of operators have been seriously hurt or worse with this technique due to missing the rope, falling off the rope, being knocked off the rope by a teammate, or being trampled at the ground by teammates landing on top. For most, the greatest hazard is exiting the aircraft and getting a good grip on the rope. It is a leap of faith and at night, on NVGs (night vision goggles), with a load of equipment and a line of teammates behind you, the potential to miss the rope is pretty high. Generally the aircraft will maintain about 5 knots of forward airspeed to avoid a dogpile at the bottom, but on tight LZ’s (landing zones) like the bridge of a ship or tight rooftop, it has to be in a stable hover and that’s when we have the potential for a dogpile. But the tradeoff is it gets the team inserted in minimal time and reduces the aircraft time on target.

PF: What is the RDX and how does it make fast roping safer for the operators as well as the canines?

IA: When we were active duty, we had our med kits, combat kit, survival vest or load bearing equipment, and other assorted odds and ends. It seems nowadays our operators are not only bigger, but they are loading out with much more and heavier kit. So the potential for coming off the fast rope is greater than ever.

The first version of a device to make fast roping safer is called the FREDS and it was developed about 15 years ago by a PJ named Tracy Barnet. The FREDS is a metal plate about the size of a dinner plate with integral friction bars much like a brake rack. To descend you had to actually lift the fast rope up to reduce tension. So, if you were in a higher hover or if there were people on the rope below you, then you would not be able to descend.

I got involved with the USAF Guardian Angel (GA) Program which you were also a part of, and I had already had an idea for a next generation device based on the alpine sandal wrap. Part of the GA Program was our heavy and light extrication packages which were both quite heavy. Add to that the K9 teams with a 60+ pound dog, and we are just adding more and more weight to the operator’s load, so we needed a device that would provide that positive connection, the added safety of a controlled descent, but would not require the rope below to be clear of personnel or so heavy that the weight would prevent the  FREDS from descending. I didn’t push the idea for the Roco Double X (RDX) because everyone seemed happy with the FREDS. But as the load outs got heavier I wanted to provide a better device that was safer and also was able to function with a loaded fast rope.

The name RDX is short for “Roco Double X” and is so named because it is based on the Sandal Wrap, which is a friction knot and forms an X behind the rope and a second X in front of the rope. RDX in position on a rope, with logo

I’m fortunate to live near the Pararescue (PJ) School at Kirtland AFB and have access to their training tower. The PJs were very interested in this project so they were great at supporting us with access to the tower for development testing. After performing hundreds of fast ropes on the various prototypes we developed, starting with ½” kernmantle, we evolved to the PMI Aramid type Technora rope which handles the heat that is generated much better than Dacron rope. The Technora will handle upwards of 700 degrees Fahrenheit before seeing any adverse effects and we will never approach that level of heat generation, even with the longest fast ropes and heaviest weights. So I am comfortable saying it is over engineered for this type of application.

PF: Can you describe in a bit more detail the configuration of the RDX?

IA: The actual length of the RDX is just a shade over 41 inches. I originally had a handle at the apex of the RDX positioned right at the mid-point which is where you start the sandal wrap and then wrap downwards. The original handle wasn’t allowing us to modulate the speed of descent the way we wanted it to, so we changed to a friction pad wrapped in Nomex mounted in the same position which gives us the exact amount of control we were looking for.

PF: The RDX is actually quite a simple device. It is essentially a length of Technora rope sewn together to form a loop with the friction pad. How do you connect?

IA: That’s what is so great about this device. Because it’s a continuous loop which forms two closed loops at each end, we simply bring those two loops together at the bottom of the sandal wrap and clip in there.

The beauty of the RDX is it’s small enough to fit in a cargo pocket but it’s rated at over 22 kN so it can also be used as an anchor sling for other rope operations.

PF: So it’s not a one trick pony.

IA: Exactly. It can be used for multiple functions and it is much cheaper to produce than the FREDS - which is a one trick pony. The FREDS still has its place, but for personal use and the fact that the RDX is multi-function, we feel it’s the better choice.

PF: Who would be the primary users of this device?

IA: The US Navy has really gotten onboard with it and the K9 guys especially. The word is still getting out on the RDX but for any unit that uses fast rope, especially when loaded with a heavy kit or a dog, the RDX provides a simple and safe means of infiltration. Military operator fast roping with K9

PF: This sounds like a great device. So what are the potential downsides to using it?

IA: Keep in mind that the RDX forms a knot around the fast rope, so just like any knot, it requires initial training and proficiency maintenance training in order for it to be effective. That being said, the sandal knot is a very simple knot to tie and to remember how to tie.

PF: Will the RDX work on any fast rope?

IA: That’s a great question. The short answer is yes it will. We have tested it on virtually every fast rope that is being manufactured. The point to keep in mind is that fast ropes are generally in the range of two and a half inch diameter, but there is some variation in those diameters and in the coarseness of the weave as well as the materials used. So the RDX will perform slightly differently depending on the fast rope it’s mounted to. But it will certainly perform as we intended.

PF: Do you recommend training with the RDX mounted to the rope that you will be using operationally?

IA: Yes, in a perfect world that’s the best plan. But sometimes we end up operating with a unit that uses a different fast rope than the one we use at our unit. If possible, it’s best to at least do some ground training off a tower with that rope. But if that’s not available, it will perform reasonably similar between the different ropes.  

PF: For me, the most dangerous part of fast roping was exiting the bird and getting a good grip on the rope.

IA: This is where the RDX really helps, especially for the operators with the bulkier, heavier loads and especially when you are maneuvering a 60+ pound K9 out of the airframe. The operator connects to the RDX prior to exit and thus has a positive connection and will not come off the rope. If they miss their grip, no worry as they will not start their descent until they handle the RDX on descent.

PF: Should the RDX be used for every operator on the infil?

IA: No, that’s not the intent. It’s really intended for the guys that have the extra heavy loads or the K9s. Everyone else just employs standard fast rope techniques. Ish Antonio, Roco Rescue Tactical Program Manager

PF: What if you have multiple guys on the stick that have heavy loads or K9s?

IA: This is one of the benefits of the RDX. You can preposition them on the rope. Simply wrap them into the sandal wrap and attach a carabiner and they will stay in place. So if you have three guys on the stick that should use the RDX, stack three of them at the top of the rope, everyone else exits normally and the last three can quickly clip in one at a time and descend under control.

PF: What other features does the RDX include?

IA: We have a tether attached to the RDX with a quick release which also connects to the top of the fast rope with a girth hitch. This prevents the pre-rigged RDX from moving until it’s released. It’s important to ensure the tether is attached to the top of the fast rope and not to the airframe so the fast rope can be cut away once everyone is on the ground. The operator uses that tether while connecting to the RDX with the carabiner. Once he is connected he leans into the RDX to ensure that it’s positively connected and then releases the tether just before exit.

PF: Who do you see as your market for the RDX?

IA: The US Navy has adopted it and so have most of the Air Force PJ teams. But it’s still relatively new and I think it will take some time before the US Special Operations Command, and other federal and state agencies such as SWAT or similar federal assets get to know it. Our biggest orders right now are coming from Europe. The European special operators are more aligned with general alpinism and understand friction knots and know all about things like auto-blocks. They use them all the time, so the RDX makes perfect sense to them.

PF: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today, Ish. Are there any last thoughts you would like to share about the Roco RDX?

IA: Our goal was to give the operators something that allows them to perform their mission with the degree of speed they need while at the same time adding a significant improvement in safety. We feel the RDX hits both those marks.

Editor's Note:

To see a 1-page pdf with pictures and key features:

https://www.rocorescue.com/product/rdx

To see a detailed video demonstrating many features of the Roco RDX, check out the video below from our YouTube channel:

 

 

Use This Time to Inspect and Upgrade Your Rescue Gear

Thursday, April 9, 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.  

3 Innovations That Will Change Technical Rescue In The 2020s

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Pat Furr

I’d like to share 3 innovations that I see as having game-changing potential for rescue operations in the next decade. None of these 3 are brand new, but recent advances have earned them a place in the rescue team’s toolkit.

Rescuers Lower Patient In A Litter

Drones

One of the most dangerous aspects of rescue work is the time pressure that exists to reach victims before they succumb. Unfortunately, we often don’t have eyes on the victim and can’t communicate with them, so we must make assumptions about their condition. Rescuers frequently put themselves at greater risk in order to reach a victim quickly. Drones have the potential to give rescuers a clearer picture of the victim’s condition and possibly even communicate directly with them. This allows rescuers to appropriately pace their actions, to know what tools to bring to effectively treat the victim, and to avoid the same pitfalls that befell the victim. Not to sound too gruesome, but a drone can also help determine if it is a rescue or a recovery operation, which has obvious implications for the rescue operation’s pace and risk exposure.

Drones can also serve as reconnaissance tools during natural disaster rescue operations. This is a much faster and safer method of mapping an area than sending in rescuers and can be done while rescuers are pre-planning. Drones won’t completely replace manned helicopters, but they are safer, more available and more cost effective. Many drones are outfitted with software and GPS that produces maps and can geo-tag objects within centimeters of their actual location. Many also have thermal sensors, which allow for transmission of key data, and are designed to withstand extreme temperatures. Look for drones to play an increasingly important role in helping rescuers during the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes, blizzards and just about any adverse weather event.

Drones are also a great tool for getting a visual on victims at extreme height, such as on towers or tall buildings. Oftentimes these victims are not clearly visible with binoculars, making it difficult to assess their physical condition.

Drones are even being designed specifically for use in confined spaces. Previously, drones were susceptible to damaging crashes from flying in tight spaces. Also, the radio frequencies that control them were often unable to penetrate thick concrete walls. But engineers are addressing these issues and have come up with the Flyability Elios 2, for example, which features a spherical cage to protect the drone from slamming into walls. It also boasts a transmission system capable of working beyond line-of-sight, thus enabling the drone to fly into structures made of concrete, steel, and other materials.

Confined Space Drone

These drones will likely help confined space rescuers in two ways… First and foremost, sending a drone instead of a human into a confined space for an inspection will become the norm, and with fewer humans doing entry work, there will be fewer incidents requiring rescue. Second, when a rescue is called for, a drone can scout the space for a rescuer, provide a visual assessment of the victim and transmit atmospheric data to the rescue team. All of these are invaluable pieces of data that will make the rescue operation safer and more effective.

Portable Powered Winches

One key skill in rope rescue is the ability to build mechanical advantage (MA) systems so that they can efficiently raise / lower / haul weighted objects using rope. I don’t expect this skill to become obsolete, but the use of portable powered winches will make rope rescue less dependent on rescuer-constructed MA systems. Winches have been around for a long time, and are a standard tool for arborists and tower workers, but they haven’t been used much in rescue until recently, as significant improvements in battery power and materials have now made them reliable and durable enough for use with human cargo. Because they are battery powered and compact, they are especially useful when manpower and operating space are limited. They are lightweight and therefore easy to pack and carry as part of a rescue team’s gear cache.

Winch - Atlas APA-5

SkyHook Rescue Systems and Atlas Devices (whose APA-5 is pictured above) are among the leading manufacturers in this space. In the same way that pocket calculators take the legwork out of doing long division, winches make building efficient hauling systems that much faster and easier. That said, there are a few important caveats to consider when thinking about using portable powered winches in rescue operations. Safe use requires rescuers to factor in the weight capacity and to understand proper winch placement in a system like a tripod. Improper placement has the potential to unbalance and tip a tripod. Rescuers also need to know how to rig up a back-up rope system should the main line fail. Finally, the use of powered winches must consider the added risk of injuring the human load or damage to the system components should it become hung up. For these reasons, it is absolutely critical that the rescue load be visible to a dedicated monitor who can call an immediate stop to the haul should the load become hung up. Nonetheless, portable powered winches definitely have the potential to improve and change rope rescue operations, and I expect we’ll be training with them a lot more frequently in the coming decade.

Two-Tension Systems and Team-Style Friction Devices

The use of two-tension systems (sometimes called mirrored systems or dual main systems) is fast becoming a high-interest technique in the rescue world. Why? Since both ropes are tensioned, the load is shared, which decreases the risk of load-induced equipment failure. Also, in a two-tension system, there is no slack in the second line, so the potential free-fall distance is greatly reduced. Additionally, two-tension systems have double the mechanical advantage of traditional systems, making hauling more efficient.

As these two-tension systems become more popular, team-style friction devices (like the Petzl Maestro)Petzl Maestro will be a fixture in a rope rescuer’s toolkit. These are critical components of a two-tension system because they provide the three primary functions two-tensioned systems require – friction control, belay, and haul. By providing two mirrored tensioned systems during a lower, the forces on either of the systems are essentially cut in half. This greatly reduces stress on the system and is more easily managed by the operator working with heavier rescue loads. 3 to 1 Z rig Also, as mentioned previously, using a mirrored 3:1 or 5:1 Z-rig through a Maestro or other similar device during hauling operations will double the mechanical advantage compared to using a single haul system. Applying two 3:1 mirrored MAs results in a 6:1 total MA. This can reduce the manpower required for the haul team, which is beneficial for a variety of reasons.

There exists a healthy debate in the rescue world over the pros and cons of two-tension systems versus more traditional single-main / single-backup systems, but it appears as though two-tension systems are winning the argument and will become the standard in the coming decade. 

Two-tensioned systems hold the advantage in many of the rope rescue operations where dedicated mains / dedicated belays are currently being used. But there are still a few situations where the dedicated main / belay system will remain the best-practice approach. It is important to train with both types to determine what works best for your response area. Two-tensioned systems require a different type of coordination between team members, but they are quickly mastered with practice.

Embrace the Changes Technology Brings Us!

Technological advances are impacting every sector of industry from microprocessors to rescue gear. Precision engineering and advances in materials have made the gear rescuers use today smaller, lighter, smoother, faster and safer than ever. Some advances are incremental, and you only recognize the progress when you look back over a long time-horizon. For example, a retired U.S. Army Ranger recently told me that when he was in Ranger School in the 1960’s, he rappelled off 60-foot towers and the only descent control technology he had was a pair of leather gloves! Clearly, we’ve come a long way since then, and the quality of devices a rescuer can use to safely control their speed during a descent is remarkable. Other technological advances are more immediately impactful and noticeable. Whether it happens slowly or rapidly, we as rescuers have a duty to always be evaluating innovative new equipment and techniques so that we can keep improving the overall effectiveness and safety of rescue operations.

 

About the Author:

Pat Furr is a Corporate Safety Officer, VPP Coordinator, Chief Instructor and technical consultant for Roco Rescue. In addition to penning articles on a variety of safety and technical rescue topics for Roco Rescue's blog, Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Fall Protection programs across the country. He sits on the National Fire Protection Association’s Committee for Technical Rescue and helped author NFPA 1006, which outlines the professional qualifications standard for technical rescue personnel.

A retired U.S. Air Force MSgt/Pararescueman, Pat also helps design innovative equipment that improves safety in the industry, including a Class III rescue harness, a revolutionary fall protection harness, and a specialized anchor hook used for container access operations.

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