NOTICE: Statement on special use of the Petzl Shunt

Friday, January 20, 2012

PetzlShunt Petzl has published a statement addressing special use of the Petzl Shunt as a back-up device for industrial rope access.  For any users of the Petzl Shunt as a self-belay device such as tower rescuers, the same information applies.

For Roco Tower Work and Rescue students who were taught the use of the Shunt as a self-belay device and have not attended Roco’s Tower Work and Rescue refresher training in the past two years, please read this information.  For recent initial and refresher students of Roco’s Tower Work and Rescue class, students were taught to use the Petzl ASAP as their self-belay device.  Roco still encourages all prior Roco Tower students to review the Petzl statement to become familiar with their concerns regarding the use of the Shunt as a back-up device.

To request a NEW Roco Training & Equipment Catalog or our 2012 Course Schedule, call us at 800.647.7626.
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The Petzl story – It’s in the DNA

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is how Petzl began, in my father’s 75 square meter workshop. My family – my father, mother, brother, wife, and I – designed the first tools for verticality and the first underground lamps, which lead, in 1972, to the Petzl headlamp.

Roco recently had the opportunity to interview Paul Petzl, President of Petzl. He shared with us some insight on the history and success of his company, which is headquartered in Crolles, France. We know your father Fernand, a cave explorer, started the company in the mid 1970’s. But isn’t it true that the beginnings of Petzl go back farther than that?

Fernand Petzl was born in 1913. He was a passionate caver all his life. In the 1930s, he and his brothers explored the caves of the Dent de Crolles, near Grenoble. Then, in 1936, he met Pierre Chevalier; together, they explored and charted the first 17 km of galleries there and obtained the first depth record in the world of caving. It was Chevalier who had the idea to make the first nylon rope, for use in caving, which he tested with my father in the Dent de Crolles.

The early 1950s was a very active time in caving. Fernand was appointed leader of the Gouffre Berger international expedition, which reached a depth of 1,122 meters, a new world record. From 1960 to 1970, Fernand put a lot into cave rescue, developing in his small workshop some unique but very handy objects, such as a litter, a pulley, and other systems to facilitate underground rescue.

PetzlDNAIn 1969, Fernand, with my brother Peter, started manufacturing a descender and a belay device designed by a caver named Bruno Dressler. This time was also a turning point in caving, as ropes replaced ladders as the sole means of vertical movement. This technique had already been developed by Jumar, for mountaineering, but cavers took the technique and adapted it for underground use. And this is how Petzl began…in my father’s 75 square meter workshop. My family – my father, mother, brother, wife, and I – designed the first tools for verticality and the first underground lamps, which lead, in 1972, to the Petzl headlamp.

What is the most innovative device Petzl has ever created?

Simplicity and efficiency for the user have always been primary goals in Petzl innovations. For example, on the first headlamp we designed, we put the battery on the elastic headband. This might seem obvious to experienced users, but we were the first to do it. When Fernand invented the SHUNT, a mechanical prussic, he created a device that could ascend or descend on one or two ropes, even if those ropes were muddy or frozen. We also created the TIBLOC, the lightest ascender in the world, with no moving parts.

But the GRIGRI is without a doubt the most iconic Petzl tool, which was first designed for climbing and later adapted for professional use. The EXO and the GRILLION are both based on the GRIGRI’s design. The EXO is currently being used by fire departments around the United States as a solution for emergency escape and descent, while the GRILLON is a positioning lanyard for professionals. I would never have imagined that the GRIGRI would be so useful for so many different types of customers. It’s because of our customers, who have used this tool in various capacities, that we’ve been able to adapt it so well. In fact, Petzl does not seek primarily to meet the market, but to solve a problem. It is an approach guided more by the solution than by business. This is probably why we have been such an innovative company – and our innovations have helped progression across many disciplines.

Here at Roco, we are big fans of the Petzl ID, and so are our students. We know that one of your focal points is innovation. Are you working on other decent control devices?

I think it’s important to understand why we designed the ID in the first place: Petzl began working with rope-access workers in the 1990s, when this professional activity was just getting started. At this time, most rope-access companies were run by cavers, a group we knew well. It was easy with them; we spoke the same language. But things changed when we encountered more traditional professionals. We were not recognized – indeed, we were rejected as acrobats, people interested only in fun, not professionals. And, at first, most of these professionals rejected the rope as a means of vertical movement. So, we imagined a solution to convert them – a descender that was both reliable and that would reduce the possibility of user error as much as possible.

Today, the ID is used by professionals worldwide and has become a key component in technical rescue applications. Since its launch in 2000, we have made several modifications to the product based on user feedback. One modification involved adding a button on the descent handle, offering increased control when operating on inclines. And, in response to a specific request coming from the North American fire/rescue market, we removed the safety catch from the ID-L side plate, allowing the device to meet the general-use requirements of NFPA 1983. In early 2010, we launched a new descent-control device called the RIG. The design and functionality of this device is geared towards experienced rope-access technicians, who require a simple descender for day-to-day use in many different types of environment. Put simply, we’re always innovating. Developing solutions to help people access the vertical world is at the core of our mission, and we’re just getting started. In fact, we’re currently building a new facility for our R&D division.

In your corporate video, you say how important it is to work with end-users in the development of products. How do climbers, mountaineers, cavers and working at height professionals get ideas to you?

When Petzl is considering new products, prototype samples are sent to Petzl prescriptors – experts in their fields who can provide very specific feedback on product design and functionality. This occurs years before we finalize the product. We also appreciate and consider the constant feedback we receive from end-users via the contact form on our website or other channels.

Because we offer solutions for professionals and those in the sport world, we’re able to cross-pollinate, taking the best ideas from all across the vertical world. I think that the best example of this is the GRIGRI, which was designed first for the caver, then adapted for the climber, then for the arborist, and finally for fire departments around the United States. It is often the user who sees the possible uses of the product. It is the excellent relationship we’ve had with our end-users that has inspired our curiosity and driven our desire to please. It is a field-based approach used by our R&D engineers, who are passionate about verticality in the sport and professional realms.

Several products relative to rescue are now tested to the NFPA 1983 standard here in the United States. Do you see more Petzl products having US certifications in the future?

Many of our key rescue products, including harnesses, ropes, pulleys, connectors, descenders and ascenders, are certified to meet NFPA 1983 standards. Because Petzl is a global company, it is challenging to meet the domestic certification requirements of the more than 50 countries in which we distribute our products. Our hope is that international standards, such as ISO will become more universally adopted in the countries in which we distribute. For example, our NAVAHO BOD harness currently carries four different certifications from four different bodies: EN, CSA, ANSI, and NFPA. This creates a lengthy list of equipment performance and labeling requirements on such products.

Tell us about the Petzl Foundation and the Petzl Institute.

The three founding pillars of Petzl are to create innovative tools, to share expertise as widely as possible, and to share the success of the company with our employees and communities. The Petzl Foundation springs from the third pillar, as it seeks to share our business success with our communities. After all, it is our communities that enable us to exist.

I decided to create the Foundation after hearing of a wonderful initiative led by Petzl America. Thanks to a larger national effort, they were able to help preserve access for climbers to Utah’s Castleton Tower. I realized then that the Foundation could be a powerful tool for good, operating outside of the business framework and competitive constraints of our company. The Foundation has already invested 1.3 million Euro in 40 projects.

After two years, I decided to invest 10% of our profits in the Foundation, to support projects that serve our communities in three core areas: safety awareness, environmental protection and preservation, and fundamental research. The Foundation’s Board of Directors is comprised of members with varied background but who share the same goal, which is to contribute to the common good.

Among the Foundation’s most iconic projects is a guide training we developed for Nepali people in Nepal. We’ve also developed training documentation for firefighters and mountaineers. We developed crevasse safety training, helped protect birds of prey living in cliff-side environments, and funded studies to better understand ice flow and formation. We contributed to save the oldest hut in the Alps, the Refuge of the Eagle, from destruction. We proposed a solution that would improve safety in the Goûter corridor, the main access to Mont Blanc. (To date, more than 200 deaths have been recorded in the corridor.)

Since Petzl’s creation 40 years ago, we have always wanted to share with our customers what we learned and what we received from them. With the construction of our V.axess center, we have moved in the direction of our second pillar, which is the sharing of knowledge and expertise. V.axess, The Petzl Institute, will help bring more expertise to the Petzl distribution network and to their customers. The idea is to always move toward a better understanding of the risks that exist in the vertical world.

I wouldn’t want to conclude the interview without asking about your wife, Catherine. Does she still play a part in managing the business?

Without Catherine, I would not have become Paul PETZL, and PETZL would not have achieved financial security. She was in charge of the business administration, home life, raising the children, and, especially, she has supported all my dreams. She is still a part of the business on a daily basis. As she says, it’s her pleasure to satisfy her customers, so they receive their orders on time and in the right quantities. And, this is no easy job…because of the success of our products, they are not always available!
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Can I use my training rope for rescue?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can I use my training rope for rescue?We're often asked about using training rope for rescue purposes, so here's what we discovered...

The short answer is yes. However, NFPA 1500 provides some additional guidelines.

NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program (2007 Edition)
7.16.3* Life safety rope used for rescue at fires or other emergency incidents or for training shall be permitted to be reused if inspected before and after each such use in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and provided that the following criteria are met:

(1) The rope has not been visually damaged by exposure to heat, direct flame impingement, chemical exposure or abrasion.

(2) The rope has not been subjected to any impact load.

(3) The rope has not been exposed to chemical liquids, solids, gases, mists or vapors of any material known to deteriorate rope. If the rope used for rescue at fires or other emergency incidents or for training does not meet the criteria set forth in 7.16.3(1), 7.16.3(2), or 7.16.3(3) or fails the visual inspection, it shall be destroyed. If there is any question regarding the serviceability of the rope after consideration of the criteria listed in 7.16.3, the rope shall be taken out of service.

(*) Asterisk indicates that explanatory material is included in Annex A. While Annex A is not a part of the requirements of the NFPA document, it is included for informational purposes only.
Annex A (NFPA 1500)

A.7.16.3 Life safety rope can be significantly weakened by abrasion, misuse, contamination, wear, and stresses approaching its breaking strength, particularly impact loading. Because there is no approved method to service test a rope without compromising
its strength, rope rescue and training operations should be carefully observed and monitored for conditions that could cause immediate failure or result in undetectable damage to the rope. If a rope has been used in a situation that could not be supervised or where potential damage could have occurred, it should be removed from service and destroyed.

It is important that ropes be inspected for signs of wear by qualified individuals after each use. If indications of wear or damage are noted, or if the rope has been stressed in
excess of the manufacturers’ recommendations or has been impact loaded, it should be destroyed. The destruction of the rope means that it should be removed from service and altered in such a manner that it could not be mistakenly used as a life safety rope. This alteration could include disposal or removal of identifying labels and attachments and cutting the rope into short lengths that could be used for utility purposes.

The assignment of disposable life safety ropes to members or to vehicles has proven to be an effective system to manage ropes that are provided for emergency use and are used

Special rescue teams, which train frequently and use large quantities of rope, should include members who are qualified to manage and evaluate the condition of their ropes and determine the limitations upon their reuse.
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Roco Techniques Right at your Fingertips!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Roco Techniques Right at your Fingertips!The newly revised Roco Pocket Guide features fifty-eight pages of color illustrations of the actual techniques and systems taught in our classes.

Made from a synthetic paper impervious to moisture, this pocket-sized field guide will hold up in the most unfavorable environments.The newly revised Roco Pocket Guide features fifty-eight pages of color illustrations of the actual techniques and systems taught in our classes. Made from a synthetic paper impervious to moisture, this pocket-sized field guide will hold up in the most unfavorable environments.
Tabbed sections offer a quick reference in the following topics: knot tying techniques, rope care tips, anchoring, belaying, patient packaging, litter rigging, lowering systems and a confined space types chart.

Roco's New Pocket Guide is the perfect reference when working in the field. Retail price: $ 35.00

You can purchase a copy of Roco’s NEW Pocket Guide (Model # R910C) for $35.00 by visiting our online shop, or order by phone at 800-647-7626.

Register to WIN a Roco Pocket Guide.
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Proper Training Required: Why it’s so important!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Proper Training Required: Why it’s so important!In this article, we want to provide some background on our experiences with users of rescue equipment, and why we feel proper training is so important.  In the past 30 years, we’ve had the honor of having thousands of students attend our rescue training classes.  Attitudes toward the statement “Do not use this equipment without proper training!” runs the gamut. It goes from “I never read the instructions,” to “I read, understand, and follow them to the T.” As our students come in all shapes, sizes, experience levels, attitudes, and needs, this is understandable.  However, there’s one common denominator, they have come to us for training – and that’s our critical role.

In many cases, an entire rescue team will show up for training with all their rescue gear in tow. They will then tell us that they have never received training on, nor really understand the proper use of their equipment.

So, it really boils down to this – what are the advantages of receiving training on the proper use of the equipment?

Obviously, the primary concern is safety – safety of the users and the rescue subjects. Another critical point includes using the equipment contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions, which can lead to questions of liability. While some manufacturers provide complete and “easy to understand” instructions for use of their equipment, others provide just enough to get the box open.

Note:  While it’s not an NFPA 1983 requirement, most manufacturers do include a statement concerning proper training prior to use.  In fact, there is no NFPA requirement that instructions for use be provided by the manufacturer.

Here are some important questions to consider

What are the working load limitations of the item?  If the gear is used for both planned work activities and for rescue activities, the maximum working loads may be different depending on the application.  In some cases, additional rigging configurations are required for exceptional uses and heavy loads.
What are the effects of using the equipment in a variety of configurations? Are there load multipliers involved in certain configurations that need to be addressed? What are the effects of eccentric loads on the equipment?  Many equipment items are to be used in static load applications only, and can be damaged or catastrophically fail if subjected to dynamic loads.  Oftentimes these issues are not addressed in the user manual, but may be a need to know and understand consideration.

Also, using the item as part of a system may not be covered in the user manual.  It’s important to understand this so that the equipment can be used to its full advantage – and to make sure it’s not subjected to unacceptable loads when used in a system.  Many times the user manual provides bare bones instructions for use and doesn’t cover any instruction for use as part of a system. Nor does it cover the precautions for use as part of a system.

While it seems that more and more manufacturers are moving towards pre-built, engineered systems, it’s not always feasible (or advantageous) to use a pre-built system. However, it is very common to use multiple bits of hardware, software, and rope to create a “build-as-you-go” system that’s appropriate for the job.  Without receiving the proper training on the compatibility of components used in a system, the user may be creating an unsafe condition or missing out on an opportunity for a more efficient solution. Or, miss out on the expanded use of equipment they already have in their cache.

In addition, more rescue gear is being designed to perform multiple functions.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear students say something like, “Wow, I didn’t know it could do that, too!”  Items that are put into the rescue equipment cache with the belief that it is designed to perform one function only, may be another opportunity lost.

Needless to say, we are big advocates of multifunction equipment.  This provides for a smaller, lighter, and quite possibly less expensive rescue equipment cache. It also provides the ability to adapt a given rescue plan and shift the role of the equipment from one function to another.  Typically, there are opportunities to use equipment in a manner that it can be quickly converted from one function to another as part of the plan.  Without the proper training, this may not be obvious by simply reading the user manual.

Finally, how clear is the user manual in explaining criteria for inspection and removal from service?  Depending on what’s provided by the manufacturer (i.e., text and graphics), a piece of equipment may require additional training for the proper inspection points and reasons for taking it out of service.

With that said, we hope it’s perfectly clear that the statement, “proper training is required prior to use” should be taken to heart. It always saddens us to hear of incidents where rescuers are hurt or injured while training for, or in the performance of their duties…especially when the root cause is listed as inadequate training.  Hopefully, you are seeking quality training from a reputable training institution on the proper use of your equipment.  Not just to satisfy a liability issue, but to keep your rescuers safe.  It also allows them to understand and take full advantage of the equipment in their rescue cache – keeping it safe, simple, and effective!
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RescueTalk ( has been created as a free resource for sharing insightful information, news, views and commentary for our students and others who are interested in technical rope rescue. Therefore, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information and are not liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Users and readers are 100% responsible for their own actions in every situation. Information presented on this website in no way replaces proper training!