Rescuer Physical Fitness: Making It Happen

Wednesday, January 09, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

In Part I of this article, you heard my point of view on a rescuer’s obligation to be physically fit. In this follow-up piece, I outline concrete ideas to help you reach your fitness goals, broken into three components of wellness: exercise, diet, and lifestyle.

First Responder Fitness
Before you do anything else you should assess your own fitness level. Those of you that think that you could be a bit, or maybe a lot, fitter, I have some basic suggestions to offer you. Those of you who are fit and plan on maintaining that fitness, great! Keep up the good work!

Rescuer Physical Fitness: Making It Happen
For those of you who are not in good shape and, perhaps, feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do anything about it, I sincerely hope you’ll reconsider and keep reading to see that it really doesn’t take much at all to make a positive change. And this change can be like a railroad locomotive; it may start slowly, but as momentum increases, so does the rate of positive change.

Here are my favorite tips that are simple to incorporate right now into your routine so you can start to look, feel, and perform better.

Exercise Tip #1: Set your alarm and stretch.
If you are like many people, you probably set your alarm to give you just enough time to get up, get dressed, eat, and head out the door, sometimes finishing that last bite of breakfast as you are driving to work. Here’s a little tip: Set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier.
This accomplishes several things:

• Getting up fifteen minutes earlier gives you time to do some slow, easy stretching.
• If you start your day with a morning stretch, that is a good base to build on. As you gain strength, you can eventually work in some pushups and crunches.
• Getting up earlier gives you a buffer before you start your work day, eliminating that stressful feeling of cutting your timing too close. Wouldn’t it be nice to start the day with less stress and that certain physical feeling of already having accomplished something before the workday even begins?

Give this a try for one week. What do you have to lose, other than some stress and maybe a few pounds?

Exercise Tip #2: Take the stairs.
Do you use the elevator to go up one, two, or three floors? My bet is that in the time you wait for the elevator and all the stops you make, it would be nearly as fast to take the stairs. After getting into the stairs-over-elevator habit, you may find yourself going for five, then six, seven, or even ten stories.

If we are talking 20 stories or more, then yeah, I’ll give you a pass.

Exercise Tip #3: Build in some cardio.
You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or even join a gym to get into really good shape. Look no further than the oldest cardio option known to man: running. For those of us with bad knees or other ailments that prevent running, other options include brisk walking, rollerblading, swimming, biking, and even dancing will burn off some of that extra weight.

Try a variety of activities that get your blood pumping! Maybe you’ll find there’s one thing you really get into, or maybe you prefer to mix it up. Point is, make a commitment to do something. It will be uncomfortable and there will be days when you want to skip your exercise time, so consider these two things that might help you out… accountability and distraction.

Accountability might mean you publicly declare your fitness goals to friends, family, and Facebook if that’s what it takes to keep you on track. A training partner can also provide accountability as you won’t want to let your partner down by skipping your workout. A training partner can also provide a distraction – it always helps to have someone running alongside you to talk with. Or maybe listening to music or podcasts help distract you; whatever might help you focus on something other than that voice in your head asking you to stop.

I am fortunate to live near several lakes and I have taken up rowing for my no-impact aerobic workout. Talk about involving nearly every muscle group along with the heart and lungs! This is one of the best calorie burners I have ever known, and the beauty is I am out on the lake at sunrise with the loons, ospreys, and eagles, the odd deer, turkey, fox, or mink on the shoreline, just enjoying the view of the mountains.

Exercise Tip #4: Seek out resources.
There are many resources available to us first responders, especially firefighters, who are looking to get fit. The 555 Fitness website has great lists of workouts, and if you follow them on Instagram you’ll get a new workout idea every day. The Firefighter Fitness Page offers a treasure trove of fitness tips and simple workout ideas that will fit right into your busy schedule.

Healthy Diet Tips for First Responders
Getting and staying fit isn’t just about working out, but also what we put in our mouths every single day. There is a lot of truth to the old saying “you are what you eat.” I’ll be the first to admit I love a chili cheeseburger and fries (chased with a big bowl of ice cream, of course), but I am fortunate to have an amateur nutritionist in the house who mandates adherence to a grocery list full of heart-healthy items.

Changing what we choose to eat is just a matter of education and some simple strategies, but don’t try to make wholesale changes overnight. It is best to develop habits that you can build slowly over time.

Food Tip #1: Make a grocery list.
Radical diet changes almost always fail. Instead of jumping on the next bandwagon diet, resolve to make – and stick to – grocery lists full of items that are good for you, rather than “winging it” and running to McDonald's on your way home from work every day. When it comes to eating well, the old adage holds true: failing to plan means planning to fail.

The key to keeping a healthy diet is to do just a bit of research on the sort of foods that should go onto your list. The good news is there are plenty of resources to help guide you, like this list of healthy food options to help first responders perform better.

The next time you visit the grocery store, pay attention to the layout. I’ll bet you will notice that the healthy items tend to be on the outer perimeter of the store and the less healthy items are in the middle aisles. For example, if you are looking for nuts, see if there are choices near, or in, the produce section on the edge of the store. Then compare the nuts in the bins or light packaging to the choice of nuts on the snack aisle. The nuts from the produce section will likely have few or no additives, whereas the nuts from the snack aisle will be loaded with oils and all sorts of hard-to-pronounce ingredients.

Food Tip #2: Read labels.
Always assess your food for its nutritional quality. Limit, or better yet, flat-out avoid processed foods and packaged items with long lists of ingredients on the label. The fewer the ingredients on the label, generally the healthier the item will be. Also, go easy on the carbs. Most of us love pasta in all its forms, but there are alternatives to pasta that taste great using the same marinara sauce or whatever your favorite topping may be. Consider couscous or quinoa as a pasta alternative.

Don’t worry too much about the few fun and tasty items that still manage to make it onto your list. Even some junk-food snacks are acceptable from time to time. We are human, after all, right? Just be sure that they are special treats and not a daily indulgence!

Food Tip #3: Commit to the long haul.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Stick to your list! Go shopping after you’ve eaten, not when you are starving and craving processed snacks like cookies or chips. Shopping on an empty stomach spells trouble for most of us.

Remember that the best “diet” is the one that fits your lifestyle. Focus on eating meals loaded with nutrients, and don’t stress if you deviate from time to time. If you set an unattainable standard at the outset, you are less likely to stick with it.

Cultivating Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Committing to getting and staying fit so that you can perform well and live long is about a comprehensive lifestyle change. This means not only that we have to shop smarter and build in more time to move our bodies, but also that we need to stave off stress by sleeping enough, planning ahead, and not using travel as an excuse to deviate from our goals.

Lifestyle Tip #1: Get enough sleep.
First of all, we need to get enough sleep. A report from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) called The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Fire Fighters and EMS Responders found that sleep deprivation affects our attentiveness levels, our mental functioning, and our energy, and it can lead to health issues like obesity and cardiovascular disease.

With our long and strenuous work hours and the stress involved in our jobs, this can be extremely dangerous to our health. It is critical to sleep enough in addition to eating right and exercising to protect ourselves from life-threatening health problems.

Ok, but how? Try setting an alarm for your bedtime. If you’re the sort of person that puts off bedtime because you’re trying to finish up a few things you’ve been working on, try putting those things on a list. That way you won’t worry about forgetting them, and you can tackle them fresh the next day.

Lifestyle Tip #2: Stick to healthy travel habits.
Traveling disrupts our routines, and unless you stay in a suite with a well-equipped kitchen, the meal choices are limited to restaurant offerings and complimentary hotel breakfasts.

It is tough to resist the fancy menu photos and the aroma of restaurants but make a promise to yourself that you will follow the guidelines for the vast majority of your meals out. It isn’t the end of the world if you slip now and then, especially if you are traveling with a group. It is nice to get together socially and have a nice meal, but make that the exception, not the norm.

Most hotel rooms are equipped with a drip coffee maker and a microwave oven. For a healthy breakfast, scoop some servings of oatmeal into Ziploc bags before leaving home. Mix in some cinnamon and chopped nuts, or grab an apple once you arrive at your destination and chop it up for some added flavor and vitamins. Consider making a quick stop at the grocery store to buy some Greek yogurt and fruit like strawberries, blueberries or bananas. Mix them together for a high protein breakfast loaded with vitamins. If your work frequently has you dining on the road, here is a resource to help you make healthier choices.

As far as your workout routine is concerned, remember that the time before work starts is yours. If you get into the habit when you’re at home of doing some stretching and basic calisthenics first thing in the morning, it will be much easier to do the same thing before showering and heading out of your hotel room. If you have a say in your lodging arrangements, try to find a hotel with either a well-equipped fitness center or one that has an arrangement with a local gym. If you travel to the same locations repeatedly, find the lodging that best fits your needs.

I hope you feel, as I do, that we all benefit from being fit. We feel better about ourselves. We are less prone to injury. We are less stressed. And most importantly of all, we are able to perform better and serve our rescue subjects well. I hope that in reading this you can take some or all of these tips, or even expand upon them, and start heading in a direction of improved fitness in the new year and beyond.
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Pat Furr

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters

Wednesday, January 02, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

In January of last year, I wrote a piece called The Fit Rescuer & Why It's Important, and it was one of my most widely-read articles, so I thought I would tackle the topic again this year. The information in this article applies to all rescuers; whether you're a member of an emergency response team at your plant, a paramedic or a firefighter, you can benefit from learning more about fitness.

I’ve taught a lot of students and worked alongside many rescue professionals over the years. Each and every one wants to do the very best for the patients or victims they serve... Clearly, learning rescue skills and practicing them is a critical part of this, but so is maintaining a reasonable level of physical fitness. In fact, a standard for rescuer physical fitness is directly addressed in NFPA 1006, Section 4.2. So not only do we have an obligation due to our role as rescuers, but we also owe it to ourselves to be in good shape.
Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters If that’s not motivation enough, its January resolution time! That said, remember that this is a journey… you probably aren’t going to see radical changes right away, so don’t get discouraged. Take pride in every day you work toward your fitness goals, and if you fall off the horse and into a hot fudge sundae one weekend, don’t despair – just get back on track and stay with it!

Why Staying in Shape is Working for Me
I will be the first to admit that I go through periods (some of them extended) where I allow myself to get a tad soft. Well, okay, maybe more than just a tad soft. And when I do, I feel certain limitations that I know hinder my ability to do right by my rescue subjects. If I am winded and drenched in sweat after climbing a few flights of stairs, that is going to ultimately count against my rescue victims. And if I need to go in “on air” and my mask is fogged from perspiration, I will need to run a constant purge just to keep my mask clear – and that may deplete our air supply prematurely.

I remember all too well how heavy my gear and tripod felt during one of my “Jabba the Hutt” periods a few years back. It was discouraging! But after a few months of working out and eating well, I remember how great it felt to grab that same tripod and sling it up onto my shoulder as if it was filled with helium.

Physical Fitness as a Matter of Life and Death
I think we can all agree that physical fitness can enhance our performance as rescuers. But there are so many other benefits to improving our individual physical fitness, for instance:

reduction in soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and ligament strains
• increased resistance to illnesses
• better mood and higher energy-level
reduced stress levels
• greater stamina and strength
• higher tolerance for heat and cold
• increased situational awareness and ability to formulate and understand rescue plans (this one is key!)

But there is so much more to the job performance and health benefits of working out, eating well, and staying in shape. Frankly, we can’t afford NOT to make our health a priority. A study from the First Responder Health and Safety Lab at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, affirmed: “Firefighters face many dangers, but the greatest risk is from underlying cardiovascular disease in combination with the physiological strain that the work places on the firefighter.” And further, the American Heart Association recently named cardiac arrest the leading cause of firefighter deaths. There are many, many more sources just like these, and it’s time we take them seriously.

It doesn’t help that we are more overweight than ever before. According to the report Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the United States Fire Service, the rates of overweight and obese firefighters are higher than those of the public at large. The study claims that 88 percent of firefighters are obese compared to 73 percent of the general population. This is a huge problem since obesity contributes to health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. While many of the stats pertain to municipal firefighters, there’s no reason to believe that emergency responders in industry are not facing the same issues.

Staying in shape is about more than just being able to effortlessly lift a tripod. It’s a matter of life and death. Hopefully, you are convinced that fitness is a rescuer's duty just as much as knowing what to do in a given emergency situation. So what to do? How about stop reading right here and bang out 20 push-ups? Or stand up and stretch. Worried that your co-workers will think you’ve lost your mind? Focus on what they’ll think about you in a few months when you are crushing your fitness goals. Maybe you’ll see a few more people taking periodic breaks from sitting at their computer to do push-ups or stretch! If you’ve chosen to do something now, you have taken the first baby-step!

There are numerous resources out there, from website articles to official publications, that provide guidance for first responders and firefighters in particular when it comes to getting – and staying – healthy. One example is the U.S. Fire Administration’s Guide to Fitness and Wellness.

In Part II of this article, I will offer specific tips for fitness, diet, and lifestyle. But for now, I encourage you to take a look at these resources and consider how they apply to you. How can you commit to being healthier in the long term? How can you optimize your health and fitness to be the very best first responder you can be? I invite all of you – every single person reading this article – to join me in the quest to continually get healthier, fitter, and happier.

Continue to Part II, Rescuer Physical Fitness: Making It Happen

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Pat Furr

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Successful Engulfment Rescue in Iowa

Monday, November 26, 2018

Successful Engulfment Rescue in IowaOur congratulations to the Burlington (Iowa) Fire Department on a successful grain bin rescue that happened in their community back in May of this year (2018). The incident was reported on Firehouse.com.

The Burlington Fire Department responded to an incident with a man trapped up to his neck inside a corn grain bin in a rural area. Upon arriving at the scene, the initial ambulance unit spoke with the victim’s son who told them that his father was buried up to his armpits inside the bin. The son had thrown a rope down to his father to prevent slipping further down into the corn. Fortunately, the victim remained calm and was able to communicate with the responders.

The bin, designed to hold up to 30,000 bushels of corn, was two thirds full on that morning.
Responders used a Res-Q-Throw Disc typically used in water rescue to lower an O2 bag with an attached non-rebreather mask to the victim.

As additional response vehicles arrived on scene, proper positioning of the apparatus was critical in assisting the rescue. The department’s aerial truck was positioned in a narrow lane between two grain bins and a barn where the aerial was deployed by the crew. The aerial was initially raised to the roof level where crews (two firefighters and two deputies) had assembled including the victim’s son.
To reduce weight on the roof of the structure, one of the deputies and the son came down from the structure.
Crews soon realized that the only way to rescue the gentleman was to set up a rope system and lower a responder into the bin. The aerial was put in place to assist this operation. An incident command vehicle was set up a short distance behind the aerial, offering excellent visibility to the Incident Commander.

Rescue equipment was gathered from various apparatus to include main and secondary life safety ropes as well as other needed gear. Pulleys were attached to the manufactured anchor points on the bottom of the aerial platform. A change-of-direction pulley was fixed to the front of the aerial truck directing the pulling action of the rope to a large grassy area in front of the truck. The main line was rigged with a 5:1 system while the secondary line was rigged with a 2:1 system. CMC MPDs were used as the descent-control device for both lines. On-scene personnel reportedly highly praised these devices.

A firefighter donned a Class III-harness to be lowered through a small opening in the top of the bin to the surface level of the corn, which was approximately 25 feet below. The aerial platform was positioned above the opening and remaining personnel on the room tended the lines. These personnel also assisted in lowering equipment down to the rescuer via a rope.

As part of the equipment being lowered were several milk crates and soda bottom flats, which became an essential part of the operation by distributing the rescuer’s weight on the corn. These crates, positioned in a horse-shoe pattern around the victim, allowed the rescuer to walk across the surface of the corn. A truck belt was lowered into the bin and was positioned around the victim’s chest. It remained attached to the secondary line to prevent the victim from slipping down further into the corn.

Finally, a six-paneled grain rescue tube was lowered into the bin panel by panel. Each panel was placed around the victim and then hammed into place with a TMT Rescue tool. The panels were fastened together to form a solid tube. When secured, the tube protected the victim from shifting corn and relieved some of the pressure being exert on him.
Throughout the process, the ground team kept the rescuer on a short leash to prevent him from falling into the grain himself.

A 4-gas atmospheric monitor with an extra-long sampling tube was used to test the air inside the bin to make sure the rescuer and victim were not in an IDLH atmosphere. The meter was monitored continuously throughout the rescue operation by fire personnel who was positioned on an extension ladder on the exterior of the bin near the opening. He also functioned as a safety officer for operations inside the bin and on the roof and relayed communications for the rescuer inside the space.

A neighboring fire department had brought a special grain rescue auger that was lowered into the bin. The rescuer inserted the auger inside the rescue tube and slowly removed the corn from around the victim’s chest. After the tube was secured around the victim, the IC had called for two relief cuts to be made in the bin – one cut near the victim and the other directly opposite it on the other side of the bin, which was used to empty the bin of corn. Crews used K-12 saws to cut a large triangular opening in the bin wall. The second opening was made by forcing open a door in the side of the bin near the victim. These doors, which swung inward, could only be opened after a significant amount of grain spilled from the cut made on the other side of the bin.

Local road crews which had been on site brought a large-end loader and a smaller skid loading to the scene and used them to push large amount of corn away from the openings in the walls, which enabled a continuous flow of corn.

In approximately 2-1/4 hours after crews arrived on scene, the victim was able to walk from the bin. He refused air transport but consented to ground ambulance transport where he was treated for minor injuries.

Again, our congratulations to the Burlington Fire Department as well as all the agencies involved in making this a successful rescue.

Notes:
The department noted several lessons learned which include:

• Grain bin rescue is a high hazard, low frequency event. The department recognized the importance of its training in ropes and rope operations as well as training with specialized rescue equipment.
• It was determined that the roofs of the grain bins hold far less weight than originally surmised.
• The aerial platform was a key factor in the rescue operation. It was used as an anchor point and for staging equipment. Physical limitations and maximum load-bearing capability must be carefully considered and even more especially when ropes are being utilized. Weight and angles of the aerial must be factored into the operation.

Source: www.Firehouse.com

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Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Has your Fire Department ever thought about hosting a Roco Confined Space Rescue course?

Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!
It just might be easier than you think! If your municipal department needs this kind of training, and you have a training site that would be adequate – it could be that simple.

We will be offering this opportunity for up to four (4) municipal fire departments in 2019. All we ask is help from you in promoting the class to local agencies and industries so that we can get a minimum of eight (8) paying students. Then your department would receive two (2) FREE spots in the 5-day class. The more paying students, the more FREE slots your department would earn. It’s a great way to get the training you need at no cost to your organization.

Details:

One of the first things we need is to determine if you have a site that will work for the training. So, you’ll need to send us a few photos of your training site. Then, we will need a signed letter from your Fire Chief (or other authority) providing permission to conduct a Roco course at your training site and invite participants from other organizations. In turn, your department would promote the class in your local area. Roco would provide the instructors and rescue equipment at no charge to you.

If you are interesting in hosting a course next year, please email your site photos along with a letter from your Fire Chief authorizing the use of your facility for the training and for allowing other personnel to attend. Send all information to us at info@RocoRescue.com.

Note: Limited to municipal agencies within the continental United States. Class to be Level I/I-II program. All course participants must be 18 or older, physically fit, and sign waivers prior to participation.
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Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCK

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCKExperienced rescuers know there are several ways to belay, or provide a safety line for a live load. Traditional belays include Tandem Prusiks, aperture devices, Munter Hitch, modern devices such as the ID or the MPD, and several others. What all of these devices have in common is the belay system is anchored with the line running through it as the load moves away from the anchors, or the line is pulled through the belay to take in slack as the load moves toward the anchors. These types of belay systems must be tended by a dedicated operator.

But certain professions and even alpinists and sport climbers have been using a different means of providing a belay for many years. This type of belay has been called a self-belay, or a traveling belay and it works by having the belay device attached to a fixed safety line, and the device travels along with the load as it ascends or descends. Window washers and rope access technicians have been relying on this type of belay for many years. Even soloist rock climbers or mountaineers have been using variations of self-belay or for alpinists fixed lines to negotiate difficult pitches in lieu of a roped party climb. 

Up until recently, these traveling belays required the individual on rope to pull the device along both on ascent and decent.
In fact, many times, devices that were not intended to be used as a belay device were and are still being used for this purpose. I’ve seen window washers using handled ascenders as their belay device and try as I might to explain to them that it would have a high potential to fail upon a shock load, they said it was the best they could come up with. The Petzl Shunt was a bit of improvement over handled ascenders, but it still needed to be “towed” up and down the line and the operator needed to remember to let go of the tow string should the mainline fail otherwise the device would not lock onto the line. Most all cam type devices will fail to lock on the rope if the body of the device is held when it is called to arrest a fall. But in the recent past a new “rolling” fall arrestor became available that overcomes many of the limitations of traditional belay devices. It is called the Petzl ASAP.

The ASAP comes in two versions, the original International version and the newer ASAP Lock (pictured here)Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCK. The primary difference between the two versions is the Lock has a means to lock onto the rope when you get to your intended position, which prevents a large loop of rope building between the top anchor and the device. This feature is critical for individuals that stop to perform a function at height where the potential for wind to blow rope into a growing loop between the device and the top anchor which would create an unacceptable potential freefall distance. Both versions are compatible with 10-13 mm kernmantle rope, but to meet ANSI Z359.15 certification, they must be used with the Petzl RAY 12 mm rope, and specified connectors and energy absorbers. 

One advantage of having a rolling fall arrestor is it reduces the manning requirements as there no longer needs to be an individual operating the belay.
Another advantage is there is no guesswork as to the amount of slack in the belay lane as is possible when the load is out of sight of the belay operator. This is particularly common on longer drops as the weight of the safety line can fool some less experienced operators into believing that is the weight of the load. 

But there are also potential disadvantages to an automatic rolling fall arrestor. If you do not plan ahead and there is a mainline failure and the load is arrested by the ASAP, it isn’t going anywhere. It will be stuck right where it arrests on the safety line – that is, unless you did think ahead and anchor the safety line into a dynamic anchor. We like to use the Petzl ID (pictured here) or the CMC MPD for this purpose. Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCKThis allows for an immediate emergency lower on the safety line or even a haul by building the dynamic anchor into a Z-Rig.

We have found the ASAP in either version to be a great device on an administrative safety line during tower rescue training, as it closely replicates conditions as they would most likely be in a real world small team, or one-on-one tower rescue, while providing the required level of safety that is relatively transparent to all involved. 

So, come to one of our tower classes to see the ASAP in use, and it may just turn out to be another tool for your rescue toolbox. Here is more information on Roco’s 30-hour Tower Work & Rescue training. For further assistance, please call our office at 800-647-7626. Also, here’s a video on these devices from Petzl.

ASAP Lock in ANSI-approved System Configuration

Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCK


ASAP International Version (below)

Rescue Toolbox: Petzl ASAP LOCK

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