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Rescue Knot Efficiencies

Friday, February 9, 2024

knot14Prompted by increasing inquiries regarding the durability and attributes of 11 mm NFPA General Use Rope, our friends at CMC (Instructors LeRoy Harbach and John McKently) embarked on a sequence of experiments within the CMC lab. Their investigation into knot effectiveness encompassed 487 trials across various rope varieties, uncovering valuable insights into the influence of diameter, composition, and materials on knot performance. Additionally, they broadened the focus of their research to assess the viability of smaller diameter ropes suggested for rescue operations, leading to the formulation of guidelines for estimating knot efficiency relative to rope diameter.

Click HERE to read the full case study.

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SMC Gear — Pushing the Boundaries

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

SMC_LogoIn the world of elite rescue gear, the marriage of carabiners and the aerospace industry is well documented. In 1967, when Jim Clark, Seattle Manufacturing Corporation (SMC) founder, brought his technical skills from the aircraft industry to the rescue world; it was, let’s say, unique.

Over the ensuing 50-plus years, SMC Gear has become a staple of rescue and sport caches around the world. The steel SMC large and X-large biners of the 80’s and 90’s will be found in Industrial Rescue team kits for generations to come based on robust construction alone.

SMC Tactical_1In more recent years, TerrAdaptor tripod system is where cutting-edge rescuers turn when the other options on the market just don’t give you enough versatility to color outside the lines. The newest gear coming out of the Ferndale, WA operation is incredibly well thought out, with creative thinking highlighted in the excellent Apex pulley line.

SMC Tactical_2Now under the umbrella of the Harken family of equipment, SMC Gear and Roco Rescue have a long history. The Roco Tactical Division has leaned heavily on the SMC Gear line and expertise over the years while serving our tactical clients. The TerrAdapter has travelled the world with our Tactical Cadre, providing new and innovative problem-solving options to some of the top operators in the world.

In addition, our Roco Training Division is deeply invested in the SMC Gear offerings. Our original TerrAdapter was one of the first to come off the line and has provided top notch service for nearly two decades. When we converted the Roco Training Center equipment kits to 11mm, Roco instructors chose gear they felt best represented Roco Rescue’s commitment to providing elite equipment for our students. SMC was well represented. The Apex pulley has become a fast favorite and the Origin 5 and Origin 8 rigging plates have become our go-to in classes. We are also excited to evaluate the Origin TT.

Apex_1As SMC makes some of the best rescue and mountaineering gear on the market, Roco Rescue is proud of the decade’s long relationship between two iconic players in the rescue world. Rescuers can count on SMC gear to be solid and reliable, no matter how tough the job.SMC Tactical_3rev

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Flashlights and Pocketknives

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

lights & knifesI love flashlights and pocketknives. Always have. One of the high points of my youth was when my dad finally trusted me enough to carry a pocketknife. From that moment on, the left pocket of my 501’s had a two AA cell Mini Mag in it while the right pocket had an Old Timer three blade. My dad died when I was seventeen, and one of the treasures I have of his is his Old Timer three blade. His influence in pocket tools has carried on over the ensuing decades.

As I sit and write this, the left front pocket of my Truewerk T1 pants holds the spectacular Surefire Stiletto Pro. The right pocket is blessed to hold my retirement gift from my Technical Rescue Team at Nampa (ID) Fire Department. They pitched in and gifted me the incredible Chris Reeve’s Sebenza. The Stiletto and the Sebenza make a wonderful pair.

The Surefire Stiletto Pro has made more than one TSA Agent grin from ear to ear. With 1000 Lumens of rechargeable power, it goes everywhere with me. Its long sleek look regularly gets it pulled from the Xray belt, usually resulting in the grin.

It gets used multiple times every day and as the days get shorter and colder, its workload increases. The value of a good light cannot be understated.

At the Roco Training Center in Baton Rouge, LA, we host students from all over the world. From novice rescuers to some of the world’s best, they trust their lives to the best rescue equipment in the business – Petzl, CMC, SMC, PMI, Harkin, Paratech, Sterling and many more. When we need to risk our own well-being for the benefit of others, the one request we all have is “give us the best equipment and we will do the rest.”

While students are provided with a shiny cache of the best rescue gear available, personal gear is their responsibility. We see a variety of helmets, gloves and boots. Most are good…. some a little questionable. Where we continue to see big deficiencies is in lighting, both pocket and helmet-mounted.

Like so much in the rescue industry right now, lighting kit is better than ever. My original Mini Mag light was a whopping 5-8 lumens. My current helmet light, new Petzl Aria 2R is 600 lumens of white light, uses either the Petzl Core rechargeable pack or three AAA batteries, and offers night modes in red, green or blue light. I make sure it is on my helmet when I head to the airport, because its light weight and ease of use has it pulling double duty on those early morning and evening hikes in the hills with the dog. Good lights will always have a place in my personal rescue kit.

helmet headlamps

For many rescuers, a single helmet light will suffice. As a young firefighter, I learned quickly that lesser quality gear cannot be counted on in our business. Because of that I personally adopted that old military adage of “One is None and Two is One.” One on the helmet and one in the pocket has been my personal rescue lighting system for almost 30 years.

There are many quality helmet lights on the market, from some of the $30 lights you can pick up at your local hardware store to $500 light reactive headlamps that lower the light output when it turns to face you. The Petzl lights have served me well over the years. From the current Aria R2 to the Swift RL Pro I wore for years at work, to the workhorse Tikka series, they have a great line up. I have also had great luck with some of the sport climbing lamps. I run into more than one Black Diamond lights in drawers around the house. The Fenix line of lights has performed well for me, as have Nightcore lights, although I have more experience with both of their handhelds. The Surefire Stiletto I now carry replaced the Fenix PD series in my left pocket.

My long-time teaching light was the venerable Zebralight H31. I ended up with the Zebralight after a student took a liking to the Spyderco Endura pocketknife I was carrying at the time. A trade offer was made, and the H31 ended up riding on my helmet for many years. Powered by a single CR123 battery and putting out a very usable 200 lumens on high, it quickly became my go to Confined Space light. The 90-degree standup light could easily be pulled from its helmet strap and stood up to illuminate a wide area for patient packaging or rigging. It was an option I came to greatly appreciate. I really like the CR123 battery system. They last forever in storage, and I trust them more than most rechargeable systems.


So, what should we look for in a quality rescue lighting system?

  • Brightness and AdjustabilityEvaluating your needs will help determine what best suits you. Do you work on a back country team that hikes to the scene, or do you work mostly inside tanks or vaults? One situation may require big light (1000 lumens +) while for the other, 200 lumens might be suitable. Having adjustability allows the user to better choose a light that will work for both situations.

  • Beam TypeDo I need a spot type beam, a flood beam, or an adjustable beam? For me, the spot beam fills my needs better than the flood. I use helmet mounted lights outside a lot, and the flood beams do not provide the distance I want. Your needs may be different.

  • Battery Type and LifeRechargeable or disposable? Ten years ago, this was an easy choice. Rechargeable lights were a short-term solution at best. It was a regular occurrence to find dead rechargeable batteries when you most needed them. That has changed. My Surefire Stiletto Pro’s rechargeable battery is long lasting. I plug it in before bed on occasion and am confident that it will perform at my use level (moderate to heavy) for three weeks to a month. It is incredible. That said, I treat my pocket lights different from my helmet lights. For a light that is not in my hand every day (i.e., my helmet light), I prefer a system that uses either disposable batteries that are readily available or rechargeable systems that can be backed up by disposables.

  • Durability and ComplianceMost name manufacturers have strong records for durability. A quick Google search will get you pages of reviews. I often use forums such as com to research lights. An IPX rating may be desirable if working in wet or dusty conditions. If you are required to have an intrinsically safe light due to work hazards, you will need to choose one of the many lights that meets those standards.
  • Weight, Comfort and Mounting OptionsCavers often use large, expensive lights that will run for days. They run with them for a reason. Does a member of an Urban Technical Rescue Team need a light that big? You get to decide. For me, I have decided that I want the smallest light that will provide adjustable brightness of at least 500 lumens with a medium or low setting that will last at least two hours. Are there mounting options available for my helmet? Is the light strap strong enough and secure enough or does my helmet manufacturer make a light mount? The military is dialed in on light mounting and some of the most reliable lights available are weapon-mounted lights such as Surefire, Streamlight and InForce that can easily be mounted on a rescue helmet mounted Picatinny Rail section.

  • Modes and FeaturesRed lights are fantastic for close up work. Confined spaces can be challenging for bright lights and a red-light option can help to solve that problem. Ease of use is also a concern. Can I easily, using a gloved hand, turn on my light, move through the different modes and shut it off without distracting myself from the rescue task at hand? If you can’t, perhaps it isn’t the right light for you.

  • CostBuy the best you can afford. I say that for the purpose of reliability and durability, not lumens. There are many great suitable lumen lights out there for less than $50. Find one that works for your budget.

A quality lighting system is as important to your personal rescue kit as the harness you wear and the descent control device you choose. Take the time to choose the lighting system that suits your needs for the type of rescue that you do.

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


Product Links:

Knife Photo:

Chris Reeves Sebanza  (silver knife)- Sebenza 31 Plain Drop Point – Chris Reeve Knives 

Amtac Blades Northman X (black knife) - The NorthmanX • Amtac Blades

Surefire Stilleto Pro - Stiletto Pro - SureFire

Helmet Photo:

White Helmet - VERTEX® VENT - Helmets | Petzl USA

White Helmet light - ARIA® 2 RGB - Versatile-headlamps | Petzl USA

Red Helmet - KASK SuperPlasma HD Helmet ANSI Head Protection | CMC PRO

Red Helmet light - H600c Mk IV 18650 XHP50.2 4000K High CRI Headlamp-H600c Mk I (zebralight.com)

Lights Photo:

Back row left – Fenix PD35 - Fenix PD35 V3.0 Flashlight - 1700 Lumens - Fenix Lighting

Back row middle – Maglight 3D - Maglite 3-Cell D LED Flashlight

Back row left – Klarus XT - XT Series - KLARUS Lighting Technology Co.,Ltd

Middle Row left – Petzl Aria2R - ARIA® 2R - Headlamps | Petzl USA

Middle Row center – Petzl Pixa 3 - PIXA® 3 (HAZLOC) - ATEX---HAZLOC-headlamps | Petzl USA

Middle Row right -  Petzl Aria 2 - ARIA® 2 RGB - Versatile-headlamps | Petzl USA

Front row – Inforce WMLx - WMLx White / IR - Gen 3 - Black or Flat Dark Earth (inforcelights.com)


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What Does NFPA Have to Say about Confined Spaces? (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

NFPA 350 Cover

A How-To Guide for Selecting a Rescue Service

In the first article in this series, we provided a high-level overview of NFPA 350 Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. We discussed the expanded roles on a confined space entry team with the inclusion of positions such as the Ventilation Specialist, Gas Tester, Standby Worker, etc. We also delved into the standard’s tiered response time and capability requirements for rescue, based on the hazards of the space.

In this article, we will focus on the rescue section of the standard. It provides broad coverage of the topic and if you have not read the standard, we highly recommend that you do so. It takes the “safe” part of its title very seriously, not only as it pertains to rescue, but across the board in everything related to confined space entry.

This article will focus on what the standard has to say about how an organization should select a rescue services provider if they are not going to perform rescue with in-house personnel. Roco Rescue thinks this of particular importance because there are many companies on the market that offer rescue services for confined space entry, and with any open market, there are vast differences in the quality of services they provide.

For safety managers who determined to ensure that they select a quality rescue provider, NFPA 350 provides an excellent framework for making that decision. If the safety manager rigorously applies the guidelines for auditing rescue programs contained in NFPA 350, they can rest assured that they are making an informed decision when selecting a Confined Space Rescue Service.

The need to evaluate rescue service providers is not new or limited to NFPA 350. OSHA 1910.146 requires employers to “evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified.” They shall “evaluate a prospective rescue service's ability, in terms of proficiency with rescue-related tasks and equipment, [and] to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified.” Further, employers shall “select a rescue team or service from those evaluated that has the capability to reach the victim(s) within a time frame that is appropriate for the permit space hazard(s) identified, [and] is equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services.”

The mandate for due diligence is there, but the standard is a bit vague and subject to broad interpretation. NFPA 350 on the other hand, does a really good job of filling in the voids and eliminating gray areas.

The first thing NFPA 350 requires is that the rescue provider ”should meet all requirements of the technician level confined space rescue chapter in NFPA 1670” Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. Technician level training from a reputable company is a significant investment in both time and money. This will effectively eliminate companies that want to simply have someone standing by at a tripod winch and consider them the “rescuer.”

The mandate for due diligence is there, but the standard is a bit vague and subject to broad interpretation. NFPA 350 on the other hand, does a really good job of filling in the voids and eliminating gray areas.

For those services that meet that first requirement, this is where the standard really gets interesting. The standard then calls for an audit of the prospective rescue provider by a designated person or team. Those conducting the audit should be “persons trained in or familiar with rescue operations and medical provisions at a level commensurate with the recommendations of this guide [NFPA 350] for rescue team members.” What the standard basically says is that the person or team conducting the audit should know what they are looking at from a rescue perspective.

The audit recommended by NFPA 350 is thorough. It should include, but is not limited to, an evaluation of the rescue service’s:

Tier graphic 2

In addition to the audit of plans and records, NFPA 350 recommends that the prospective provider submit to a performance evaluation and declares that it is the “principal means of deciding who is qualified among a group of prospective rescue service providers.”

The performance evaluation suggested by NFPA 350 goes far beyond knot tying and equipment usage. The evaluation should involve simulated rescues with manikins removed from actual representative spaces. Further, the teams being evaluated should be the actual teams that will be on standby in all staffing combinations. The standard acknowledges that “this may require multiple evaluations to ensure that all team member compositions will provide the appropriate capability for confined space rescue.”

Once a rescue service is selected, the evaluation does not stop there. The standard calls for annual evaluations, or whenever there are changes to operations or regulatory requirements.

In addition to evaluating rescue capabilities, the performance evaluation should also take into account patient care. The prospective service should demonstrate their ability to address both life-threatening and non-life-threatening conditions and maintain effective treatment until the patient is turned over to definitive care providers.

Once a rescue service is selected, the evaluation does not stop there. The standard calls for annual evaluations, or whenever there are changes to operations or regulatory requirements.

Following NFPA 350’s guidelines is the surefire way to select a rescue services provider. Are these requirements rigorous? You bet. To borrow a saying, this method separates the wheat from the chaff. At the end of the day, it ensures that should an emergency occur, your confined space rescue provider will give the injured entrant the best chance possible for a positive outcome.

NFPA 350 serves as a comprehensive guide for safe practices related to confined space entry, work, and rescue. It provides procedures and best practices for safely entering and working in confined spaces. It also includes guidelines for confined space rescue operations, which are critical for the safety of entrants.It provides a dependable template for selecting a qualified rescue service. Everyone involved in confined space operations should consider NFPA 350 a “must-have” resource.


Additional Resources

Tips for Getting the Most From Your Rescue Training

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Training time is precious; make sure it’s productive for you and your team. Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Take care of your gear. Inventory control and routine inspections are a never-ending process. Knowing that your rescue equipment is ready to go at a moment’s notice, not just prior to the training, is the first key to a successful training program. Any equipment that is damaged or out of manufacturer’s recommended life span should have already been replaced.
  • Fitness matters, both emotional and physical. We get so much more from our rescue training program when it includes attention to mental and physical health. Confirm that all personnel are medically able to perform the physically strenuous tasks involved in rescue training. Team members should be briefed on the types of activities that will be performed as well as possible effects from participating in the training (i.e., lifting, stretching, pulling, wearing a harness, being suspended in a harness or litter, inverting while suspended, etc.).
  •  rescue training class 2023Get everyone involved. The best leaders know how to get everyone excited and wanting to participate. Stress the importance of each person being actively involved and willing to participate in the training exercise. Each team member must be fully committed to the team’s overall mission; and training is perhaps the most vital component.
  • Provide focused training sessions. Identifying team deficiencies is an often-difficult process. Taking a good hard look at your team’s strengths and weaknesses can provide a clear map for your training.
  •  Train at new and different locations. While not always convenient, the benefits are endless. New locations offer new challenges. New challenges require new solutions.

Training is the foundational building block that every good rescue team is built upon. Real rescues should be easy… if your training has been realistic and hard. Make sure you make the most of it!   


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