Roco Rescue



Is your team ready for a 750-ft cell tower rescue?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Burleson (TX) Fire Department recently got a chance to put their skills (and stamina)to the test when they rescued a worker from atop a 750-ft cell tower. It sounds like they did a great job, and serves as an important reminder of the challenges these towers can pose to local emergency responders. Preplanning for this type of incident is critical – especially when it occurs in the middle of summer! Temperatures were 100+ degrees at the time of the dramatic rescue.

In situations like this, rescuers not only need the proper technical skills and equipment for a rescue of this intensity, but also adequate manning for such a physically demanding endeavor.

Here are a few things to keep in mind. Rescue rope is heavy, especially when climbing a 700-plus foot vertical face in extreme heat. Hydrate, or you run the risk of crossing the line from asset to liability. Be willing to adapt as needed – for example, you may need additional manpower just to deal with the weight of the rope. Plan for the unexpected – the worker had removed his harness!

Hopefully, if faced with a situation like this, you will have personnel who are trained, equipped and physically able to deal with it. Fortunately, it was a great outcome for this team. However, let’s not miss the opportunity to learn from their experience and be prepared if we get this type of call!

Visit Fox's website to read the story and view a video from this heroic rescue.
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Proper Training Required: Why it’s so important!

Monday, August 08, 2011

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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First Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test Planned

Thursday, August 04, 2011

FEMA and the FCC will conduct the first “nationwide” test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The test may last up to three and a half minutes, FEMA announced. The test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable TV, satellite radio and TV services, and wireline video service providers in all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The two agencies said this test will help the federal partners and EAS participants determine the reliability of the system and its effectiveness at notifying the public of critical information that could save lives and protect property.

“Because there has never been an activation of the Emergency Alert System on a national level, FEMA views this test as an excellent opportunity to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system,” according to Damon Penn, FEMA’s assistant administrator of National Continuity Programs. “It is important to remember that the Emergency Alert System is one of many tools in our communications toolbox, and we will continue to work on additional channels that can be a lifeline of information for people during an emergency.

“The upcoming national test is critical to ensuring that the EAS works as designed,” said Jamie Barnett, chief of FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “As recent disasters here at home and in Japan have reminded us, a reliable and effective emergency alert and warning system is key to ensuring the public’s safety during times of emergency. We look forward to working with FEMA in preparation for this important test.”

(as reported in OH&S; Jun 09, 2011)
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Valero’s Measure of Success: Safety

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Valero Energy Corporation pledges “consistent, high-quality products” but its most important measure of success is the “health and safety of its employees, contractors, customers and neighbors.” So, it’s no surprise that Valero sends its rescue teams to the Roco Challenge. One Valero team member professed that while Roco’s Rescue Challenge was indeed “very challenging,” he also added that his team benefited from the communication, leadership, safety awareness, problem-solving experience and teamwork.

Valero invests in emergency preparedness and response training to ensure that employees are prepared to respond quickly to any emergency. The company is committed to “frequent training for all personnel in emergency management, incident command and tactical operations.”

Each of Valero’s four rescue teams, one for each of their shifts, completes quarterly training that covers IPE’s (Individual Performance Evaluations), TPE’s (Team Performance Evaluations), High Angle Rescue, Confined Space Rescue and Team Building.

With its recordable-injury rate among the lowest in the industry, the Valero teams have been fortunate not to have to use their skills in a real rescue,  but without a doubt will be ready in case an emergency arises.
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Cleaning Your Rope…Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We are often asked, “How should I maintain my rescue equipment – especially rope?”

So, we went to our friends at CMC and PMI for the answers.  Keep in mind, however, you should always follow your rope manufacturer’s care and cleaning instructions.

CMC offers their rope cleaning suggestions: Rinse off muddy or especially dirty rope or web with water. Scrub any tough spots with a nylon bristle brush. Soak the rope in a tub of water with a mild detergent.

Woolite or other mild detergents that are safe for nylon may also be used. The rope can be rinsed using a rope washer or placed directly into the washing machine. Washing rope and webbing in a top-loading washing machine is the easiest method. Run the empty machine through a cycle with plain water to rinse any harsh detergents from the machine before starting. Use cold water and the appropriate amount of detergent.

Double the rope (or web) and “daisy-chain” it. This keeps single lines from tangling or getting caught in the agitator. Put the rope in the machine and wash on the gentle cycle. If the rope bag needs washing, put it in with the rope. During the rinse cycle, add a small amount of Downy fabric softener. (No more than one ounce of Downy to 3 gallons of water.) The fabric softener replaces the lubricant the rope loses during use and washing.  Air dry the rope and webbing in a cool, shaded place. Do NOT dry nylon products in the sun because of the damaging effects on nylon from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays. If necessary, ropes can be stuffed into the bags wet. The ropes may mildew but this does not adversely affect the rope. Rope that has come into contact with blood or other body fluids can be cleaned using a chlorine bleach per your department’s protocols for contaminating equipment.

PMI offers special precautions about cleaning exposed rope:

In cases where equipment may be exposed to blood‐borne pathogens or other infectious substances, we’re often asked about appropriate methods for cleaning ropes. Certain authorities recommend specific concentrations of household bleach for disinfecting gear that has been exposed to certain contaminants, so naturally customers often wonder at what concentration their PMI rope will experience deterioration. While PMI cannot speak to the subject of infectious diseases, or what solution might neutralize a given hazardous substance, we are happy to provide at least some guidance regarding the effect of bleach on rope fibers.

Specifically, PMI has found that a mixture of 1 part household bleach (with active ingredient of Sodium hypochlorite at 5.25% concentration) with 9 parts room temperature tap water and a 10 minute or less exposure time, immediately followed by a thorough rinse of room temperature water appears not to cause any appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes. PMI cannot, however, speak to whether or not such a mixture will truly disinfect your rope from contaminants.

Precautionary Note:  PMI’s testing suggests that a “single disinfection” of ropes using the above recommended method will not cause appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes. However, if this process is repeated multiple times, the damage will inevitably become appreciable, and this damage is not necessarily detectable through visual inspection.

Remember, ropes are a critical element of the life safety system, and it can be difficult to make subjective decisions about the strength of rope without actually testing it to failure. The prudent course of action is to discard any rope about which there is any doubt.
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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!