Roco Rescue



The Fit Rescuer & Why It's Important

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

 By Pat Furr, Roco VPP Coordinator & Chief Instructor

As a Roco instructor, I see all sorts of students coming through our classes. But the one common characteristic in most every student is, “They want to do the very best for their patient or victim when the time comes for them to act!”

Beyond that, our students come with a very wide variety of characteristics. Some are loud and boisterous, while others are a bit shy and quiet. We see folks that are incredibly fast learners and some that need just a bit more time and attention. Some folks are incredibly fit and some could stand to lose a pound or two. And that is the subject of this article... Do we as rescuers have an obligation to our rescue subjects to maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness?

In addition to NFPA 1006 section 4.2 (3) minimum physical fitness as required by the AHJ, I say we do, even if only ethically. And I also say we owe it to ourselves to try to get into or stay in good shape. I don’t mean to throw stones, and 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, OK, maybe more than just a tad soft. And when I do, I feel certain limitations that I know are going to hinder my ability to do right by my rescue subject. If I am winded and drenched in sweat after climbing a few flights of stairs, that is going to ultimately count against my rescue victim. If I need to go in “on air” and my mask is fogged from my perspiration, I will need to run a constant purge just to keep my mask clear – and that may spend our air supply prematurely. I remember a few years back during one of my "Jabba the Hutt" periods that I could barely lift up the tripod. Then, after a few months of working out and eating correctly, I remember grabbing that same tripod and slinging it up onto my shoulder as if it was filled with helium. It felt GREAT!!

I don’t think anyone could make the argument that improved fitness will not add to our effectiveness as rescuers. But there are so many more benefits to improving our individual physical fitness. A reduction in soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and strains, as well as an increased resistance to illnesses. For me I have a much better mood and energy level to go out and enjoy most anything. And exercising regularly can drastically reduce stress levels! But as it applies to my tasks as a rescuer, I have more stamina, strength, ability to handle heat and cold – and because of all those factors, I have an increased situational awareness and ability to formulate and understand the plan. And for those of you that know me that last one is a huge benefit.

So I’ll assume that for the most part you agree with what I have said to this point, at least that’s my hope. What do we do about it then? Well, I suppose the first thing is for all of us to stop for just a few moments and assess where we feel our individual fitness is right now. For those of you that think that you could be a bit, or even a lot fitter, then I have some very basic suggestions to offer you. For those of you that are fit and plan on maintaining that fitness, good on ya! Keep up the good work! For those of you that are not in good shape at all and really aren’t interested or feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do anything about it, well I hope you’ll reconsider and keep reading to see that it really doesn’t take much at all to make a positive change. And as those positive changes happen, it is like a railroad locomotive. It starts out sort of slow, but as the momentum increases, so does the rate of positive change. And you know it when it really starts to happen, and it feels GOOOOOOOOD…..

If you start your day with a morning stretch, that is a good base to build on. If you are like a lot of us, we set the alarm to give us just enough time to get up, dressed, fed and out the door, sometimes finishing that last bite of breakfast as we are driving to work. Here’s a little hint, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier. C’mon…15 little minutes is nothing. This accomplishes several things. It gives us time to do a bit more slow and easy stretching and is plenty of extra time to do a set of pushups and some crunches. It also gives us a few minutes buffer to get to where we need to be on time, and eliminates that feeling of cutting it close which is just another stressor. Wouldn’t it be nice to start the day with less stress and that certain physical feeling of being slightly pumped up? Give it a try for one week; what do you have to lose, other than some stress and maybe a few pounds? 

Do you use the elevator to go up one, two, 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, ten stories. Now if we are talking 20 stories or more, then yeah, I’ll give you a pass on this one.

By the way, you don’t need to join a gym to get into really good shape. For those of you with good knees, running is a great calorie burner. For old fogies like me or those of you with knee or other injuries that prevent running, there are plenty of aerobic exercises like brisk walking, rollerblading, swimming, biking, and even dancing that will burn off some of that extra weight. I am fortunate to live very close to several lakes and I have taken up sliding seat rowing for my no impact aerobic workout. Wow! 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. Okay, I’ll quit waxing poetic now, but it is really nice and boy does it keep me fit.

What about what we eat and drink? Changing what you choose to eat is a simple matter of education and some simple strategies, but don’t make wholesale changes overnight. It is best to gradually change your diet and develop habits that can be built upon. Radical diet changes fail more often than not. There is a lot of truth to the old saying “We are what we eat.” I’ll be the first to admit I love me a big green chili cheeseburger and fries, and chase that with a bowl of ice cream while we’re at it. But I am fortunate to have a pretty good pseudo nutritionist in the house, who mandates adherence to a grocery list. Yup, it’s as simple as that. The key is to do just a bit of research on the sort of foods that should go onto your list, and the good news is there are plenty of resources to help guide you. Make sure to cover all the food groups with a good balance and visit the internet to see the variety of healthy choices within those groups. The next step is to make sure that the vast majority of your list is healthy choices. Next time you visit the grocery store, pay attention to the layout of the store. I’ll bet you will see that the healthy choice 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 out 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. My bet is the nuts from the produce section have few or no additives, whereas the nuts out of the snack aisle will be loaded with oils and all sorts of hard to pronounce gunk. Now there will be some healthy choices on the inner aisles, like wild or long grain rice- not the instant kind- , oatmeal without additional ingredients, and stay away from foods with artificial coloring. Get into the habit of reading the labels. Avoid or limit processed foods and foods with extensive ingredients on the label. The fewer the ingredients on the label, generally the healthier the item will be. 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. And give it a chance, it isn’t pasta, it’s a substitute.

Don’t worry too much about the few fun and tasty items that still manage to make it onto your list, and even these can be healthy. Consider your favorite fruit or nuts as a snack. Just beware of nuts with additives like oils and salt. Consider your favorite fruit or nuts as a snack. Just beware of nuts with additives like oils and salt. Even some junk food snacks on occasion are not the end of the world, we are human after all, just be sure that they are the special treats and not the norm. And this is where the rubber meets the road and is critical. Stick to your list!! Do not stray at all, and to help with that, go shopping after dinner. Shopping on an empty stomach spells trouble for most of us. The main key to success is to develop a healthy list and then to stick to it.

What about a plan for the frequent traveler? That complicates things a little bit. Traveling disrupts our routine and unless you stay at a suite with a well equipped kitchen, the meal choices are limited to restaurant offerings and complementary hotel breakfasts. As far as your routine being disrupted, remember that the time before work starts is yours. If you get into the habit of doing some stretching and basic “quality” calisthenics first thing in the morning at home, it will be seamless 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.

For dining on the road here is a good link to help you make good choices.

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, and 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, pre-package servings of oatmeal in Ziploc bags before leaving home. Sure, go ahead and mix in some cinnamon or chopped nuts and dehydrated fruit, or grab an apple once you arrive at your destination and chop it up to add in for some added flavor and vitamins. Consider making a quick stop at the grocery store and get some Greek yogurt and fruit like strawberries, blueberries or bananas. Mix them together and have a great high protein breakfast loaded with vitamins. 

I hope you feel the same as I do that we all benefit from being fit. We feel better about ourselves, we are less prone to injury, feel less stress, and ultimately, we are able to perform better in our efforts to save our stricken rescue subjects. I hope that in reading this you can take some, all, or even expand on these tips and start heading in a direction of improved fitness.

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Roco Rescue Training in North Dakota

Monday, January 23, 2017

Roco is excited to be conducting several Rescue & Fall Protection Workshops at the 44th Annual Safety Conference next month in Bismarck, ND. This will kick off our working relationship with the ND Safety Council to provide safe, effective confined space rescue training for their membership. 

What's more, the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) is currently constructing a new safety campus in Bismarck that will house a 5,000 square foot hands-on training lab. Roco, as a training partner, will provide high-level technical rescue courses at this new facility on a year-round basis.

For the conference on February 20-23, we will be conducting a number of hands-on rescue workshops and presentations to be presented by Roco Lead Instructors Dennis O’Connell, Pat Furr, Brad Warr, Eddie Chapa and Josh Hill. Sessions include:

  • Intro to Competent Person Requirements for Fall Protection
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demo)
  • Confined Space Entrant, Attendant, and Supervisor Requirements
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demos) 
  • Tripod Operations
    2/21 11am-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • So You’ve Fallen, Now What?
    2/22 10am-11:30am (classroom)
  • Dial 911 for Confined Space Rescue
    2/22 1:30pm-2:30pm (classroom w/demos)
  • Confined Space and Rope Rescue...
    2/22 1:30pm-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • Trench Collapse Rescue Considerations
    2/22 2:45pm-3:45pm (classroom) 
  • Fallen/Suspended Worker Rescue
    2/23 8am-11:15am (classroom w/demos) 
  • We look forward to meeting you at Roco booths (#202 & #203) or in these training sessions. For more info, click to NDSC’s 44th Annual Safety & Health Conference. Don't forget to register online at for these training sessions.
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Three More CS Deaths Due to Atmospheric Hazards

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Three workers in the Florida Keys died Monday morning (Jan 16) after they were overcome by fumes, authorities said. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said they responded to reports of three people down. The victims were working at a road project.

A representative said a worker went inside a drainage manhole to see why the newly-paved Long Key Road was settling at that location. She said the worker got trapped inside the manhole and three other workers, a volunteer firefighter with Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department and two Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies tried to help get him out.

The two workers who collapsed and the firefighter, who also collapsed after going underground, were pulled from the hole, authorities said. The two workers were pronounced dead at the scene. It took authorities several hours to recover the body of the third worker. The firefighter and deputies were taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.

The firefighter, identified by relatives as Leonardo Moreno, was then airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he is listed in critical condition.

"A firefighter had an air pack on," Monroe County Sheriff Ramsey said. "He found the hole too small, so he elected to take his air pack off and go inside the hole to attempt the rescue."

The deputies are being treated for non-life-threatening ailments. A fourth worker for the contractor was treated at the scene.

Cause of deaths will be determined by the Monroe County medical examiner.

A woman who lives near the manhole told Local 10 News that the area has smelled of rotten eggs for the past couple of months.

The contracted workers were in a 15-foot hole and it's believed that a build-up of hydrogen sulfide and methane is to blame for the deaths.

"There's no sign of any pre-venting going in, and obviously going into a contained environment where there is gases can be deadly, as we unfortunately found out today," Ramsey said.

Records show that the contractor was fined for an incident at a manhole in Collier County in 2002. In that case, OSHA said workers were exposed to hazardous conditions.

UPDATE: We are glad to report that the firefighter involved in this incident has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own with no neurological deficits shown so far. This information is according to the latest update on his gofundme page

SOURCES: WPLG and Firefighter Nation.
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Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary.

"These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for a plumbing company out of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that they failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read the news release.
Source: OSHA QuickTakes December 1, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 26

Comments from Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

In the above OSHA Newsletter, they highlight this growing problem. Besides the loss of human life, the “SERIOUS” and “WILLFUL” violations paragraph should get you asking, “Are we doing what we should be for trenching in our facility?” 

The new OSHA statistics show in 2016, we have two people a month dying in trenches, which is double the amounts for 2014 & 2015. Why, is the soil getting more dangerous? I can only speak to what I have seen in trends in industry that may be contributing to this rise. In previous articles, I have discussed the subject of trench and trench rescue and some of the following concerns:

• We are relying heavily on subcontractors to do trench work in our facilities.

• Entry Supervisors are not properly trained as Trench Competent Persons and are assuming the contractor is taking all necessary precautions.

• Our Confined Space Entry Supervisors are signing off on trenches as Confined Spaces and not as trenches.

• Rescue - most locations have not trained or equipped their rescue team to handle a possible trench rescue situation even though trench work is a common daily occurrence in most refineries and large municipalities.

• Trench rescue entities are far and few between. Most municipalities are ill equipped to handle trench collapse rescue.


Give us a call for a private Roco Trench Rescue training course at your facility or at the Roco Training Center. Or, register for Roco's open enrollment Trench Rescue course online.



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Why Knot?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

By Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

As rescuers, we all have our favorite knots and our favorite ways of tying them. Depending on the application, there may be several knots to choose from that will perform slightly differently in terms of efficiency or knot strength. You can go online and order any number of books ranging from a couple of pages thick to 2’ thick with hundreds of knots in it. The trick is to decide what applications you will need to perform with your ropes and knots. If you don’t need to shorten a rope, then you don’t need to know how to tie a sheepshank. Or, if you use manufactured harnesses, then a tied Swiss Seat is not a needed skill in your inventory.

For the most part, we can break applications into 6 categories for rescue purposes: 

1) Knots that form a permanent loop in the end of a rope (Ex. Figure-8 on-a-bight)
2) Knots to tie around objects (Ex. Bowline)
3) Knots to join ropes together (Ex. Square Knot)
4) Knots tied in the middle of ropes (Ex. Butterfly)
5) Hitches binding and adjustable (Ex. Prusik Wrap or Clove)
6) Utility knots (Ex. Daisy Chain)

Whenever we tie a knot in a line we lose some of the efficiency in the rope or webbing we are using. Generally, the more acute the first bend in the knot, the more efficiency is lost.

Other factors such as angle deflection, direction of pull, and rope construction all have effects on a knot’s efficiency. Then, there’s the type of load the knot will see (two directions or three directions). The direction and critical angle applied forces may change the efficiency rating of a knot greatly. In rescue, we try to use knots with fairly small efficiency losses, generally between 18-37%.

There are some other considerations beyond knot strength when choosing which knot to use for any particular application.

Ease of Tying

In addition to knot efficiency (strength), we also must think about many other things such as ease of tying especially in those hard to access places where you wish you had more Gumby genes. Where and under what circumstances will you need to be tying the knot? Will it need to be tied one-handed? Is speed a consideration? Take a calf roper, for example, he needs a knot he can tie quickly and securely. Would you be able to tie a Prusik on line for self-rescue with one hand if the other is stuck in the device? What about an emergency situation where you might need to bail out a window while blinded by smoke?

Say you want to clip into a fixed rope but need to do it one-handed? The Clove Hitch will be much easier to tie into a carabiner one-handed than most loop knots. Not only that, if you need to adjust your position after clipping in, the Clove Hitch is easily adjusted one-handed.

Ease of Untying

Not only ease of tying, but ease of untying a knot should be thought through, especially with wet rope or heavy loads. Once the knot gets loaded – or if it sees a heavy or shock load – will you be able to get the knot untied? Will you need to use a tool like the marlin-spike to get your loaded knot untied? How often will you be tying and untying the knot? Will the knot be wet or dirty? (Example: a loaded Bowline is easy to untie, while the Figure-8 Bend is more difficult.)

Knot Security

Knot security must always be considered but this is especially true if the knot will be subjected to tension and slack repeatedly. Will the knot be able to untie itself if it is cycled between tension and slack? (i.e., Square Knot vs. Figure-8 Bend) We know that a Butterfly Knot performs much better than a Figure-8 on-a-Bight if the knot is to be pulled in more than two directions. But what about some of the lessons learned over time that we know will make a difference in which knot to select based on other considerations. How difficult is it to untie a Figure-8 on-a-Bight after it has been loaded wet vs. a Two Loop Figure-8?

Tying a fixed line for a rappel? There are several choices to tie a fixed line instead of clipping it to an anchor strap. The Bowline, Clove Hitch, Figure-8 Follow-Through will all work, but if the line goes in and out of tension, how secure is the Clove Hitch compared to the Bowline or Figure-8? If security isn’t a concern, it will be easier to untie the Clove Hitch after it has been loaded followed by the Bowline, with the Figure-8 probably being the most difficult to untie, especially if the rope is wet.

Tying an anchor around a very large object? You will use up a lot more rope and time tying a Clove Hitch vs. a Figure-8 Follow-Through or a Bowline.

How will a knot handle a sustained load or shock load?

If you anticipate a heavy load on a Prusik Knot, consider making it a triple wrap instead of double. This will give you more friction, and it will definitely make it easier to untie later on. A little trick I use to loosen a loaded Prusik is to “push the bar.” By that, I mean to push the section of the knot that runs parallel to the rope that it is tied around away from the main line, which will loosen the knot.

The Water Knot is great for tying webbing together to form a runner or sling. But if it is really loaded, it can be a bear to untie. Try this, turn the knot so it is oriented vertically along its axis and place it between the palms of your hands. Rub your palms together squeezing on the knot and really be aggressive. After a few seconds, see if you are able to work a little looseness into the knot to start untying it. Same thing with a Figure-8 on-a-Bight, grasp the knot with both hands beside each other with half of the knot in each hand. Then, bend the knot back and forth as if you were activating a chem-light. Do this several times and see if you are able to milk a little slack into one side of the knot to start working it loose. Try to push slack into the knot instead of pulling the knot apart. Attack different parts of the knot until you see some movement.

Fighting untying knots?

If you are fighting untying knots on a regular basis, it may be time to add a marlin spike to your kit. A marlin spike is a tapered tool that finishes with a blunt or flat tip. They have been around since ancient times and may be useful to get that first bit of looseness into the tight knot. The warning here is to never place the knot in a position that the spike could slip and puncture your leg or arm, always push the spike away from your body.

If you know you’re going to really load up your knot and especially if the rope is wet, consider clipping a carabiner into the bends of your knot between the lays. This works really well for the Figure-8 on-a-bight or follow-through. Once you are done with that knot, remove the carabiner – this may provide enough slack to work the knot out.

We generally advocate stuffing rope into a bag and working out of the bag, but sometimes we “coil” the rope to go from point A to point B. How often has this led to a bird’s nest of rope? To help prevent a coiled rope from tangling, hold the coil up in one arm and let it hang free. Uncoil the rope with the other hand not allowing the lines to cross. By holding the coil up, gravity will show you which sections are crossing. You will then be able to keep the line straighter than if you dropped the entire coil to the ground and just started pulling rope.

So, you can see there is a lot to think about and consider when choosing what knot you should use and why. As we said earlier, there are hundreds of knots to choose from and many of them do the same jobs. And many are called different names in different books. The key is to identify the category, the application and the circumstances where the knot will be used. Then consider the above and you should be able to identify the proper knot for the job at hand.

Visit our Resources page for videos on knot tying and much more!

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