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Guidelines for Permanent Marking of Rescue Hardware

Friday, April 29, 2011

One of the most reliable ways to ensure that your rescue team is able to identify, and if needed, prove ownership of its equipment is by marking the gear with some type of visible identification. There are many ways to accomplish this ranging from color-coded paint or vinyl tape to affixing tags. Each has its shortcomings in terms of durability – and tags could potentially interfere with the function of the item. Here are some additional guidelines from our hardware manufacturer, SMC. For more than 40 years, it has been SMC’s goal to design and manufacture innovative gear that sets the standard for quality, reliability, and functionality.

The following information is intended to serve as a clear and simple guide concerning what is acceptable and conversely, what is not acceptable, when permanently marking by engraving into the surface of various types of hardware.

Note: Always adhere to your equipment manufacturer’s instructions.

First of all, it’s very important to note that it is only acceptable to use a “hand-held” electric type engraver to place identifying marks on hardware. Do NOT strike
with a hammer or stamps or ever use other similar methods. Once the marking process has been completed, ALWAYS inspect the product for proper fit and function PRIOR to returning it to service.

Carabiners:
For carabiners, it is recommended to mark along the spine of the frame. Do NOT mark on or near the lock or pivot tabs of the frame and stay away from rope bearing areas. Do NOT mark on the gate! For steel and stainless products, use a medium setting with medium to heavy pressure. For aluminum products, use a low setting with light to medium pressure. Depth of engraving equal to the thickness of a piece of paper should be enough to last the life of the product.

Pulleys:
For pulleys, it is recommended to mark on the flat outside surface around the axle. Do NOT mark ON OR NEAR the carabiner hole at the top of a pulley or anywhere on the becket of a double pulley. It is also important to stay away from all rope bearing areas.

Rappel Racks & Bars, Rigging Plates & Rope Protection:
When marking other hardware, always use caution and stay away from all carabiner holes, rope bearing surfaces and surrounding areas.

Coatings:
Most aluminum products are anodized. Some slight cosmetic oxidation may occur over time and this is a natural occurrence. Alloy steel parts are typically zinc plated. Engraving these products will remove the zinc plating in that particular area. One advantage of zinc plating is that it will move over and protect the exposed base material (self-sacrificing). However, this will eventually lead to the zinc in the area being consumed and may allow rust to begin to form. To help prevent corrosion, periodically wipe down plated products with LPS or a similar product.

As durable as modern rescue hardware is, it is important never to use any permanent identification method that would compromise the structural integrity of the item. With the clear guidelines provided by SMC, it allows the owner to have a reliable means of identifying their rescue hardware, while at the same time maintaining the original integrity of the item.

We remind you that it is important to review the user information and instructions for use for any rescue equipment item to ensure that the procedures outlined above are not conflicting with another manufacturer’s guidelines. Roco strives to provide practical and useful information to the rescue community, and this is one in a series of postings that we hope will help you become a better rescuer.
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How often should I replace my rescue harness?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We get many calls asking about the “life expectancy” of rope, harnesses and other nylon products. Of course, there are many factors involved and no one “set in stone” answer, but a lot depends on how much you use your harness and the ways you use it. Even where you store your gear is a factor. 

For example, for emergency responders working in industrial environments, atmospheric exposures may be a key consideration for nylon products even while in storage. Another consideration is “when” the harness or rope was made… manufacturing parameters change as technology improves and you may just want a product that’s been tested to the latest standards. However, as with all of your rescue equipment, it’s important to account for its use as well as to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


Never take chances when there’s any doubt about the serviceability of a life safety product. For more details on the service life of nylon products, our harness manufacturer, CMC Rescue, has provided the following information:

The service life of a rescue harness is closely related to the life of a rescue rope – both are used in the same environments, both are made from nylon or polyester, and both receive similar levels of inspection and care. Since harnesses are worn on the body, they are generally better protected than the ropes. On the other hand, harnesses rely on the stitching to hold them together, and due to its small diameter, the thread can be more susceptible to abrasion, aging, and chemical damage than web or rope.

The fall protection industry recommends 2 to 3 years as a service life for a harness or belt in use. They recommend 7 years for the shelf life. The military was using 7 years as a service life for nylon products. The Climbing Sports Group of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America says that a climbing harness should last about two years under normal weekend use. At this time, the rescue industry does not have a recommended service life for harnesses.

Through the ASTM consensus standards process, the rescue industry set 10 years as the maximum service life for a life safety rope, see ASTM Standard F1740-02 Guide for Inspection of Nylon, Polyester, or Nylon/Polyester Blend, or both Kernmantle Rope. The guide stresses that the most significant contributing factor to the service life of a rope is the history of use. A rope that is shock loaded or otherwise damaged should be retired immediately. Hard use would call for a shorter service life than would be acceptable for a rope that sees very little use.

If we apply the same analysis to the rescue harness, then the actual use and the conclusions drawn from inspection would be the significant criteria for retirement. We do know that with any use, a rope will age, and thus a harness is likely to do the same, so a 10-year maximum service life may well be appropriate for harnesses as well assuming inspection has not provided any reason for early retirement.

As with ropes, if the harness has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads, or abuse other than normal use, the harness should be removed from service. If there is any doubt about the serviceability of the harness for any reason, it should be removed from service.
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WARNING ABOUT COUNTERFEIT RESCUE GEAR!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Equipment manufacturers are becoming increasingly concerned about substandard equipment making its way into the rescue market. Most often, this equipment is not tested to the appropriate standards and presents a risk to rescuers and end users. We recently received a notice from Petzl concerning Chinese counterfeit versions of their products. Although none have been reported in North America as of yet, it’s something to be aware of and concerned about.

According to the notice, there is a significant risk that these counterfeit Petzl products could open or otherwise fail at low loads and under normal use. The counterfeits do NOT meet UIAA or CE safety standards nor do they meet Petzl’s safety and quality requirements. What’s more, these counterfeit products have been reproduced in a way that makes them very difficult to identify. Design features of several Petzl products (see illustration below) have been reproduced nearly identically – including product markings, color, instructions for use, and packaging.

To avoid these inferior (and potentially unsafe) products, only buy rescue gear from a reputable dealer – it’s simply not worth the risk. If you have any doubt about the authenticity of a product, contact the manufacturer immediately – or call us here at Roco, and we’ll be glad to assist.






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What does it mean when my atmospheric monitor gives negative or minus readings?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

At some point, most atmospheric monitors will display a “negative” or minus reading for a flammable gas or toxic contaminant. First of all, it is not actually possible for an atmosphere to contain a “negative amount” of a substance. These negative readings usually result from improper use of the monitor.

Most monitors will “Field Zero” or “Fresh Air Calibrate” its sensors when powered on. Because of this, it is very important to power on the unit in a clean, fresh air environment away from confined spaces, running equipment or other possible contaminants. Otherwise, the monitor may falsely calibrate based on the contaminant that is present.For example, a monitor that is powered on in an atmosphere that contains 10 ppm of a contaminant and then moved to fresh air may display a reading of minus 10 ppm. Even more troublesome, if that same monitor is then brought to a confined space that actually contains 25 ppm of the contaminant, it may display a reading of only 15 ppm. As you can see, this could easily lead to the improper selection of PPE for the entrant and result in a confined space emergency.

As always, it is very important to consult with the manufacturer of your particular atmospheric monitor in order to determine how to use it properly. Don’t take any chances with this critical part of preparing for confined space entry or rescue operations.
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To Pre-rig, or not to Pre-rig?

Monday, September 27, 2010

We received an interesting question about pre-rigged systems from one of our subscribers. The TechPanel had some helpful comments to share, so we have re-posted the info here. It’s a great topic.

Here are some things to consider about leaving systems pre-rigged.First of all, whether to pre-rig systems or not depends a lot on the types of rescues you will be doing.

Pre-rigged systems make sense for most industrial and municipal teams who have rope equipment designated specifically for rescues. However, it makes less sense for climbers and wilderness personnel who will be using the same equipment for multiple uses and putting systems together based on a specific need. This also reduces the amount and weight of equipment they must carry, which is a big concern. However, it also requires a high level of proficiency in a variety of systems in order to build systems safely and in a timely manner.

Next, let’s clarify what we mean by “pre-rigged systems.”

“Plug-n-Play” – These are systems that come pre-built and seem to require little training to operate. These “Plug-n-Play” systems may work for a specific location or type of rescue but may not work in every situation. Training for these systems should address what to do if the device/system malfunctions, or if it will not work for the type of scenario you may be faced with.

“Customized Pre-rigged Systems” – These are customized pre-rigged systems that rescuers build for site-specific needs and their team’s needs using existing equipment and training.

Confined space and rope rescue can be broken down to three core tasks… (1) Lowering, (2) Safety line Belay, and (3) Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval systems. You can build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your specific needs. Many of the teams we work with have adopted a three bag system.

For example, one rope bag is designated for “Lowering” along with the typical equipment needed for a lowering system (i.e. descent control device, carabiners, anchor straps, padding). This will provide a pre-rigged system that will handle most of your lowering needs. You may decide to supplement that with another anchor strap and a pulley for a high-point directional, etc.

Your “Safety line/Belay” bag can be set up the same way with enough carabiners and shock absorbers attached to the rope bag to allow for at least two rescuers and a victim. The third bag of rope (“Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval”) with a simple, pre-built Block-n-Tackle hauling system and its own anchor straps will give your team an “immediate means of retrieval” for either the main line or a safety line retrieval. With a few additional pieces of hardware, you will be able handle the vast majority of urban rope/confined space rescue scenarios.

We find that for industrial rescue teams or municipal fire and police rescue squads, these pre-rigged systems make sense. They save set-up time and get a rescuer to the victim as quickly as possible, which is especially critical for an IDLH emergency.

Many times teams will arrange their equipment so that it’s easier to inventory rather than what’s the fastest way to deploy it. For example, if you have twenty carabiners, why not have them attached to a rapid deployment bag type system rather than in a hardware bag that a team member will have to go through and pick out what is needed?

Our best advice would be to look at your team’s response area and consider the types of rescues that may be needed. You can then customize and build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your team. “Plug-n-Play” systems may handle most of your rescue situations or they may be part of a larger pre-rigged rescue system like the one above. Using a “pre-rigged systems” approach saves time, cuts down on confusion, and uses equipment more efficiently – especially when the pressure is on.
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Why does my Petzl ID snag and prevent me from taking up slack to the load prior to a lower?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Most likely the loaded section of the line is catching on the anti-error catch where the load line enters the body of the ID. This is a safety feature of the ID to prevent free-falling loads if the ID is loaded backwards. To prevent the rope from jamming, consider positioning yourself between the ID and the load facing the anchor. Hold both sections of rope oriented towards the load. Pull on the left section of rope while allowing the right section to drag through your hand. This will keep the rope clear of the anti-error catch." ~Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr.

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Why does my trusty old Petzl ID allow rope to continue feeding during a lower or rappel even after I have locked it off in work positioning mode?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The answer may be in the description “trusty old”. The ID has a wear indicator cast into the friction bobbin. It is located at the top of the bobbin on the side of the bobbin that the swinging side plate is on. When in usable condition the wear indicator is visible as a slightly raised ridge about a half-inch long. If the wear indicator is not visible the bobbin is worn out and the ID needs to be taken out of service.

 Smart answer courtesy of Pat Furr

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Safety Inspection of the Sked Basic System

Friday, July 30, 2010

As with all rescue equipment, it’s extremely important to inspect your equipment before and after each use according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Here are some tips from Skedco for inspecting your Sked Stretcher.

For the Sked Body: Do a visual inspection of the plastic. If there are cuts that go completely through the plastic (especially at the edges or the grommets), it should be   taken out of service and replaced. This is a very rare occurrence. If the plastic is wearing thin and preventing the Sked from retaining its shape, take it out of service.

Check all brass grommets.
If they are badly bent or coming apart, they should be changed. This may also require sewing a new strap into it. Grommets can be replaced inexpensively by parachute riggers or any awning shop. When it is done, be sure the grommeting tools do not cut the inside of the grommet. Grommets that are sharp inside can cut webbing or rope.

Check all straps for broken stitching, discoloring (usually white), and fraying. If straps are badly frayed, discolored or if ten (10) or more stitches are broken, replace the straps.

Horizontal lift slings: Check for excessive wear, broken stitches or severe discoloration. If these conditions are found, replace the slings.

Vertical lift slings (3/8 static kernmantle rope): Check for severe discoloration and soft or thin spots. Thin spots that are soft indicate damaged core. If found, cut the rope at that point and take it out of service.

All other webbing products should be inspected in the same way as the slings and Sked straps.

The carabiner should work smoothly when the gate is opened and closed. Check for alignment. Check the hinge pin for looseness. The lock nut should work smoothly without hanging up at any point. Failure at any of these points requires replacement. A poorly functioning carabiner should be broken or destroyed to prevent others from using it by mistake.

If you have any doubts, call Skedco for assistance.
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Proper Use of Your Skedco Tripod

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Recently, we had a client ask about these specific uses of the Sked-EVAC tripod. Here’s what the manufacturer (Skedco) had to say…

“Is it safe to attach a ‘change of direction’ onto the lower end of one of the tripod legs?”

“No!” According to Bud Calkin, the manufacturer of the tripod. He continues in saying that it is unsafe to pull horizonally on one leg of any tripod because it may cause the tripod to shift and destabilize the system. Skedco recommends the use of a separate anchor in this case.

“Is it acceptable to use the tripod as an ‘A’ frame and lean it over the edge?”

Yes, if you rotate the tripod feet so that the pointed ends of the feet are down and supporting the tripod. According to Skedco, if you are working on a surface that would allow the feet to slip, you must tie or secure the feet in such a manner that they cannot slip and allow the system to collapse.

By using any tripod that has swiveling feet in that configuration (bipod) with the feet flat on a hard surface, you will experience uneven pressure on the edges of the feet as it is leaned over the edge. This could possibly damage the feet because of the angle at which they are turned (i.e., the feet are pointed toward the center of the triangle formed by the tripod). This angle places the weight of the tripod onto the edges of the feet and that is not what they are designed for.

Skedco also says that when using the Sked-Evac tripod as an “A” frame, it is necessary to attach ropes to the two unused anchors that are attached to the head. You can do this by using carabiners. Tie the tripod back in the opposite direction from the load that is being hoisted. This will prevent the tripod from leaning too far over the edge and causing the system to collapse. Check all rigging and attachments for safety prior to lifting any load, especially a human load.

The improper use of any tripod is very dangerous and could be fatal. It is the responsibility of the user to get proper training prior to using a tripod or any other rescue equipment.
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