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How to Haul a Victim in Half the Time: Part 1

Thursday, May 12, 2011

As anyone who has ever been summoned to an industrial site for a confined space rescue, or has taken the opportunity to practice rescue drills in these facilities knows, sometimes the working area for the rescue team can be a tad cozy.  By “cozy” we mean cramped.  If there is the need for a haul of the rescuers or victim after a lower, these cramped conditions can cause multiple problems.  Consider it a challenge to overcome, and use your rope rescue know-how to come up with an efficient solution that will not only reduce congestion at the working area, but will most likely provide for a much faster haul of the rescue package.

First of all, if the space lends itself to a vertically mounted block and tackle, the problem is greatly reduced.  However, if there is no overhead anchor available and the use of a portable overhead anchor such as a tripod is not feasible then a “lane” for the haul team may be necessary.  At times, even the use of a vertically mounted block and tackle may require a solution to a congested working area.

Sometimes we are confronted with a very short throw between the mechanical advantage anchor point and the edge of the portal.  This may cause multiple resets of the haul system, be it a piggyback system or a Z-Rig.  These short throws with multiple resets will really slow down the progress of hauling the rescue package and can become a significant hazard when the need for rapid retrieval is needed.

If the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of a simple change of direction on the haul system.  At times, a single 90-degree change of direction can convert a short 3-4 foot throw into a throw many times longer.  We see this all the time on catwalks, yet it is often overlooked by our rescue teams when we throw scenario-based training evolutions at them.  Yes, it does require some extra equipment which typically amounts to a single sheave pulley, a carabiner, and a utility strap.  It also adds some frictional losses at that directional pulley, but the advantage gained by extending the throw from 3-4 feet to 20 or more feet, far outweighs the disadvantages of extra equipment, added friction, and time needed to make the change.

If a single change of direction doesn’t quite solve the short throw problem, consider two, or even more changes of direction in order to position the haul team in an area thatthey can “walk the haul” using their leg strength instead of being bunched up and using their arm strength only.  Of course, it gets to a point where too many changes of direction exhausts the equipment cache or creates so much friction that any advantage is lost.

As in any rescue situation, a good cohesive team is a great benefit.  If the situation causes the team to be bunched up on top of each other, remember to scan the area for an opportunity to open things up a bit.  Sometimes that change of direction does wonders for the ability of the team to take full advantage of their strength in numbers, and creates a situation where if needed, speed can be a lifesaver.

About the Author:
Patrick Furr, employed with Roco since 2000, has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. Pat is a Chief Instructor/Technical Consultant for Roco and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has also been an On-Site Safety Services Team Leader for Roco at a major semiconductor company in New Mexico for the past ten years. As a Chief Instructor, Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/ Rescue and Fall Protection programs across North America. Prior to Roco, he served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain and glacier rescue. Pat was a team leader of the 1986 and 1988 PJ teams that summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team. He also spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple “first ascent” ice routes.
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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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