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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 www.ndsc.org for these training sessions.
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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! http://www.rocorescue.com/resources_videos

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Roco Quick Drill #13 - Silent Drill (Know your job, do your job!)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Many rescue scenes (and teams) are plagued by confusion because of too much communication. And, if you have three people assigned to do a task, each one will have his or her own idea of how it should be done, where the system should be anchored, etc. Many times the discussion that follows eats up valuable time and slows the team’s ability to get rescuers into a location and get hands on the patient.

This drill is designed to instill confidence among team members, to ensure that rescuers understand their responsibilities at the scene and to help rescuers understand that there are different ways to accomplish the same goals safely. It also helps in getting rescuers to look at the entire scene and understand where their assignment fits in the big picture. It encourages team members to anticipate and solve their own problems.

1) Assign a safety officer/drill manager.

2) Locate a simple vertical simulated space to enter or a balcony or roof edge. The goal is to lower the rescuer into an area.

3) Safety officer/drill manager describes the event to the team and assigns task(s) to each team member.

4) Instructs the team that they are not allowed to speak unless a dangerous condition is observed.

5) Instructs team members to gather the equipment necessary to accomplish their job or task. (Remember No Talking!)

6) Once team members have the needed equipment, move them to location and let them start rigging to get rescuer into the space or over the edge.

7) Once rescuer is lowered into area, leave systems rigged and debrief entire team on the rigging, the order that it was done and what could be done differently.

The difficulty of this drill can be increased by doing an entire simulated rescue or adding SCBA/SAR to the station requirements. You will find that a lot of unnecessary chatter that occurs at rescues will be reduced. It will allow you to see who truly understands “where and how” each component of a rescue system fits in the overall operation. It also encourages rescuers to look at the big picture and anticipate what, where and when they will need to have their assignments completed without waiting for direct supervision.

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Silent, Invisible, Insidious & Deadly...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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

Oxygen-Depleted Atmospheric Hazards in Confined Spaces

It will take your breath away! This is a phrase often used to describe tremendous beauty, or exhilaration. However, in an oxygen-depleted environment, this phrase has a much more ominous meaning. The emotion it elicits is hardly pleasant and joyful. Confusion, panic, impending doom, and okay... maybe even euphoria, which has been reported in near drowning cases, but the euphoria is a late onset emotion once the brain is deprived of oxygen. Suffice to say, having your breath taken away in an oxygen-depleted environment is never a good thing!

In my prior career with USAF Pararescue, I underwent regularly scheduled physiological training in an altitude chamber; otherwise, known as a hypobaric chamber. This was used to train me to recognize the onset of hypoxia (low physiologic oxygen content) and the symptoms that are particular to me. The symptoms of hypoxia differ from person to person and mine were pretty subtle. A loss of peripheral vision and color acuity, a slight warming of the sides of my neck and face, but other than those symptoms, I didn’t have any dramatic, obvious clues that I was in trouble. On at least two occasions, I had to be told by the chamber operator to don my oxygen mask. Once I did, the return to normalcy was profound! I was then able to jot down my symptoms as I remembered them. As I was undergoing my slide into hypoxia, I was given basic written tests to perform such as simple addition problems, connecting the dots, finishing incomplete squares and circles. In every case, I thought that I was doing really well on my assignment; that is until my oxygen mask was returned and I reviewed my work. FAIL!!! This exercise was intended to demonstrate to me the insidious nature of hypoxia and the unrecognized affects it has on coordination and judgment.

My experiences in the altitude chamber were educational and potentially lifesaving if I were ever exposed to a low oxygen environment. By having experienced my subtle symptoms multiple times, perhaps I would recognize them in a lower than normal oxygen environment and be able to take action to rescue myself. However, the environment that I was exposed to was probably in the range of 12% oxygen by volume give or take. In lower concentrations, say below 10%, the onset of impaired judgment would be so rapid that I would have little chance to recognize and react on my own behalf. In extremely low concentrations of 0-8%, there is little chance for anyone to take self-rescue actions. More than likely, the individual will pass out after only one or two gasping breaths. And, most importantly, my experiences were in a controlled environment with highly trained observers and emergency personnel standing by. This is not always the case during confined space entry operations.

How do we end up with depleted oxygen concentrations in confined spaces? 

There are several ways, but I am going to address two broad categories of occurrence: (a) planned, and (b) unplanned. Planned low oxygen concentrations may be unavoidable when doing entries that require an inert gas environment, such as certain types of welding or when doing work in a flammable or explosive atmosphere. By removing the oxygen, one of the three elements of flame is eliminated. There will remain fuel and possibly a source of ignition, but by removing the oxygen, there is no potential for fire in nearly every instance. Even during planned oxygen depleted operations, things have a potential to go wrong. Equipment failure is one possible cause. Faulty supplied air breathing systems can be the culprit. It may be as simple as a failed “O” ring, a faulty diverter valve, a lost connection on an airline respirator system, and many other links of equipment. Or, it could be human error – such as not tending airlines and causing the mask to be dislodged or pulled completely off; failure to change out bottles on the SAR cart; exceeding the safe time and egress requirements if using backpack SCBA; or again, any number of human failures. So you can see that even during planned low O2 entries, the potential for an incident is quite high. That is why OSHA 1910.134 has such stringent requirements for entry into an atmospheric IDLH environment.

It is the unplanned depleted oxygen environments that seem to cause the most incidents, however. Within unplanned low O2 entries, I would like to further categorize them into two separate areas.

  1. Unplanned...in that the atmospheric hazard was thought to be controlled, but the potential for the hazard to appear was realized, and indeed created the low oxygen hazard. This could be due to improper isolation techniques or equipment failure.
  2. Unplanned and unanticipated...this is the one that really seems to be causing problems. It may happen in permit-required confined spaces and also in non-permit required confined spaces. Upon evaluation, the entry team may have identified the space as non-permit required and assumed there was no need to perform pre-entry atmospheric monitoring. In several incidents, unbeknownst to the entry team, a prior entry team introduced an inert gas into the space for their particular work activities and failed in two ways. The team did not ventilate the space to remove the inert gas and test it afterwards; and, more importantly, the prior entry team failed to communicate the presence of the inert gas to any potential follow-on entrants. Or it may be that the information regarding the inert gas was communicated, but that information was lost in the shuffle. It may have never made it to the follow-on entry team – or that team may have failed to properly process the information. As you can imagine, this type situation has not only led to the demise of the unaware follow-on entrant, but also to several would-be rescuers that attempted rescue without any clue that the oxygen concentration was at a lethal level.

So what is the solution? 

Although this simple step will not “guarantee” a safe entry operation, I know for a fact that by simply employing an atmospheric monitor to test for oxygen will save many lives. And, don’t limit the use of atmospheric monitors for entries into known or potentially low O2 atmospheres! That is an OSHA minimum, so why not exceed that minimum requirement and get into the habit of testing the oxygen concentration for ALL entries? And, not just for permit-required spaces, include non-permit spaces as well. You just never know. Also when monitoring, don’t forget to test the various levels of the space and all breathing zones. Various gases tend to stratify, some being heavier than air, and some lighter, while others are nearly equal and will diffuse universally. Maintain your monitors, calibrate them and bump test them as required by the manufacturer and use them regularly. They are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. They have saved many lives and will continue to do so, if used properly.

Be safe out there and monitor, monitor, monitor!

Although this article has focused on low oxygen atmospheres, we do not mean to minimize the potential for other hazardous atmospheres, such as toxic or flammable. It is just our experience that of all the hazardous atmospheres, it seems that low oxygen is the one that crops up more often and continues to claim a disproportionate number of entrants AND would-be rescuers.

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Where Do You Fit Best on Your Rescue Team?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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

At the start of nearly every rescue class, I'll ask, “Okay, who here is afraid of heights?” Usually a few folks will raise their hands, but the vast majority don’t. I then qualify the same question by saying, “By afraid, I don’t mean that you are so overcome with fear that you cannot function – only that when you are at height you get a little case of the butterflies…” Then a few more hands will go up, but typically still fewer than half the class. I continue by adding that I’m always am a bit concerned for the folks that didn’t raise their hand as it means one of two things. First, it may be they are not being totally honest, but more concerning to me is they truly are not afraid of heights...and this is scary.

Human beings are born with an innate fear of heights. This is natural, and quite protective. I’m certainly afraid of heights, and I still get butterflies. It’s just that I’ve learned how to get those butterflies to fly in formation, so I can then function just fine at height. The day I climb atop a wind turbine tower or get that first peek over the edge of some serious exposure, and I don’t get that familiar feeling, that’s my sign to hang up my harness and ride the keyboard full time. This feeling is our not-too-subtle reminder that we do not have wings…and it is a healthy reminder!

There is a point to this, and I’m about to get there. Over the years, I've had some students with a serious case of YMIC (young male immortality complex). They will insist that they are not afraid of heights – or anything else, for that matter. I've found, when it comes time to go over the edge while hanging from that skinny little ½” kernmantle rope, backed up with a ½” safety line, our superheroes tend to freeze like the statue of Michelangelo. They won’t budge, can’t speak, or look any direction but down! Most often, these individuals gradually gain trust in their equipment; in the techniques they’ve learned; and perhaps, most importantly, in themselves. While they may never be "comfortable" going over the edge, they can still be valuable members of their rescue team. Some can be very strong in many other rescue skills such as knot tying, rigging, friction control, mechanical advantage, etc. They can also be excellent in logistics, developing action plans and other key areas.

First, know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Then, identify your weaknesses and strive to make them your strengths.

A second tenet I live by is to enter a rescue knowing that you will be an asset to the effort. But sometimes, it’s not possible to do this, and having an unusual fear of heights may be one of those times. Avoid crossing the line from being an asset to becoming a liability – creating a situation in which your team would then have to deal with “two” victims. This is huge – especially in an emergency. And that’s what this article is all about. 

Before I go any further, a bit about egos. There is simply no room for egos during a rescue. When the call comes in, it’s about one person and one person only, and that is the victim. We all have our pride, but we need to “park it” until everyone, including the victim and the rescuers, are safe and sound. As trained rescuers, we all have something to contribute. Each of us has a role to fill in the rescue effort and be an asset to the overall effectiveness of our team.

So, how do we learn what our best role as a rescuer may be? Here’s one way. Practice as a team in simulated rescues that are scenario driven and mimic the types of rescues that your team may be summoned to perform. It is during these practice sessions that you will discover your strengths and your weaknesses. It is important for ALL team members to honestly critique each other as well as themselves to help determine the best way to fill the different roles on the team.

As your team practices more often, trends will start to surface. One rescuer may be particularly strong at climbing and can rig cleanly and efficiently while hanging from work positioning equipment. Another rescuer may be your “ace in the hole” for rigging anchors. A third may be so good at converting lowering systems to haul systems, that it’s an obvious choice. Then, there may be some that don’t shine at any particular skill, but are reliable haul team members or can run the SAR cart with the best of them.

All teams have a spectrum of performers, whether it’s a football team, a production assembly line or a team of cooks and chefs in a large restaurant. The same holds true for a rescue team. Some of the factors that affect performance may be physical. Let’s face it, our 5’4” 150-pound “Hole Rat” can pass through tight portals and operate in congested confined spaces easier than most 6’ 6” 280-pounders. Sometimes it’s mechanical aptitude. We see it all the time in training rescuers. Some folks have a natural mechanical aptitude and can understand and build rescue systems as if it were second nature, while others struggle to get it right on a consistent basis.

And, yes, a pronounced fear of height that may inhibit a rescuer’s ability to perform effectively at height is yet another factor to consider. Other things include leadership qualities, attention to detail, general physical strength, comfort with breathing air systems, the presence or lack of claustrophobia and the list goes on. The only way to realize and understand these abilities and limitations is to practice as a team – and practice often – while staying attuned to these individual abilities and limits. Understand them and use them to your advantage in determining who is the best fit for the various team member roles on any given rescue effort. And please, please do not take it personally. Again, we all have our pride and want to shine; however, we all can shine as a team! And the best way to shine as a team is to understand, as best we can, where each member best fits and can contribute most.

Remember, so much of rescue is about mechanical systems, safety, victim packaging and other easily defined considerations. As rescuers, I invite you to take it to the next level. Think about the harder-to-define factors such as individual team member skills AND limitations. Help each other as a team arrive at the best mix of the right people in the right positions – and all for the good of the victim!
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