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ED 330 878 

CE 057 711 






Rescue Manual. Module 4. 

Ohio State Univ., Columbus. Instructional Materials 



78p.; For related modules, see CE 057 708-717. 
Photographs may not reproduce well. 
Instructional Materials Laboratory, Ohio State 
University, 842 West Goodale Blvd., Columbus, OH 
43212 ($4.00? set of 10, $33.00). 

Guides - Classroom Use - Instructional Materials (For 
Learner) (051) 


MF01/PC04 Plus Postage. 

Accidents; "Emergency Programs; "Emergency Squad 
Personnel; First Aid; Learning Modules; Occupational 
Safety and Health; Postsecondary Education; "Rescue; 
Safety; Safety Education 


This learner manual for rescuers covers the current 
techniques or practices required in the rescue service. The fourth of 
10 modules contains 8 chapters: (1) construction and characteristics 
of rescue rope; (2) knots, bends, and hitches; (3) critical angles; 
(4) raising systems; (5) rigging; (6) using the brake-bar rack for 
rope rescue; (7) rope rescue techniques; and (8) aerial ladder and 
aerial platform rescue. Key points, an introduction, and conclusion 
accompany substantive material in each chapter. (NLA) 


* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made 

* from the original document. 






Office of Educational FtaMarch and Improvement 


^ This documeni has been reproduced as 
received from the person or organization 
originating it 
P Mmor changes have been made to improve 
reproduction quality 

a Points of view or opinions staled in this docu 
ment do not necessarily represent official 
OERI position or policy 







Construction and Characteristics of Rescue 

Knots. Bends, and Hitches 
Critical Angles 
Raising Systems 


Using the Brake-Bar Rack tor Rope Rescue 
Rope Rescue Techniques 
Aerial Ladder and Aerial Plattorm Rescue 





Copyright 1989 by The Ohio State University. All rights reserved. 

Edited and distributed by the 
Instructional Materials Laboratory 
The Ohio State University 
College of Education 
Columbus, Ohio 43210 

Rescue operations mav subject both rescuer and victim to the possibility of injury or death. Rescuers must understand 
the nature and effect of each rescue technique, and practice techniques regularly, using this text to enhance their 
learning. The materials and information presented here are intended only as a learning aid, and are no substitute for 
training. Expert opinions, recommendations, and guidelines change as research and experience refine procedures. 1 his 
text includes the most up-to-date information from rescuers working in the field. 

Specialized procedures require demonstration and training by subject-matter experts. It is not likely that a rescuer 
will become proficient in all rescue operations. Most rescuers develop proficiency in only a few areas but may be 
familiar with several others. 

This text suggests procedures and explains how to do them. The techniques given are guidelines only. Each department 
should incorporate its own procedures and address local needs. 

Nondiscrimination Policy The policy of The Ohio State University, both traditionally and currently, is that 
discrimination against anv individual for reasons of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex age. handicap, or 
Vietnam-era veteran status is specifically prohibited. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex 
discrimination and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit* discrimination on the basis of handicap in 
education programs and activities. Accordingly, equal access to employment opportunities, admissions, education 
programs, and all other University activities is extended to all persons, and the University promotes equal opportunity 
through a positive and continuing affirmative action program. 

Rescue Manual 


ERIC 1 4 


Acknowledgment is extended to the following persons for their willingness to share their knowledge and 
expertise and for authoring information presented in this module: 

Construction and Characteristics of Rescue Rope 

Mike Warner, Firefighter-Paramedic, Medina Fire Department Life Support Team, Medina, Ohio 

Knots, Bends, and Hitches 

Mike Warner, Firefighter-Paramedic, Medina Fire Department Life Support Team, Medina, Ohio 

Critical Angles 

Russ Born, Master Scuba Diver, W. Born & Associates, Millersport, Ohio 
Raising Systems 

Mike Warner, Firefighter-Paramedic, Medina Fire Department Life Support Team, Medina, Ohio 

Louis Vargo, Fire Chief, Mt. Pleasant Fire Department, Mt. Pleasant, Ohio 

Using the Brake-Bar Rack for Rope Rescue 

The part of this module titled Using the Brake-Bar Rack for Rope Rescue is from the copyrighted 
works titled Using the Rappel Rack copyrighted 1982, revised 1986, by Steve Hudson, Diane Cousineau 
Hudson, and Toni Williams and is used with their permission. 

Rope Rescue Techniques 

Russ Born, Master Scuba Diver, W. Born & Associates, Millersport, Ohio 

Aerial Ladder and Aerial Platform Rescue 

James Tippett, Columbus Division of Fire, Columbus, Ohio 






The intent of this manual for rescuers is to provide the latest instructional content and serve as an up- 
to-date, comprehensive source of information covering the current techniques or practices required in the 
rescue service. To help in this endeavor, an instructor's manual Hb been developed to be used in conjunction 
with this learner's manual. The manual has been produced in a series of modules to facilitate future revisions 
more rapidly and cost effectively. 

The instructor's manual follows the key points identified in the text. Chapters have been included in the 
text which exceed those printed in any other resource. These include managing and operating the emergency 
vehicle, rope rescue techniques, industrial rescue, farm accident rescue, and various water emergency procedures, 
among others. 

That the rescue profession is a dangerous and challenging career is a recognized fact. It is our hope that 
this text will help the rescuer meet the challenges of the rescue service in a safe and professional manner. 

Tom Hindes 

Instructional Materials Laboratory 
College of Education 
The Ohio State University 


The Ohio State University Instructional Materials Laboratory has played a major role in the training of 
public safety personnel through the development of text materials for many years. Due to the advances in 
the rescue techniques, it became apparent that the existing text was obsolete. Upon the advice of many 
knowlegeable people in the rescue service, the Instructional Materials Laboratory initiated the development 
of a new text that would be easily updated, and address the needs of the rescuer. To this end, an editorial 
review board representing a broad spectrum of individuals in the various phases of the research profession 
was convened to determine what topics this text should address. The culmination of this effort is the Rescue 
Manual. It is hoped that this text will be useful to not only the new rescuer but will serve as a reference 
source for the experienced rescuer. 

Joyce Leimbach 
Curriculum Consultant 
College of Education 
The Ohio State University 

Ronald Slane 
Technical Consultant 
College of Education 
The Ohio State University 







Construction and Charac teristics of Rescue Rope 1 

Knots, Bends, and Hitches 5 

Critical Angles 15 

Raising Systems 21 

Rigging 25 

Using the Brake-Bar Rack for Rope Rescue 33 

Rope Rescue Techniques 45 

Aerial Ladder and Aerial Platform Rescue , 69 


The 1989 Rescue Manual has been grouped into 
from the Rescue Editorial Board. 

Module 1 


Occupational Stresses in Rescue Operations 



Reporting and Recordkeeping 

Tools and Equipment for Rescue Operations 

Planning for Emergency Operations 

Incident Command System 

Dealing with Natural Disasters 

Module 2 

Patient Care and Handling Techniques 
Rescue Carries and Drags 
Emergency Vehicle Operation 
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus 
Protective Clothing 

Module 3 

Forcible Entry 

Structure Search and Rescue 

Rescue Operations Involving Electricity 

Cutting Torches 

Module i 

('(instruction and Characteristic;* of Rescue Hope 

Knots, Bends, and Hitches 

Critical Angles 

Raising Systems 


l-sing the Brake-Bar Rack for Rope Rescue 

Rope Rescue Techniques 

Aerial Ladder and Aerial Platform Rescue 


modules in accordance with the recommendations 

Module 5 

Hazardous Materials 

Module 6 

Industrial Rescue 
Rescue From a Confined Space 
Extrication From Heavy Equipment 
Rescue Operations Involving Elevators 

Module 7 

Extrication From Vehicles 

Module 8 

Trench Rescue 

Shoring and Tunneling Techniques 
Farm Accident Rescue 
Wilderness Search and Rescue 
Aircraft Rescue 
Helicopter Information 

Module 9 

Ice Characteristics 

River Characteristics and Tactics for Rescue 
Water Rescue Techniques 
Water Rescue/Recovery Operations 
Dive Operations 
Water Rescue Equipment 
Water Rescue Safety Tips 

Module 10 



For ordering and pricing information contact: 
Instructional Materials Laboratory 
The Ohio State University 
842 W. Goodale Blvd. 
Columbus, Ohio 43212 
Phone (614) 221-4950 



• The different types of materials used for rope construction 

• The different types of construction used for rope and the disadvantages and advantages of each 


It is the application for which a rope is to be used 
that determines the materials and construction 
methods used in rope manufacturing. Rescue rope 
differs greatly from the rope used for industrial, 
mountaineering, or marine applications. Because lives 
depend on rescue operations, it is vitally important 
that the rescuer choose the proper equipment, in- 
cluding the proper kind of rope for rescue operations. 

Rope Fibers 

Rope can be made of either natural or synthetic 
fibers. Ropes made from natural fibers such as ma- 
nila, hemp, and cotton, should not be used in a 
rescue system (see Figure 1). These types of rope 
deteriorate rapidly, have low strength, and have little 
ability to absorb shock loads. Any natural fiber ropes 
presently in use in a rescue service must be destroyed 
or downgraded to utility status. These types of ropes 
should be used only for noncritical applications, such 
as hauling equipment or crowd control. 

Nomex, Kevlar, and even fiberglass have been used 
for rope construction. Special characteristics are im- 

Figure 1. Manila Rope 

parted by each of these materials; however, none of 
them has proven suitable for use in rescue operations. 

Synthetic fiber ropes, such as nylon, polyester, 
and polyolefin, are less susceptible to deterioration 
from moisture and chemical exposure, are much 
stronger, and have a higher resistance to abrasion. 
Unlike natural fibers, which are very short, synthetic 
fibers are continuous throughout the length of the 
rope. This makes the rope much stronger so that a 
smaller diameter can be used safely. 

Of all fibers, nylon is by far the most recommended 
and used material in the manufacturing of rescue 
ropes. It possesses great strength and abrasion re- 
sistance, and withstands most forms of chemical and 
environmental degradation. 

Nylon fibers can lose 10-15% of their strength 
when wet, but regain their full strength upon drying. 
Nylon's ability to absorb shock loads is excellent. 
However, it cannot withstand certain strong acids 
or bleaches, so extra caution must be taken when 
using nylon ropes in industrial rescue operations or 
those involving hazardous materials. 

Polyesters such as dacron ar& very strong even 
when wet, and are highly resistant to decomposition 
caused by exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet rays). 
Because of its relatively low ability to absorb shock 
loads, polyester rope is probably better used as ma- 
rine or sailing line than as a rescue rope. 

Polyolefin ropes (polypropylene and polyeth- 
ylene) float, and are therefore good throwlines and 
can be useful in other water rescue applications. 
Electricity can be conducted along the surface of 
the rope through the water, oils, and dirt on the 
rope; however, the polyolefin rope itself does not 
conduct electricity. These ropes can also standup 
extremely well to chemical agents. These character- 
istics make "poly" ropes the best choice for dealing 
with electrical hazards and for rescue operations in 
which hazardous materials are involved. However, 




because of their low melting point and poor abrasion 
resistance, poly ropes are not appropriate for most 
rescue situations. 


The three most common methods of building rope 
from its basic fibers are laid (twisted), braided 
(plaited), and kernmantle (core-and-sheath). 

Laid rope is generally undesirable for rescue 
purposes because of its high stretchability and, due 
to its construction with twisted strands, it has a 
tendency to spin when under load (see Figure 2). It 
also shows poor abrasion resistance because each of 
the fibers is exposed to the surface at some point 
along the length of the rope. Most natural fiber 
ropes are constructed using this method. 

Figure 2. Laid Rope 

Braided rope does not tend to have kink and 
spin like laid rope but still has low abrasion resist- 
ance because most fibers are exposed to the surface 
(see Figure 3). Many marine lines (ropes) are of this 
soft type of construction. 

Kernmantle rope is maae by weaving a pro- 
tective sheath (the mantle) over bundles of load- 
bearing core fibers (the kern). There are two types 
of kernmantle rope: dynamic and static (see Figure 
4). The difference between thom is the configuration 
of the core fibers. In dynamic kernmantle, the core 
fibers are spiraled into cords which make this type 
of rope very stretchy allowing 40-60% elongation. 
Static kernmantle, on the other hand, has nearly 
parallel core fibers and is a very low-stretch rope 
with less than 20% elongation. 

Figure 3. Braided Rope 

Figure 4. Kernmantle Rope 

Dynamic kernmantle rope is used by climbers 
because of its capacity to absorb shock. The stret- 
chiness is essential in situations where high "fall 
factors" are encountered. The only time this type 
of rope is recommended for rescue is when "lead 
climbing" is necessary, that is, when the rescuer 
must climb above the point where the rope is an- 
chored or belayed (fall factor >1). In these cases, 
a "running belay" system would also be used. 

Static kernmantle rope made of nylon is the most 
popular type of rope for most rescue applications. 
It has high strength, high abrasion resistance, and 
does not spin under load. The core fibers carry from 
70-90% of the load, so that severe abrasion to the 
sheath will not significantly weaken the rope, and 
the rope maintains a wide margin of safety. 


Size and Strength 

The necessary size or diameter of a rescue rope 
is determined by the weight that the rope will be 
expected to hold, the weight of the rope itself, and 





the characteristics of any hardware (pulleys, ascen- 
ders, etc.) that will be used. In choosing rope, res- 
cuers must remember that many types of hardware 
are not made to accommodate ropes larger than 
1/2 inch in diameter and larger hardware may cost 
two to three times more. 

To date, the only standards for rescue rope spec- 
ifications are those written in NFPA 1983 {Fire 
Service Life Safety Rope, Harness, and Hardware, 
1985 edition) (see Figure 5). These standards are 
based on size and strength considerations. A one- 
person load is considered to bt 300 pounds. The 
accepted safety factor is 15:1. Therefore, to safely 
hold a two-person load (victim and rescuer), a rescue 
rope with 9000 pounds tensile strength should be 
used. These standards include a safety maigin that 
takes into consideration the reduction in strength 
due to bends, knots, and pulleys, and wear to the 


U 4 ; 

Figure 5. Rope Identification Tag 


A good rescue rope should be flexible so that it 
handles well (has "knotability"). An extremely stiff 
rope will provide the most abrasion resistance, but 
may be very difficult to tie a knot in or stuff into 
a rope storage bag. Conversely, in a very soft, flexible 
rope knots may be easily set by hand, but may be 
impossible to untie after being under load. 


Modern synthetic rescue ropes are available in 
many colors. Undyed ropes are less expensive, but 
cost is not the only factor to be considered. Some 
rescue personnel use colored rope for purposes of 
identification. During a rescue scenario, it is very 
helpful to have colors that contrast with the back- 
ground, making it easier to see the rope. Having 
different colored rope also simplifies identification 
when multiple systems are in use. Additionally, dam- 
age to the sheath may be seen easily if the white 
core fibers show through a contrasting sheath color. 

Dyed nylon rope is slightly weaker than natural 
white nylon rope. This problem is minimized if the 
dying process involves coloring the yarn after it has 
been manufactured (surface dying) as opposed to 
chemically mixing the dye with the raw nylon (ex- 
trusion dying). 


The lengths of ropes carried for rescue purposes 
should be determined by local needs. Departments 
in an area that has very tall structures or long drops 
(high-rise buildings, antenna towers, cliffs, mines, 
etc.) will need longer ropes than departments in 
areas that do not have these characteristics. For 
general rescue use most rescuers seem to favor rope 
lengths of 150 to 200 feet. These lengths are generally 
easy to store, carry, and deploy. 


There are many factors to consider when choosing 
ropes for use in rescue service. As with any other 
type of rescue equipment, rope must be purchased 
to deal with local hazards and potential rescue prob- 
lems. Only a survey of local needs will determine 
what specifications are best. In all decisions about 
equipment, the safety of both the victim and the 
rescuer is of primary importance. No rescue rope is 
safe unless the user has had the training necessary 
to use it correctly. 




• Care of a rope 

• Knots used in rope rescue 

• The safety knot 

• Types of knots, bends, and hitches 


Ropes are used for a variety of rescue activities 
in the public safety service business. Many improv- 
isations and rigs require the incorporation of rope 
knots, bends, or hitches to effectively perform a safe 
rescue. Rope dedicated to rescue procedures must 
receive proper care for maximum use and reliability. 



Inspection of a rope is critical when the rope is 
to be used for a life-support system in rescue op- 
erations. Rope should be inspected after each use 
and at regular intervals during periods of nonuse. 
Maintain an accurate record of the inspection and 
use of each rope (see Figure 6). There is no definite 
rule regarding when to retire a rope; however, some 
general criteria can be followed. Several things to 
observe in the rope include the following: 

1. Dirt in the fibers of the rope 

2. Cut fibers 

3. Excessive wear or abrasion of the fibers 

4. Deterioration of the fibers from chemical contact 

5. Serious impressions (hour-glass shapes, diam- 
eter changes, or puffy or mashy areas) 

6. Shock-loaded ropes 

Dirt in Fibers 

Keep all rope as clean as possible to avoid damage 
caused by dirt particles cutting into the fibers. This 
can be 'lone by avoiding any unnecessary dragging 
of the rope through dirt or mud, and by cleaning a 
rope when it gets muddy. Also, never walk or stand 
on a rope. Natural fiber rope can be brushed with 
a stiff fiber broom and synthetic fiber rope can be 
washed with a solution of mild soap and water. 

The two most common methods to wash a rope 
are with a front-loading washing machine or with a 
special rope-washer machine. If the rope is washed 
in a regular washing machine, place it in a porous 
bag such as a laundry bag or pillow case to prevent 
damage from the washer's drum. Several types of 
special rope-washer machines are available; most 
resemble a small hose washer. Always follow the 
manufacturer's instructions when using the machine. 
Ropes should never be force -dried in a clothes dryer 
or a hose dryer; they must be air dried. 

Cut Fibers 

hi a laid or braided rope, all of the fibers in the 
rope are exposed to the surface at some point. Cut 
fibers on the outer surface in a laid or braided rope 
are more critical than in a kernmantle rope. When 
cut fibers are found in a laid or braided rope, the 
rope should be taken out of service. 

Excessive Wear 

Excessive wear on a rope is hard to define; how- 
ever, if a rope has not been subjected to extreme 
conditions, certain criteria can be applied. In a laid 
rope, if the twist can no longer be easily seen or 
felt, retire the rope. In kernmantle rope when the 
sheath has been worn through to where the core can 
be seen, or if suspicious bump« jr dents can be felt 
in the core fibers within the sheath, retire the rope* 

Chemical Deterioration 

Different materials used in rope construction are 
sensitive to different chemicals. To preserve the 
strength of a rope, avoid all unnecessary contact 
with gasoline, bleaches, battery acid, or other harsh 
chemical. It is impossible to determine exactly when 
to retire a rope; however, if the rope cannot be 
trusted, retire it. 



Record of Rope Use 

Identification Number Identification Marking 

Purchase date Purchased From Manufacturer Date of Mfg. 

Brand Fiber Content Color Construction 

Length .Diameter Date Placed in Service 


or USE 






Figure 6. Card for Recording Rope Use 




Serious Impressions 

Hour-glass shapes or diameter changes due to 
overloading may indicate possible cere failures. Puffy 
or mashy areas on ropes also indicate possible in- 
ternal failures. 


If a rope has been overloaded or shock-loaded 
greater than a fall factor of .78 it should be taken 
out of service. 


The best way to store a rope is in a rope bag (see 
Figure 7). This allows the rope to be thrown out 
straight without tangling and protects it from dam- 
age while in storage. The bag also provides an easy 
method to carry the rope. To place the rope in the 
bag, open the bag, place one end of the rope in the 
bottom and insert the remainder of the rope. There 
is no need to try to coil or stack the rope; simply 
feed it into the bag. When finished leave a small 
portion of the rope's end outside the bag so it can 
be grasped by the rescuer when preparing to throw. 

Figure 7. Rope Bag 

Knots Used in Rope Rescue 

Rescuers must have a working knowledge of knots 
to be proficient in rescue work. Hundreds of knots 

have been developed; however, only a few selected 
knots are necessary for rescue operations. It is better 
to know a few knots well than to know a little 
information about' a lot of knots. 

Selecting the proper knot is especially important 
when dealing with life-threatening rescues. Most 
knots have a distinctive shape or arrangement which 
makes them easy to identify when checking and 
double-checking a rescue system. Ideally, a knot 
should be: 

• Easy to tie and easy to remember 

• Strong and secure for safety 

• Easy to untie to facilitate a quick system change 
during a rescue 

A knot is not finished and ready to use until it 
has been properly dressed and set. A knot has been 
dressed when all parts of the knot have been 
arranged or aligned in proper position. Failure to 
dress a knot can result in a significant loss of strength. 

Tightening the parts of the knot in the correct 
manner is referred to as setting the knot Setting 
the knot prevents slippage within the knot and makes 
it functional. 


Many rescue ropes made from synthetic fibers are 
slipperier than the natural-fiber ropes making a safety 
knot a necessity. Knots tied in the end of a rope 
should always be backed up with a safety knot. This 
is necessary to ensure the safety of the main knot 
when a rope is used in a life-threatening rescue. 

The safety knot can be tied by using either an 
overhand knot (see Figure 8) or half of a double 
Fisherman's knot (see Figure 9). The safety knot 
must be snugged up against the main knot once it 
is dressed and set. 

Figure 8. Overhand Knot Used as a Safety Knot 



Figure 9. Half of a Double Fisherman's Knot Used 
as a Safety Knot 


Bowline Knot 

The bowline knot is a loop knot with many uses. 
Several methods can be used to tie this knot (see 
Figures 10 and 11). The finished knot is correctly 
tied when the end of the rope is inside the loop. 
The end must also be secured with a safety knot 
(see Figure 12), 

Figure 10. Bowline Around an Object 


Figure 11. Free-Standing Bowline 



Figure 12. Bowline with a Safety Knot 

Bowline on a Bight Knot 

A bowline knot on a bight provides two fixed loops 
when the knot is finished (see Figure 13). Adjust 
the loops to the correct size prior to dressing and 

Figure 13. Bowline on a Bight 

Figure Eight Knot 

The figure-eight knot which is the basis of a family 
of rescue knots, is a simple, strong knot that is easily 
identifiable (see Figure 14). Figure-eight knots can 
be used in many rescue applications. 

When rappelling, the rescuer should tie a figure- 
eight near the end of the rope when the possibility 
exists that a rappel rope may not re^ii all the way 
to the bottom of the drop. This prevents the rescuer 
from inadvertently rappelling off the end of the rope. 

Figure-Eight Bend 

A figure-eight bend is used to tie together the 
ends of two ropes that are the same diameter (see 
Figure 15). Because of the knot's wide bends, it can 
be easily untied once it is loaded (see Figure 16). 
Always secure the ends with safety knots (see Figure 

Figure-Eight Loop (Figure-Eight on a 

The figure-eight loop is stronger than a bowline 
knot and can be used when a single fixed loop is 
needed. The figure-eight Mop can be tied on a bight 
at the end of a rope < at midline (see Figure 18). 

The follow-through method can be used when it 
is necessary to secure the rope around an object (see 
Figure 19). 

Double Figure-Eight on a Bight 

This double figure-eight on a bight knot is formed 
from a figure-eight loop (see Figure 20) and provides 
two fixed loops when completed (see Figure 21). It 
can be used in a multi-point anchor system or for 
improved load distribution when the rope passes 
around a tight radius such as a carabiner. 




Figure 14. Figure-eight Knot 



Figure 20, Figure-eight Loop 

Figure 21. Completed Double Figure-eight on a Bight 

Double Fisherman's Knot 

The double fisherman's knot is a safe, compact 
knot that is often used for tying the ends of two 
ropes together (see Figure 22). It can be used even 
if the two ropes are of different diameters. The main 
drawback of the double fisherman's knot is that it 
is difficult to untie after being heavily loaded. 

This knot is most commonly used in rescue op- 
erations to tie an accessory cord into the Prusik 
loops. Using half of a double fisherman's knot makes 
an excellent safety knot. 

Prusik Knot 

A Prusik knot is used on a rope when a rescuer 
is climbing. It grabs and holds the rope when tension 
is applied, but will slide freely up or down the rope 
when the tension is slackened. Prusiks can also be 
used in rescue when rigging a mechanical-advantage 
raising system where a ratchet-like movement is 

A three-wrap Prusik knot is recommended for use 
in many rescue systems. This knot must be dressed 
and set carefully to be functional. When using a 
double fisherman's kn't always be sure that the knot 
: s awav from the point where the load will be at- 
'.£.■•!■■•••! .o the Prusik loop (see Figure 23). 

Water Knot (Overhand Follow-Through) 

The water knot is the best knot to use for tying 
together the ends of webbing used for a sling or an 
anchor (see Figure 24). Be sure to leave at least two 
inches of rope on each end after the knot has been 
dressed and set. 

Water knots are difficult to untie after heavy 

Clove-Hitch Knot 

This clove-hitch knot has many uses in rescue 
rigging. It is fast to use since it is easy to tie and 
untie. A clove-hitch will hold tight when tensioned, 
but can be easily adjusted when slackened (see Fig- 
ure 26). When used in life-threatening rescue, the 
end of the rope must be tied off and secured so that 
slipping cannot occur. 



Figure 22. Double Fisherman's Knot 

Figure 23. Three-wrap Pruaik Knot Including Completed Prusik Knot 
with a Double Fisherman's Knot 






Figure 24. Water Knot 




Clove Hitch to be Placed Around an Object. 

Clove Hitch Tied Around an Object 
Figure 25. Two Methods of Tying a Clove Hitch. 


To become knowledgeable about the use of rope 
knots, bends, and hitches, the rescuer must learn 
the basic procedures from someone who is proficient 
in knots and their applications. It is also necessary 
to practice tying each type of knot, bend, or hitch 
to check its effectiveness and security. Tying knots 
is not a skill that can be learned on the job. 




• The importance of considering critical angles 

• Examples of critical angles encountered in rope rescue operations 


"It is possible to rig a rope in such a way that 
the tension on the rope and the anchor points is 
greater than the load applied." 

This quote about vertical caving refers to one of 
the most misunderstood concepts in rope rescue 
operations: dealing with the critical angles. Improper 
angles can amplify the weight of a load many times. 
When a system is symmetric (that is having angle 
A, B, and C equal) the tension with in the three 
parts is equal, (see Figure 26). 

200 lb. 

200 lb. 

Figure 26. Symmetrical System 

In Figure 27, angle A is 120 degrees, which is 
often referred to as the maximum safe value. 

If tension is applied to the system so angle A 
exceeds 120 degrees the weight or load will be mul- 
tiplied (see Figure 28). 

If angle A is less than 120 degrees the tension on 
the anchors and the rope together will be less than 
the weight of the applied load (see Figure 29). 

200 lb. 

Figure 27. Maximum Safe Valve 


2502 lb. 

2502 lb. 

200 lb. 

Figure 28. Angle Greater Than 120' 

Critical angles are a source of load amplification 
that is commonly overlooked where systems have 
failed from over-tensioning. The rule of critical an- 
gles can apply many places within a rope rescue 
system, not just in a Tyrolean or high line, but in 
anchor systems as well (see Figures 30 and 31). 



114 lb. 

114 lb. 

In addition to the angles marked with the letter 
A, there are other areas where the rule of critical 
angles applies. Ti. re could be critical angles and 
load amplification at the point anchored around an 
object such as a round water cooling tank or the 
elevator-penthouse as shown in Figure 32. 

Elevator Penthouse 

200 lb. 

Figure 29. Angle Less Than 120° 

Load 200 lb9. 

Figure 30. Tyrolean or High-line System 

Water Tank 

Figure 31. Anchored System 


Figure 32. Other Critical Angles may be Found at 
the Anchor Points 

Forces may also be greater than expected in a 
situation such as that shown in Figures 33 and 34. 

Figure 33. Pulley-Hanging on a Ladder. Calculate 
the Angle 






The greater an angle 
increases the higher the 

m nil 

The smaller the angle 
the lower the forces. 

/ X 

Figure 34. Rescue Baskets with Varying Angles. Cal- 
culate the Angle 

Since the pulley (see Figure 35) is just changing 
direction, the pull required to lift the 500 lbs. is 
theoretically over 500 lbs. The resulting force placed 
on the beam is then doubled to more than 1,000 
lbs. As this example shows, critical angles are ex- 
tremely important and must be considered in any 
rescue operatic a that involves the use of rope. 

Resultant Porce 


1000 lb. + 


r 500 lb. Load 

500 lb. ♦ 

Figure 35. Example of Load Amplification 


In the United States, the term belay refers to 
being able to stop or to catch a person from falling 
during a rappel; however, in Earope to belay means 
to anchor, or refers to a piece of fall protection. 

Belay can be performed in several ways. On long 
drops due to the increased weight of the descending 
rope a person descends with less fricl. hi than nor- 
mal. The belayer is required to pull hard on the 
rope to stop the descent, especially if the rapeller 
loses control completely. Rappels must be done slowly, 
maintaining control at all times. The preferred 
method is to use a bottom belay which is practical 
to use for short-to-moderate distance rappels. 

Top Belay System 

The top belay system is a good application for 
the beginner to learn rappelling. The belay system 
will utilize a separate rope anchored at the top 
system. The rope is then attached to the rappeller 
using either the small end of an eight ring as a 
sticht plate or a Munter hitch for the top belay 
system (see Figures 36 and 37). As shown in Figure 

C«r«bln«r to Aiiahora 

top Mliy lyitM 

Nliy lafftty tin* To 
N*n Hlftf MUyotf 

Ntltt lurt ttiht ftln? 
fit* ind top* olmlir 
•ro CospttlbUI 

Figure 36, Small End of an Eight ring Used as a 
Sticht Plate 



Figure 37. Tying a Munter Hitch 

38 the rope is in position to travel through the belay 
system. In Figure 39 the belayer is showing the 
position to stop a descent. Figure 40 shows the eight 
ring used as a sticht plate in a completed system. 
The Munter hitch has been successfully utilized to 
catch a two-person load. If a rappeller loses tota 
control, or becomes unconscious, the belayer must 

Figure 38. "Moveable Position" of Rope Through 
the Eight-ring 

Figure 39. Position to Stop a Descent 


Figure 40. Eight-ring as a Sticht Plate in a Com- 
pleted System 

take control of the descent. The belayer may, based 
on the circumstance, decide to stop the descent or 
continue lowering to a safe position. 

A disadvantage of the top belay when rappeling 
on an eight-ring is that when a person is on a free- 
air hang where there is no wall to walk down, the 
eight-ring causes the person descending to spin, 
wrapping the belay rope around the main line. This 
can stop the descent causing the rappelling rescuer 
to become stuck on the belay system. Also, in the 
top belay system, the pendulum effect happens if 
the two anchor ropes are spaced more than 1' to 2' 
apart when the belay system is activated. 

Even if there is a wall on which to walk, the 
rescuer may become off balance causing an injury. 
A disadvantage with the top belay system is that 
on longer drops, the belayer positioned at the top 
cannot tell if the rope is being pulled by the person 
on rappel, or if the rope weight is pulling the belay 

With an increased drop distance, it is difficult to 
see what is going on with the rappeller. If too much 
rope is let out, a large loop of belay rope can end 
up dangling underneath the person on rappel Thus 
presenting a dangerous situation to the rappeller if 
a limb or the neck becomes entangled. 

Another danger with the top belay is the possibility 
of the belay rope on the top belay system, traveling 
over an edge causing rocks, tree limbs, or debris to 
fall on the rescuer. 

Bottom Belay System 

This system requires a belayer to stand at the 
bottom of the drop and hold onto the rope on which 
the rescuer is descending (see Figure 41). If the 



— — ii^miiiIiiiiih— — — 


Figure 41. Position of Bottom Belay er 

individual on the descending rope loses control, the 
belayer can use his or her body weight to pull on 
the rope to increase the friction on the rappeller'e 
descending device, thus slowing or stopping the de- 
scent (see Figure 42). 

The bottom belay system works well with either 
an eight-ring or a brake bar rack. On long drop?, a 
bottom belay is difficult to manage, since it is hard 
to see the person who is descending arc Q because 
of the distance. It is hard to gauge how fast the 
person is moving. 

A disadvantage of the bottom belay that the 
belayer is located in a hazardous /one (the fall zone). 
In a cave pit or on a cliff, there is danger of rocks 
falling and striking the belayer. In a building or 
tower rescue, there is a danger of lose objects falling. 
If the belayer moves out of the fall zone and has 
to stop a rappeller who is out of control, the halt 
will cause the rappeller to pendulum causing him 

Figure 42. Bottom Belayer Stopping a Descent 

or her to swing back or even stop; however, as soon 
as the person starts to swing, the rope will slacken 
slightly and downward travel will resume. 

Self-Belay Systems 

A self-belay is often used for a long drop. The 
self oekj is a : v stem whereby the person on rappel 
does not have to do anything to activate the system. 
If the rappeller becomes unconscioua, the device 
automatically stops the descent. The self-belay is 
necessary when a person is rappelling in an area 
where there is a, high probability of falling rock, or 
on an extremely long drop where fear itself could 
cause unconsciousness. Several devices are available 
to use for a self-belay system (see Figures 43 and 

The belay system used must be of adequate 
strength for the amount of weight encountered. Hip 



or body belays and eight-rings rigged in rappel mode 
techniques are inappropriate to use with a two- 
person load, Evaluate what type belay is needed for 
the load conditions encountered before beginning to 
assemble the system. When using a top belay system, 
slack must be kept out of the system. If a two- 
person load goes out of control and 3' - 4' of slack 
is in a belay system, it is nearly impossible to stop. 
A Munter hitch has been successfully used to catch 
a two-person load. 

Figure 4!l Self-Belay Using a Petzl Shunt 

Figure 44. Self-Belay. Gibbs Ascender Rigged as a 
Spelean Shunt 

+ 9 t 






• Important concepts of a raising system 

• Mechanical-advantage raising systems 

• Hauling commands 

• Raising and belay systems 


When performing rope rescue, lowering systems 
are easier to set up and operate than raising systems. 
However, sometimes it is necessary to establish a 
raising system to haul a victim or rescuer up out of 
a utility hole (manhole), up a roadside embankment, 
or out of some other situation. More personnel, 
equipment, and time are required to overcome the 
force of gravity such as raising an object, than are 
required to establish and operate a system for low- 
ering an object. Rescuers must be aware that there 
is a greater danger of overloading all the components 
of a raising system than there is with a lowering 

Many rescue departments have power winches, 
cranes, or tow trucks available at an emergency 
scene; however, these devices should never be used 
to haul a human being. If a stretcher or part of a 
victim's body becomes caught on an obstruction, 
such as a rock or a tree limb, the machines cannot 
feel the resistance and can cause serious damage. 
The power of a ten-ton winch can tear apart a Stokes 
licter during a lift before any indication of trouble 
is noted. Even if the operator reacts quickly and 
turns off the winch, the wind-down time of the 
machine can cause an overtension of the rescue 
system to the point of failure. Crane hooks'or winches 
may be used as fixed anchor points, but only 'people 
power' should be used in a rope-rescue system. 

Straight-Pull Raising System 

The simplest and fastest rope raising system is a 
straight pull, with the full weight of the load on the 
rope itself. However, this procedure may require 
many rescuers and is difficult to manage if space or 
personnel is limited. A large group of rescuers may 
be slow to respond to the "stop" or "haul slow" 
commands. Also, a slip can cause the load to drop. 

To set up a straight-pull raising system, establish 
a strong anchor point and attach a Gibb3 ascender 
or Prusik as a safety. This will prevent the load 
from dropping and also hold the load when haulers 
reset for another pull (see Figure 45). 

Mechanical-Advantage Raising Systems 

When a straight pull is not practical, pulleys can 
be used to rig a mechanical-advantage raising system. 
A mechanical-advantage raising system reduces the 
effort required to move a load and uses fewer people 
for the task. The following explanations and illus- 
trations address the various mechanical-advantage 
raising systems that can be used. 


Direction of pull 

Gibbs ascender of 
tandem Prusiks 
attached as one-way 


Figure 45. 1:1 Straight Pull 



A 2:1 mechanical -advantage can be gained by at- 
taching a pulley directly to the load on a single rope 
or using a Gibbs ascender or Prusiks from a separate 
line (see Figures 46-A and 46-B). This system may 
prove to be sufficient for a single-person load if 
enough people are available to pull. 

of pull 



Figure 46-A. 2:1 Mechanical- Advantage Svstem 
(Pulley Attached Directly to the Load) 

A 3:1 mechanical-advantage system, or "Z-rig", is 
better than the 2:1 system because it reduces the 
effort even more and can be set up just as quickly 
using only a single line (see Figure 47). The Z-rig 
is probably the most popular raising system used in 
rope rescue operations. 

Many rescuers prefer to use a 4:1 mechanical- 
advantape system, or "piggyback," using the same 
hardware as a Z-rig. It is rigged by stacking a 2:1 
system onto another 2:1 system (see Figure 48). This 
compound arrangement is easier to rig using two 
separate ropes, although an experienced rescuer 
should be able to utilize a single line. 

A 6:1 system can be made in the same manner 
as the 4:1 system by stacking a 2:1 system onto a 
Z-rig (see Figure 49). Rig the 2:1 system by using 
a separate line. 

A 9:1 compound system is easier and faster to set 
up than a 6:1 system; it is done by stacking two Z- 
rigs together (see Figure 60). 





of pull 


Jibbs ascender or 
tandem Prusiks 
attach 2 : I haul 
1 i ne 

Figure 46-B. 2:1 Mechanical-Advantage System 
(Safety Placed in Front of Haul 

\ Di recti on 
^ or pul] 

ibbs ascender or 
tandem Prusiks 

Figure 47. 3:1 Z-Ri? System 






< Direction 
V of pull 


8 knot 

Gibbs ascender or 
tandem Prusiks 

Figure 48. 4:1 Piggyback System 


* Direction 
V of pull 


8 knot 

ibbs ascender or 
andem Prusiks 

One* wdv 

One- way 

i Direction 
or puli 


ijibbs ascender or 
t.^nderr Prusike 

Gibb? ascender or 
Landem Prusiks 

Figure 49. 6:1 Mechanical-Advantage System 

Figure 50. 9:1 Compound System 

Special Consideration 

The following considerations must be noted when 
rigging raising systems: 

The mechanical-advantage of the systems listed 
is only theoretical; the practical mechanical advan- 
tage is always less due to added friction from the 
pulleys. Larger diameter pulleys cause less friction 
than smaller ones, Three" or four" diameter pulleys 
are recommended. 

When determining the mechanical advantage of a 
system, remember that the traveling pulleys (the 
ones attached toward the load) increase the me- 
chanical advantage; the fixed pulleys (the ones at- 
tached to the anchors) only cause a change of 

Compound systems can be extended to extreme 
ratios, but the theoretical advantage gained is out- 
weighed by the added friction of the pulleys, In- 
creased mechanical advantage causes decreased 
sensitivity in the system, which can easily lead to a 
severe overload and failure. Rig systems with just 
enough mechanical advantage to get the job done. 
Before rigging a system, the incident commander 
should consider: the weight of the load, the amount 
of equipment, the number of rescuers, the amount 
of space, and the time available, 




The greater the mechanical advantage, the more 
rope must be pulled through the system. For ex- 
ample, in a 3:1 system, three feet of rope must be 
hauled for each foot the load travels. 

Always place the ratchet cam or snfety in front 
of the haul system (see Figure 46-B). If this is not 
possible, place it near the main anchor just in front 
of the first pulley (see Figure 47). It must be an- 
chored securely so that it can hold the entire weight 
of the load in the event the raising system fails. 
One rescuer must be assigned to function as a tender 
throughout the entire raising operation. 

With any raising system, always use a separate 
belay line, properly anchored, with a raising system. 
The rescuers must not allow any slack in the belay 
system during a haul. 

Anchors must be bombproof. Be sure to pad all 
edges and abrasion points. 

Raising and belay systems must be carefully mon- 
itored during the rescue operation. Safety and backup 
systems should be anticipated and prerigged when 

Changing Direction 

Sometimes it is necessary to change the direction 
of travel of a raising or lowering system. The rescue 
team must know how to do this safely and quickly, 
even while the system is under load. Changeovers 
must be done in such a way that the load is always 
held securely. 

To change a lowering system to a raising system, 
lock off the belay and attach a mechanical-advantage 
system to the load line. The descender can then be 
removed from the load line. Unlock the belay and 
proceed with the haul. 

Changing from a raising system to a lowering 
system is easier if the ratchst cam or safety is 
attached to the main line; use a load-releasing hitch 
such as a Mariner's knot (see Figure 51). To change 
over, set the safety on the haul system and lock off 
the belay. Remove the mechanical-advantage system 
from the main line, then attach and lock off the 
descender. Release the Mariner's knot to transfer 
the load from the safety to the descender. Unlock 
the descender and the belay; prepare to lower. 

Raising a load a long distance may require tying 
ropes together for extra length. The rescue team will 
then have to deal with passing knots through the 
raising and belay systems. Special knot-passing pul- 
leys can be purchased. Remember to change only 
one line at a time eo that the load is always secure. 
If possible, tie the knots so they do not reach both 



To gibbs 


Figure 51. Mariner's Knot 

systems at the same time. 

Rescuers should train to perform changeovers and 
knot passes in the same sequence every time. This 
will allow less margin for error or lost time. 

Each rescuer must be familiar with the commands 
and signals used. Good communication among all 
the rescuers is essential to the safety and success of 
the operation. 

Standard raising system commands include the 

"Haul." Haulers pull steadily and smoothly to 
raise the load. The safety tender should keep all 
slack out of the ratchet cam system. 

"Set." Haulers stop pulling and release just enough 
tension for the safety tender to set the ratchet cam. 

"Slack " Haulers reset the raising system to gain 
maximum travel with each pull. 

"Tension. 0 Haulers stop moving, but continue to 
hold tension on the raising system until another 
command is given. 


When operating a raising system, it is very im- 
portant for the rescue team to be well organized. 
The incident commander should assign specific du- 
ties to each rescuer for hauling, belaying, and tending 
to the ratchet cam. Coordination and communication 
are the key factors in a safe, efficient Mechanical- 
advantage raising system. 







• Using deadmans and pickets 

• Using block-and-tackle appliances 

• Below-grade rescue rigging 

• Above-grade rescue rigging 


Rescuers are called for a variety of incidents, fre- 
quently a victim must be raised from a confined 
space (a trench or silo), or lowered from a high 
elevation (a building top or hillside). Often an aerial 
apparatus is used to assist in the rescue; however, 
in some locations it may not be possible to use an 
aerial apparatus. In such incidents, rescuers may 
have to rig a device on site to assist in rescue 

Use of Deadmans and Pickets 

Deadmans and pickets are used when tie-off points 
for lifelines are unavailable. This may be in an open 
field or at a point on a high wall. 

A deadman is a timber or pipe buried horizontally 
in a trench, at a right angle to a pull (see Figure 
52). The deadman must be strong enough for the 
required pull. Dig the trench so that it is just large 
enough to bury the timber or pipe. The less the soil 

is disturbed, the better the weight-bearing surface. 
It is possible for a deadman that is properly set and 
connected to guys to bear a weight-load up to five 

Pickets are suitable for use as holdfasts in ordinary 
soil for pul's up to a weight-load of two tons. Drive 
two pickets into the ground 3' apart at a fifteen 
degree angle pointing away from the pull, and ap- 
proximately two-thirds of their length. Attach a fifty- 
foot piece of 1/2" rope at its center to the front of 
the picket (see Figure 53). Wrap the rope together 
around both pickets and attach with a clove hitch. 

Place a third picket between the loops of rope 
and rotate causing the ropes to tighten. When max- 
imum tension is achieved, drive the third picket into 
the ground. Place a short sling around the front 
picket and attach it to the rope with a carabiner 
(see Figure 54). 

NOTE: Use only static kernmantle rope for rigging 



Figure 53. Picket 

Figure 54. Completed Picket with a Sling and 

Block and Tackle Appliances 

Block and tackles are u&ed in rssjue work to 
provide a mechanical advantage when raising or mov- 
ing a heavy object. A block to namea by the number 
of sheaves or pulleys it contains. Use only blocks 
made from aluminum. Never use blocks made of 
wood to raise a victim. All blocks must be OSHA 

The number of sheaves used determines the power 
gain or the mechanical advantage the block will 
provide. The number of ropes between the sheaves 
compared to the haul-line determines the ratio. For 
example, when using two double-sheave blocks, there 
are four ropes between the pulleys, which equals a 
4:1 mechanical advantage. This means that the force 
applied to the haul-line will lift four times the weight. 

The length of the rope needed to use a block and 
tackle will determine the lifting ability of the block 
and tackle. To determine the length of rope needed, 

count the number of sheaves in the two blocks and 
add one for the hauling line. This number multiplied 
by the length of pull of the block and tackle will 
determine the minimum length of rope needed. For 
example, a 4:1 system used to raise an object ten 
feet will require a fifty-foot length of rope. 

"Chock-a-block" is a term used with block and 
tackle applications. It refers to the position in which 
both blocks are pulled together as tightly as possible. 

The twisting of the rope in a block and tackle is 
hard to prevent and can present a problem. A twist 
in the rope exerts unnecessary stress on the rope. 
The force required to lift a load is nearly doubled 
if the rope has just one complete twist. The best 
way to prevent twisting is by reeving the block and 

To reeve a block and tackle, place the blocks at 
right angles to each other, about three feet apart. 
When reeving the blocks, the rope should remain 
on the same side of both blocks (see Figure 55). 
Start the rope at the block that will be placed on 
the anchor point. When the rope is on the top right 
of the block, bring it to the top right of the other 
block. When finished, the ropes will be aligned in 
a parallel position and should run in opposite 


If a victim is located over a high wall, on a hillside, 
in a confined space, or in an underground hole or 
sewer line, use a gin pole or an A-frame to perform 
the rescue. 

Free-Standing Gin Pole 

A gin pole may be used with pickets in a free- 
standing position in an open area. A twenty-four 
foot extension ladder is required for this procedure. 
Establish four pickets as close as possible at a right 
angle to the victim's location (see Figure 56). Extend 
the ladder to the appropriate height and lay it on 
the ground with the fly toward the victim. Use two 
lifelines. Form the center of each lifeline into a bight. 
Attach the bight to the top beam of the ladder using 
a split-clove hitch over both beams at the top rung 
or a ladder hitch on each beam (see Figures 57 and 

When using a split-clove hitch, leave the bights 
long and connect them together with a carabiner to 








n a 



form a sling for the lifeline. If a ladder hitch is used, 
place two slings on the second rung and beam and 
attach a carabiner. Attach a sling and single pulley 
to the beam at the bottom rung. Next, attach a 
block and tackle to the top sling and thread the 
haul-line through the bottom pulley. Thread a life- 
line through both pulleys and attach it to an ap- 
proved hauling system. 

The bottom change-of-direction pulley is used to 
assure that the hauling force is in line with the 
ladder and to help seat the ladder. If a rescuer is 
to be lowered from a gin pole, substitute a descent 
device for one of the pulleys. 

When the rigging is complete, dig two small holes 
into the ground to seat the beams of the ladder. 
Position a rescuer on each of the four ropes and 
raise the ladder to an upright position. Place the 
base legs in the holes. Drive a metal stake into the 
ground next to each beam and attach it to the beam 
with circular lashing (see Figure 59), 

Figure 59. Extension Ladder Secured 

Lower the ladder into position and secure the ropes 
to the pickets. If it is necessary to ratchet the gin 
pole or move the gin pole back and forth over a 
hillside, place a "Z-rig M or some other hauling system 
at each rear picket. This allows the rescuers to move 
the gin pole over the victim and back again. This 
may be especially useful when rescuing a person 
from a high wall or a hillside, 

Using a Gin Pole on a Fire Engine 

If it is possible to get a fire engine to the victim's 
location, a gin pole may be rigged off the rear end 
of the engine. Position the engine in close proximity 
to the rescue site. Rig the gin pole as explained 
earlier. Place a 4" X 4" X 36" piece of cribbing on 

the tailboard of the engine and place the butt of a 
ladder against the cribbing (see Figure 60). Raise 
and position the ladder at approximately a 60° angle 
(see Figure 61). Secure the two guy ropes in position 
as close to a right angle to the ladder as possible. 

Figure 60. Placement of the Ladder on the Tailboard 
of an Engine 

Figure 61. Ladder Raised and in Position 

Place the support ropes over the hose bed and 
bring them down to the steamer connections of the 
pump. Secure with clove hitches (see Figure 62). 
Back the engine into position to effect the rescue. 
Care must be taken so that the weight of the engine 
will not jeopardize the rescue attempt. 

A-Frame Rigging 

An A-frame is very useful in a below-grade rescue 
operation, especially over a utility entry or a well. 
To construct an A-frame, disassemble a 24' extension 
ladder and lash the two top ends of the sections 
together at the top rung with a 50' piece of 1/2" 





Figure 62. Support Ropes Secured to the Steamer Figure 64. Attaching a Lifeline 

rope. Tie a split-clove hitch on the beam and circular 
lashing around the length of the top rung (see Figure 
63). Complete the tying with a split-clove hitch on 
the opposite side beam. 

Figure 63. Lashing Ladder Sections Together to 
Make an A-Frame 

Attach a lifeline at its center to both beams, using 
a split-clove hitch around the beam at the top rung 
(see Figure 64). Leave a loop of rope between the 
two ladders so a figure-eight knot can be tied in the 
center (see Figure 65). Then use a split-clove hitch 
to tie the lifeline to the opposite beams. 

Attach a block and tackle or other hauling or 
descending device to the figure-eight knot. 

Next, if possible, attach a change-in-direction pul- 
ley to the beam at the bottom rung of one ladder. 
Raise the A-frame into position and dig four holes 

Figure 65. Figure-eight Tied in Center 






into the ground so that the beam can sit in the A- 
frame. Drive stakes at each beam and lash the stakes 
to the beams (see Figure 66). If it is not possible 
to drive stakes into the ground (i.e., if there is 
concrete footing), lash the beams together with short 
sections of rope to prevent the legs from spreading 
apart (see Figure 67). Tie the guy lines to pickets 
and position a rescuer to monitor the guy lines. 

Figure 66. Securing the Bottom Beams of the A- 


The Ladder Hinge 

A ladder hinge apparatus may be used to remove 
a victim from a roof or the upper story of a building. 
It can also be used to remove a victim from an 
accident involving heavy equipment. 

Figure 67. Another Method of Securing the A-Frame 

NOTE: The ladder hinge is limited to the height 
of the ground ladder being used. 

To remove a victim, place a ground ladder under 
the window or roof. Position the butt of the ladder 
against the building. Use two lifelines and draw a 
bight in the center of each rope. Attach the ropes 
to the beam at the top rung with a split-clove hitch, 
and to the ladder hitch. Use one end of each rope 
as a guy line and use the other ends as lowering 
ropes. Hoist the ropes to the victim's position. Using 
a flat raise, raise the ladder and position it two rungs 
above the victim's level. Control the guy lines during 
this raise. 

Once the ladder is in position, place the victim 
in a Stokes basket and use a sling and carabiner to 
attach the basket to the second rung of the ladder. 
Tie a figure-eight knot in each support line and 
attach each line to the foot of the Stokes basket. 
Leave enough slack so that none of the tension is 
taken up between the knot and the ladder. 

Attach the support ropes to descending devices 
and lower the victim to the ground. Use the guy 
lines to keep the ladder in a vertical position. Care- 
fully controlling the descent, lower the victim in a 
horizontal position (see Figure 68). 

The Leaning Tower 

To lower a victim from a second- or third-story 
window, use a leaning tower. Position a ladder above 
the window and check the angle of the ladder for 
safety. Drive stakes into the ground and set the 
beams into holes in the ground. Then, use 1/2" rope 
to lash the beams to the stakes with circular lashing. 
Using slings, attach a single pulley to the beam at 
the rung above the window. 





Figure 68. Lowering the Victim 

Position a second pulley or descent device on the 
beam at the bottom rung with a lifeline threaded 
through the pulleys and attached to the victim in 
a Stokes basket or body harness. Tie a guy line to 
the victim and lower the victim to the ground, using 
the guy rope to keep the victim away from the wall 


As with many other rescue operations, rigging 
requires training and practice. Rigging is an art that 
must be learned. Any rescuer who will be partici- 
pating in rigging operations must become actively 
involved in a serious training program with a qual- 
ified instructor. 

n n 



• The structure of a brake-bar rack 

• Preparation and assembly of the brake-bar rack 

• Rappelling with the brake-bar rack 

• Safety concerns 

• Using the brake-bar rack for rescue 


Techniques and devices used in rappel procedures 
range from a simple body wrap requiring no extra 
equipment through using equipment such as the 
venerable brake bar or carabiner rigging, onto very 
complicated improvised systems. Traditional rappel 
systems are limited, in that once the rescuer is 
engaged in the rappel procedure, there is no way to 
increase or decrease friction on the rope that de- 
termines the rappeller's rate of descent. 

The inability to change the amount of friction is 
a critical factor on a longer drop (longer than 100 
feet) because of the weight of the rope below the 
rappeller. Using a constant friction device, the rap- 
peller may barely be able to move at the top of a 
long drop and end up moving so fast he or she is 
completely out of control near the bottom. The 
longer the drop, the more pronounced this effect 

During a rappel, the inability to vary friction also 
causes a problem if weight is added or subtracted 
such as when it is necessary for a rappeller to aid 
a victim who is in trouble. A device suitable for a 
normally equipped person may not be adequate for 
the same person carrying extra ropes or rescue equip- 
ment. Such a situation requires a device such as a 
brake-bar rack that allows the rappeller to vary the 
friction on a rope. The friction can be varied without 
detaching the device from the rope. 

In addition to providing variable friction, the brake- 
bar rack can be securely locked off, leaving the 
rappeller's hands free to tend to a rescue litter and 
an occupant, or rigging vertical gear. Once properly 
set up, the brake-bar rack is easy to manipulate and 
can be operated by fingertip pressure. The rack's 
flexibility and ease of operation compensates for its 

slightly greater weight and bulk, and for the fact 
that it is slower to rig than some other options, such 
as the figure-eight descender. 


The brake-bar rack is a steel bar bent into a U 
with attached brake bars that move freely up and 
down. It can be attached to the seat harness or 
another anchor. The rack style may differ slightly 
with each manufacturer; however, most brake-bar 
racks have the following parts. 

The rack frame (the shaft without the brake bars) 
is made of 3/8" diameter stainless steel bent into 
U-shape with one short leg (see Figure 69), Most 
racks are 14 inches long and designed to be used 
with six brake bars. A shorter version, 10-12 inches 
long, uses five brake bars, is lighter in weight, and 
takes up less space; however, the six-bar rack has 
greater versatility. The short leg of the rack has a 




Short Leg 

Figure 69. Rack Frame 
n n 



threaded section for the nut that keeps the bars on 
the rack. This may be a self-locking nut with nylon 
in the grooves of the last few threads, or two stand- 
ard, nonlocking nuts. 

The longer leg has an eye through which a car- 
abiner can be clipped to attach the rack to a seat 
harness when rappelling, or to an anchor when low- 
ering. The center of this eye is at the center of the 
curve at the bottom of the rack. 

The construction of the eye is critical. Some man- 
ufacturers secure the eye by wrapping the bar in a 
circle at least one-and-a-half times (see Figure 70), 
wrapping the tail of the bar around the shaft (see 
Figure 71), or by applying a weld (see Figure 72). 
The weld is the strongest method. 

Figure 70. Securing the eye by a double wrap around 
into circles 

Figure 71. Securing the eye by wrapping the "tail" 
around the shaft 

Figure 72. Securing the eye by welding it to the 

When under stress, eyes secured by wrapping the 
bar in a circle or wrapping the tail around the shaft 
may begin to unwind; however, correctly welded eyes 
can withstand more than 10,000 pounds during ten- 
sile tests. When purchasing a rack with a welded 
eye, be sure that the weld has been individually 
inspected either by X-ray or with a dye-penetrant. 

The entire rappel rack is a frame. The term rack 
refers to the entire device including the 3" cylindrical 
brake bars not just a bare frame. 

Bars may be made of solid aluminum or steel. 

The choice of bar used depends upon the weight 
encountered and conditions expected. Aluminum bars 
are lighter and less expensive than steel; however, 
steel is moie resistant to wear and allows a faster 
rappel. r 'he steel bar may be preferred when making 
a short drop or using muddy ropes, and may be the 
best choice for lightweight rappellers. 

The use of steel and aluminum bars may be mixed. 
For example, a lightweight rappeller doing a long 
drop may want to use steel for the top one or two 
bars and aluminum for the remainder If a rappeller 
is used to using aluminum bars and switches to steel 
bars, it is important to be careful on the first rappel, 
especially if the rope is new. 

Standard brake bars are 3/4" in diameter. A 1" 
diameter aluminum bar is also available for use as 
the top bar. The top bar is designed to absorb the 
extra heat and wear received by the top bar. Some 
bars have a machined groove on the front, which 
helps keep the rope centered on the bar. If the top 
bar has no training groove, file a shallow groove in 
the middle of the top of one or two bars (see Figure 
73) to keep the rope running down the center. 

Figure 73. Placement for shallow groove to be filed 
into top barfs) for better rope guidance 

Preparation and Assembly 

Quality control for the manufacture of vertical 
gear is excellent, but every new rack should be 
carefully examined by the user. The sides should be 
smooth, parallel, and in the same plane. Slight prob- 
lems may be corrected by bending the frame with 
the hands into the proper shape. If a rack is out of 
alignment or visible defects can be seen, return it 
to the manufacturer. 

Threading a Bar 

As the rope is passed over and under successive 
bars, a friction is created to control the rappeller's 
rate of descent. One end of each bar has an angled 
or straight slot, which is open on one side (see Figures 
74 and 75). The angled slot allows the other end of 
the bar to be easily slipped onto or off the rack 






Eye End 

Notch End 



Figure 74. Standard Brake Bar (or Angled Slot) 

Figure 75. Straight Slot Brake Bar 

when the two legs of the rack are pinched together. 
The straight slot bar sometimes called the stupid 
bar, will stay in the correct position only when the 
rope is threaded correctly. 

It is very important that the rope be threaded so 
that it touches the side of the bar opposite the open 
slot (see Figure 76). This side is referred to as the 
front and the side with the open slot as the back. 
Threading in this manner ensures that the force of 
the*rope when under tension helps keep the bar on 
the rack rather than forcing it off. 




76, Segment of rappel rack showing the rope 
correctly placed, touching the front side 
of bar (the side opposite the notch 

If the straight slot or stupid bar is used, use only 
as the second bar down from the top on a rack. If 
the rapeller begins to lace up the rope from the 

wrong side of the bars, it can be easily noticed. Using 
a straight-slot bar below the second position from 
the top can be dangerous* It may swing or fall out 
of place when adding or subtracting bars while in 
rappel. Using angled slot bars in the third through 
sixth positions will prevent a problem. 

It may be necessary to smooth a rac^ with fine 
emery cloth and steel wool. To do this, *umove the 
bars from the rack. Examine the eyes of the bars 
and, if necessary, smooth these with a round file 
and emery cloth. No rough edges on the rack or 
bars to abrade the rope can be left on the rack. The 
bars must slide freely on the frame when it is held 
by the eye and tilted up and down. 

How the Rack Rides 

Attach the rack to the seat carabiner so that 
(assuming the carabiner lies flat against the body) 
the rack will ride with the long leg up. After handling 
the rack a few times, the rappeller knows that each 
time a bar is engaged or disengaged it will be nec- 
essary to switch the rope to the opposite side of the 
rack to keep the rope in the same position relative 
to the bottom bar. Switching sides is difficult unless 
the short leg of the rack is on the bottom, pointing 
toward the ground. 

Placement of the Bars 

Thread the eyes onto the long or short leg, as 
shown in Figure 77. It is best to place them on the 
long side, allowing the engaged bars to be further 
spread apart. If necessary, a disengaged bar may be 
moved completely out of the way. 




Figure 77. Alternative method to thread a bar onto 
a rack frame, with eye on the long leg 

Number of Bars Used 

For most applications use six bars. For a light- 
weight person (120 pounds or less) not carrying extra 
gear, five bars may be sufficient. Remember, more 
friction is needed when carrying long ropes or ad- 
ditional gear, or when using a rack for a rescue 
operation. Using six bars, the rappeller can spread 
the bars to decrease friction and still maintain the 
safety of having four or five bars engaged at all 
times. A heavy person carrying heavy gear will need 
to use six bars at all times. Inexperienced rappellers 
sometimes assume that short drops require fewer 
bars. The same number bars are needed for short 
drops as for long drops. 

Types of Bars Used 

Rappellers who prefer extra friction may use the 
larger aluminum bar as a top bar. The straight slot 
bar, which is held in place by the rope, helps prevent 
lacing the rope in backwards, is placed as a second 
bar only. Put remaining bars into place once the 
second bar is secured. 

Setting up the Rack 

Put the lowest bar on the rack first. Slide it around 
the bend and clip it in place. Remember the slot 
on this bar must face in the direction of the preferred 
control hand. Put the next bar on the rack with the 
slot facing the other hand. Continue alternating the 
bars up to the top bar. If a 1* diameter top bar ic 
used, place it on the rack last. The following ex- 
amples illustrate the rack setup procedures (see Fig- 
ures 78 and 79). 

The rack shown in Figure 78, with the sixth bar 
engaged, would work for a normal-size, left-handed 
person or for a right-handed person who prefers to 
control the rack with the left h nd. 

Once the bars are in place, replace the nut securely. 
If it is the self-locking type, use a wrench to turn 
it a full turn past finger tight. If it is not, screw a 
second nut tightly against the first one to lock it in 

Figure 78. Rack setup (or a large right-handed rap- 
peller. Six bars 

Figure 79. Rack setup for a small right-handed rap- 
peller usually with five bars or less 


Placement of Free End of the Rope 

Placement of the free end of the rope is a matter 
of the preference of the rappeller. Most people con- 
trol the free end of the rope with their preferred 
hand 'right, if right-handed, left, if left-handed) and 
cradle the rack with the other hand. Set up the rack 
so that the rope is placed so it comes off the bottom 
bar on the preferred side when all bars are engaged. 

Threading the Rope 

Before threading the rope make sure it is correctly 
anchored and that the proper edge protection is in 
place to protect the rope. Prepare to rig-in by dis- 
engaging all bars except the top one. This is done 
by sliding the bars one at a time toward the bottom 
of the rack. By pinching the short leg of the rack 
toward the long leg, the slotted ends of the bars can 
be easily slipped off the rack with the thumb or 

When at a safe distance from the lip of tie drop, 
turn away from the drop so the standing anchored 




end of the rope is in front of you with the rope 
passing at the side on the same side as the front of 
the top bar, then behind you and over the lip. Next, 
pick up the rope. 

At this point, weave the rope through the bars, 
between the two sides of the rack, by clipping in 
the bars on alternate sides of the rope. To make it 
easier, pull up enough rope to give a little slack. It 
is important to remember that if the rope is very 
long and dropped, its weight applied suddenly to 
the partially rigged- in rack can throw the rappeller 
off balance. The rappeller must be far enough from 
the lip of the drop that the fall will not be harmful. 

Next, pass the rope between the legs of the rack 
so that it touches the front and bottom of the top 
bar. DO NOT pass it between the top bar and the 
bend of the rack; this will pinch the rope, causing 
the rack to wear excessively. With the rope on the 
side of the rack opposite from where it started, clip 
the second bar in place and slide it up. This pinches 
the rope between the top and second bars. Next, 
bring the rope back toward the side where it was 
started. Clip in the third bar below the rope and 
slide it upward. Continue this procedure until all 
bars are engaged (see Figure 80). 

If the rack is set up properly, the rope, when held 

in the preferred control hand, will be coming from 
beneath the bottom, (or lowest engaged) bar. 

After some practice, a rappeller can prejudge the 
amount of friction that will be needed for the various 
drops. It is wise to clip all the bars in place when 
doing a longer drop. However, it is always necessary 
to start with at least one bar more than you 
think will be needed. It is far better to have too 
much friction at the top of a drop than to have too 
little. The first few drops practiced with a rack 
should be short ones using all bars. 

The number of bars needed depends on the fol- 
lowing factors: 

1. The weight of the rappeller. The heavier 
the rappeller, the more bars needed. 

2. The weight of the gear. More gear weight 
will require more bars. 

3. The length of the drop. Longer drops require 
fewer bars at the top of the drop. 

4. The character of the drop. Free rappels, 
when the feet are not touching a wall and all 
of the rappeller's weight is on the rope, will 
allow the rappeller to move faster than those 
done against a wall. More bars are needed for 
a free rappel. ^ 



Carabiner to seat 

Figure 80. Rappel rack ready for descent 

To control hand 




5. The bar material. A rappel on a rack with 
steel bars will go faster than one done on a 
rack made with aluminum bars. 

6. The type of rope. Some designs of rope give 
faster rappels than others, and ropes of the 
same design may even differ slightly among 
themselves. The slicker the rope, itie faster the 

7. The condition of the rope. Significant fac- 
tors include the following: 

a. Age - New rope allows a faster rappel than 
older rope. 

b. Cleanliness - Clean rope allows a faster 
rappel. Dirt or mud on the rope slows a 
rappel considerably. 

c. Wetness - A dry rope allows a faster rappel 
than a wet rope; however, a rappel through 
water may be faster because water lubricates 
the rope/bar contact. 

d. The size of the rope - The smaller the 
diameter of the rope, the faster the rappel. 


Before proceeding with a rappel double check 
the rig to make sure the seat carabiner is locked 
and the rope is threaded on the correct side of each 
bar. This check is very important and must not be 
omitted. Excitement, fatigue, or a distraction can 
cause even an experienced person to rig in backward 
if not cautious. 

When rappelling, wear gloves with leather palms 
to protect the hands. The friction of the rope against 
a bare hand can burn the skin. Also, the rack can 
get too hot to touch with bare fingers. 

Stance and Position 

The rappelling stance with the rack in place is 
the same as with other devices. Whether the rope 
drops between the legs or to one side is a matter 
of personal preference. The following description is 
based on the rope dropping to the side. 

Hold the free end of the rope in the control hand 
slightly below the hip. The other hand is then free 
to move bars up and down, engage or disengage 
them, and maintain the spacing between the lower 
bars. This hand is referred to as the cradling hand, 
because it is usually held with the thumb on the 
upper leg of the rack and the fingers curved around 
the lower leg. It should always be on or near the 


If the rappel is a free drop, wait until the body 
is hanging free to adjust the bars on th rack. The 
point at which the body is hanging free is Mie point 
at which the maximum friction will be needed. 

Friction can be adjusted on a rappel rack by 
changing the number of bars engaged or by changing 
the distance between the bars. The second step is 
a fine tuning of the first. On shorter drops, just 
changing the distance between the bars will probably 
adjust the friction. Friction can also be adjusted, by 
tightening the grip of the control hand or changing 
the position of the control hand in relation to the 

Adding or Subtracting Bars 

The procedure for adding or subtracting bars has 
been discussed earlier. The process is the same when 
rappelling with one exception. When ready to engage 
or disengage a bar, raise the rope above the bar 
being changed, thus jamming the remaining bars 
toward the top of the rack. It is not as easy to 
change bars when actually hanging on the rope as 
when at the top before beginning a rappel. This is 
due to the weight of the rope below which p o some 
tension on the rack and tends to keep the bars 

Do not wait to add another bar until the last 
minute when all the engaged bars must be jammed 
up tight to keep the descent from going too fast. 
There will be a moment while changing bars when 
the tension will be less. It is possible to lose control 
at this point if you have waited too long. 

An alternative to completely disengaging the bar 
is to switch hands and use the cradling hand to hold 
the bottom bar at the appropriate place for the 
friction needed. If the rappel is too fast after taking 
the rope off the bottom bar, push the bottom bar 
back up against the rope to slow the rappel. 

Never take both hands off the rope unless the 
rack is locked off. When changing from right to left, 
move the rope to the left side with the right hand, 
grab the rope with the left hand, and then let go 
with the right hand, moving it up to cradle the rack. 

Next, begin spreading the bars again, until the 
right amount of friction is achieved. The principle 
is simple: the closer together the bars, the tighter 
the bends in the rope, the greater the surface contact 
between the rope and bars, and the greater the 
friction. To slow down the rappel, move the bars 



together with the cradling hand. Remember, if there 
is a lot of rope below the rappeller, it is harder to 
move the bars. 


There are five methods for stopping a rappel. Each 
depends on adding enough friction to overcome the 
weight of the body and the gear. The first and 
simplest method is to use the control hand. Simply 
grip the rope tighter. This adds more weight to the 
rope passing through the rack fend increases the rope/ 
bar friction. The added pressure on the rope will 
stop the decent. If this is not sufficient, pull the 
rope tightly against the hip. This method adds fric- 
tion in the same manner. When wearing a nylon 
seat harness, make sure that the rope does not ride 
across the harness; the friction can cause glazing or 
fusing, or can even burn through the harness. 

A second method is to use the cradling hand to 
jam all the bars tightly against the top of the rack. 
The cradling hand is then kept around the rack 
below the bars to keep them from working down 
(see Figure 81). 

Figure 81. Brake-Bars Held Together for Stopping 

A third method of stopping is to simply raise the 
rope in the control hand above the rack. This will 
jam the bars together bringing the rappeller to a 
quick stop. This is a very effective stopping method 
that can be used when the rappel is becoming 

A fourth way to add friction is by using the body. 
Place one leg down and swing it around the free 
end of the rope so that the rope is wrapped around 
the leg. In a free drop the efficiency of the leg wrap 
can be increased by holding the leg out perpendicular 
to the body. 

These methods are useful for short-term stops. 
They require the rappeller to keep the hands in the 
normal position on the rack and the rope, through 
the rappel. 

A Soft-lock is shown in Figures 82 and 83. 

Figure 82. Preparing for a Soft Lock-Off 



Figure 83, Rope in Soft Lock-Off Position 

To stop for a longer period of time or if it is 
necessary to free both hands, lock off and tie off 
the rack (as shown in Figures 84, 85, and 86). To 
do this, jam the bars together at the top and bring 
the rope in the control hand toward the top of the 
rack. Slip it between th^ bend of the rack and the 
standing portion of the rope. If the top bar is a 
regular size, the rope can be firmly nestled by pinch- 
ing it between the rack and the standing rope. If 
the top bar is too large to make the tie-off secure, 
then tie the rope. 

To continue rappelling, reverse the procedure. Re- 
member, to avoid awkward shifting, firmly grasp the 
rope as it is unlocked. Keep the bars jammed to- 
gether until the control hand has been returned to 
its normal position. 

Getting off the Rack 

When the bottom of the drop is reached bend or 



sit down and pull more rope through the rack; then 
stand up to get enough slack so that the bars can 
be disengaged. If the drop is especially long, it may 
be necessary to pull the rope through the top of the 
rack to get enough slack. Use caution, the rack may 
be hot enough to glaze the rope or burn the hands. 
Be sure to remove all bars from the rack and get 
out of a rockfall zone before signaling "Off Rope" 
or "Off Rappel". 

A bottom belay id a must, especially for training 
sessions. Position someone at the bottom of the 
rappel, out of the rockfall zone and in a hip-belay 
stance. If the rappeller loses control, the bottom 
belayer can simply put his or her body weight on 
the rope to add tension to the rope, creating more 
friction on the rack, and slowing or stopping the 


Hair and Clothing 

When using a rack on a rappel, always secure the 
hair and clothing preferably tuck it into a helmet. 
Do not wear loose clothing, tuck the shirt in firmly. 
If clothing becomes caught in the rack and a free 
hand is needed to untangle it, lock off the rack and 
attach an ascender above the rack to use as a safety 
to seat the harness. Carefully slack the rope in the 
rack and remove the tangled clothing. Cut the of- 
fending ir terial only as a last resort. Be careful. 
Rope under tension is easily cut and may split if 
the knifeblade even touches it. If a knife must be 
used, work with the cutting edge pointed away from 
the rope. 

Heat Buildup 

On a long drop, heat may build up in the rack, 
causing it to burn the skin or glaze the rope. When 
on a long drop, move at a reasonable speed and do 
not stop once the rack gets hot. It is possible to 
carry wrter to pour onto the rack to cool it; however, 
this should not be necessary. 

Rope Length 

Always tie a good knot in the end of the rope 
before using it for rappelling. If the rope is too short, 
this knot will keep the rappeller from rappelling off 
the end of it since the knot will not pass through 
the rack. 





Figure 84. 

Figure 85. 

Figure 86. 

Figures 84 thru 86. Locking Off and Tying Off the Rack 

Care of the Rack 

Keep the rack clean. Replace aluminum bars when 
they are worn one-third of the way through. If the 
bars do not provide enough friction or they feel 
insecure, replace them. Replace steel bars before they 
are worn halfway through. Holes in the steel can 
create sharp edges that can cut rope. 

Check the alignment of the rack occasionally. The 
easiest way to do this is to engage all of the bars 
with no rope in the rack and tilt the rack up and 
down to see if the bars slide freely. If the rack has 
been dropped or received a sharp impact, it should 
be inspected by a metallurgist. 


Increasingly, rescue groups are finding that the 
strength and controllability that make the rack at- 

tractive for rappelling also make it an excellent 
braking device for lowering people and litters. The 
principles of creating friction are the same, but using 
a rack for lowering is different from basic rappelling. 

There are some different techniques used and 
these techniques should be taught only by a qualified 
instructor. There use must be practiced before at- 
tempting an actual rescue operation. 


One of the most important considerations when 
lowering rescue personnel or a victim is to have 
strong anchors for the rack. Some rescuers are sat- 
isfied with the single "bombproof" anchor for the 
rack, while others, insist on multiple anchors or self- 
equalizing anchors. 

Anchor the rack high enough off the ground so 
that the bars can be easily added or removed. Place 
it far enough from the edge so that it will not 



interfere with the rescuers or litter attendants going 
over the edge, yet close enough so that the brake- 
person can see and hear the signals. 

Once the rack has been attached through its eye 
to a strong anchor, thread a rope through it and 
attach it to the object or person to be lowered. Lay 
the rope out behind the rack so that it can run 

Fixed Brake Lowering 

A very essential person called the brakeperson, 
must stand between the rack and anchors, and con- 
trol the rate of the drop by controlling the friction 
of the rack on the rope. The brake -person should 
wear gloves to help control the friction, and stay 
close to the rack at all times in a stable position to 
lesson the danger of falling. 

A rope tangle feeding into the brake system can 
jam, creating a major problem. If enough people are 
available, it is helpful to have a rope handler feeding 
the rope to the brakeperson. 

The most difficult part of the entire rappel with 
a rack is going over the edge. Friction through the 
rack will seem excessive until the person or the 
stretcher is over the edge. Only when the full weight 
is on the system will the brakeperson know how 
much friction is needed. Remember, on a long drop 
the rope will add significant weight. 

An edge tender is essential when a stretcher is 
taken over the edge to make sure that the rope stays 
on the pad or edge roller. The edge tender must be 
securely tied to an anchor. If the brakeperson must 
be far back from the edge and unable to see the 
person or stretcher being lowered or hear the com- 
mands, the edge tender can relay information. Sev- 
eral pictures of fixed brakes are shown in Figures 
87 thru 90. 

Figure 87. Fixed Brake Lower 


Figure 88. Fixed Brake Lower Stop 


Figure 90. Fixed Brake Lowering System Locked 
Off and Tied Off * 

Calls and Signals 

Since the brakeperson may not be able to see the 
rescuers, crisp and clear communications between 
the brakeperson and the rescuers is necessary. A 

A ° 
' O 



limited number of clear, distinct signals should be 
agreed upon before rescue operations begin. 

The most commonly used signals are "down slow", 
"down fast" and "stop". Signals are given by one 
person only, usually the rescuer on the rope or the 
litter attendant. However, signals may be relayed by 
the edge tender. 

Additional commands: "stop, stop, why stop?" may 
be used by the litter attendant when the lowering 
has stopped with no command from the litter at- 
tendant. This can happen if the brakeperson is still 
feeding out line, and the rope is jammed in a crack. 
Unless this situation is remedied quickly, all the 
rope might be suddenly freed, causing severe shock 

Lowering the Litter 

Some rescue groups prefer to lower a litter with 
two litter-attendants, while others prefer to use only 
one. This is determined by protocal and the training 
that the rescuers have received. When lowering with 
two attendants, two ropes are usually run through 
the braking system and attached to the litter (see 
Figures 91 and 92). The weight of the two attendants 
helps keep the litter horizontal. 

Using two racks controlled by two rescuers may 
lead to difficulty in keeping the ropes going through 
at the same rate, and a problem keeping the litter 
in a horizontal position (see Figure 93). Running 
both ropes through one rack managed by a single 
brakeperson allows better control. 

Since the head end of the person in a litter is 
heavier than the foot end, there will be greater weight 
on one rope and a tendency for the litter to become 
unbalanced. A couple of ways can be used by the 
brakeperson to overcome this difficulty. First, the 
brakeperson must grasp both lines in a two-rope 
lower with the control hand and keep them together 
in the brake rack. This will keep the litter even and 
help prevent the ropes from getting crossed in the 

If lowering is still uneven, the brakeperson should 
use both hands and hold the slower-moving line 
away from the lower bar to reduce friction on that 
line. When lowering with one rope, there should be 
a separate belay from a separate anchor, run by a 
separate belayer. The lowering line and belay line 
must be kept apart so that they do not tangle or 

run across one another and cause heat friction or 

Figure 91. Fixed Brake Lower Using One Rack and 
Two Ropes 

Figure 92. Fixed Brake Lower Using Two Ropes and 
an Eight-ring 

Figure 93. Fixed Brake Lowering Using One Rack 
on Each Rope 







Like all rescue procedures, rappel operations re- 
quire extreme caution. Training and practice are 
needed to become skillful in the use of the brake- 
bar rack. Onlv rescuers who have practiced and who 
maintain these skills are qualified to use the brake- 
bar rack in rescue operations. 





• Introduction to rope rescue techniques 
« Locking off and tying off an eight-ring 

• Backing over an edge 

• Controlling a descent 

• Stopping a rappel 

• Self-rescue techniques 

• One-on-one rescue techniques 

• Descending using a single rope 

• Using an eight-ring for a pick-off 

• The Prusik knot 

• The Petzl-shunt belay 

• The Gibbs" ascender 

• Ascending techniques 

• Changeover techniques 


Before rescuers move a victim in distress using a 
rope system it is important that the rescuers involved 
in the procedure have a thorough background in 
rescue rope systems and the tools and equipment 
used. Rescuers must also understand the function 
of special devices, the tensile strengths of all equip- 
ment, the load amplifiers, critical angles, and rope 
construction. To execute a successful rope rescue, 
rescuers must also know the correct techniques to 
use during the rescue procedures. With training, 
practice, and experience, rescuers can safely rescue 
a victim via a rope system. 

Written text can only provide information about 
rope rescue techniques that have been successful 
Many hours of training and practice are required to 
master the vertical techniques that rescuers need to 
use in today's high-rise society. To rescuers, a high 
rise is any elevated structure such as a building, a 
smokestack, a tower, a silo, or similar structure. 

Vertical rescue techniques may be required 
above or below ground, and may involve lift pro- 
cedures in high-rise buildings, sewer systems, con- 
fined spaces, caves, or pits. 

Fortunately, there is not a daily need for a one- 
on-one rope rescue; however, one-on-one rescue pro- 
cedures are necessary when a worker such as a 
painter or window cleaner working from a swinging- 
stage scaffold c r pick becomes stranded. A motorized 
scaffold or pick is usually suspended from two steel 
cables with a motor attached to each end of the 
scaffold to propel the apparatus up or down the 
cables. Most motorized scaffolds require two people 
to operate, one on each end. 

If a switch on this apparatus malfunctions, it can 
caufie the scaffold to continue to climb on one end 
while the other end remains stationary. Thus, the 
scaffold tips and the workers fall, leaving them sus- 
pended by their safety harnesses. Another rescue 
situation may be caused by a cable failure that leaves 
the entire apparatus dangling by one end with two 
workers dangling from safety lines, hanging in their 

The simplest way to retrieve the victims is to 
climb to a higher level and retrieve them to a safe 
place. To execute this type of rescue, adequate an- 
chors must be selected, and a rescue rope must be 
secured to the anchors. Next, set a roller or pad to 
protect the rope on the edge of the structure. Then 
lower the rope down to the ground to a bottom 
belayer and proceed to rappel down to the victim. 






Locking off and Tying off an Eight-ring 

The following method can be used to lock off and 
tie off an eight-ring, whether on a single or double 

1. Remove an eight-ring from the harness. Hold 
the eight-ring in front of you with the small 
end toward your body (see Figure 94). 

Figure 94. Position Eight-ring 

2. Stand facing the anchor points. If right-handed, 
stand with the rope to your right side (see 
Figure 95); if left-handed, stand with the rope 
to your left side. Next, reach down and pick 
up the rope, and form a bight in the rope with 
the down side of the bight facing the down side 
of the rope. 

Figure 95. Form a Bight 

3. Lay the eight-ring over the bight, bringing it 
up through the large hole; then pull the bight 
over and under the small end of the eight-ring 
to the back side (see Figures 96 and 97). Next, 

Figure 96. Place Bight Through the Large Hole of 
the Eight- ring 

Figure 97* Bight is Pulled Over then Under the 
Small End of the Eight-ring 

attach the eight-ring to the carabiner and har- 
ness (see Figure 98). 

Checking the System 

Take precaution at this point to double-check the 
system. Start with yourself. As a rescuer, you are a 
part of the system, Do the following mental check. 

1. Am I mentally and physically up to this task? 

2. Is my harness on correctly and buckled or tied 

3. Are the carabiners (also referred to as "biners") 
properly attached to the harness? 



Figure 98. Eight-ring Attached to a Carabiner 

4. Is the descending device attached? Is the gate 

5. Is the device properly rigged? 

6. Is the rope properly rigged? 

7. Will the rope be protected from sharp edges 
and rub points? 

8. Are the anchors strong enough and securely 
locked up? 

Once you are confident that everything in the 
system has been double-checked, complete a final 
check (see Figure 98). This time check the rig from 
a different perspective. It is possible to spot a mis- 
take or problem that was overlooked when preparing 
the original rig or that someone else may have failed 
to recognize. 


Backing Over an Edge 

Backing over an edge may seem simple, but this 
task can be very complex. Several factors affect the 
way this procedure is performed, 

First, check the position of the anchor in relation 
to the edge. An edge that is at the same elevation 
as the anchor or lower than the anchor is usually 
easy to negotiate (see Figure 99). However, edges 
that are higher than the anchor may become tricky 
(see Figure 100). The rescuer may decide to belly 
over an edge of this type rather than to stand and 
back over it 

Other considerations to check when negotiating 
an edge are the length of rope used between the 
anchor and the edge, and the elongation of that 
rope. A rope that has a lot of stretch or one that 
is anchored a long distance from the edge will make 


Figure 99. Easy Edge 

Figure 100. Bad Edge 

negotiating an edge more difficult. 

Before approaching the edge, check to see if a 
belay person is in place. Yell the signal "On belay" 
and wait for the return signal "Belay on", As you 
back to the edge, some pull will be placed on the 
rope (see Figure 101), This will help pull the stretch 
out of the rope before getting on the edge. 

When rescuers (especially beginners) become white- 
knuckled, they tend to look down. When yelling "On 
belay," just glance to be sure that a belay is there, 
do not stare or focus on the ground. 

Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and 
position yourself with the edge under the arches of 
the feet (see Figure 102). Next, take three quick 
steps down the wall (see Figure 103). Try to keep 
the legs perpendicular to the wall while descending. 
If your feet tend to slide down and out from the 
body, they are placed too low (see Figure 104). 




The feet must be moved down the wall quickly or 
the buttocks will k*ep dropping until the feet hit 
the wall, leaving the body hanging upside down (see 
Figure 105). 

Figure 105. Caused by Feet Moving too Slow 


One technique for descending is to use a single 
rope and a descending device (a brake-bar rack). 
Always rig more bars than needed foi this type of 
rescue. When the rope is secured, carefully back over 
the edge of the structure and begin the rappel. Once 
on rappel, you can tell how much friction is needed 
to maintain control. It may be necessary to remove 
a bar or two to regulate the friction, then continue 
to descend. 

Controlling a Descent 

To control a descent or rappel, keep your brake 
hand away from the eight-ring and clear of the body. 
Keep a firm grip on the rope with the thumb side 
of the hand nearest the eight-ring. Never let go 
with the brake hand. If you feel the need for 
more control, bring the nonbrake hand over and 
grasp the rope between the eight-ring and the brake 

hand (see Figure 106). Do not press the rope under 
the buttocks or on the tail bone. This will increase 
the friction, but nylon rubbing over nylon generates 
high heat thus increasing the chance of melting 
through the harness in places where the melting 
cannot be seen (see Figure 107). 

Figure 106. Using the Nonbrake Hand to Control a 

Figure 107. Imporper Position of Break-Hand for 

The question "How fast should a person rappel?" 
always arises. Slowly!! Walk down the wall. Hot- 
dogging invites disaster. When performing rescue 
procedures there is nc *eason to rappd head first 
or use excessive speed. 


The Prusik Knot One of the first methods of 
self-belay was to use the Prusik knot. It works sat- 
isfactorily provided that the person rappelling is not 
intentionally seeing how fast he or she can descend. 
When nylon rubs nylon, a high heat is generated. 



It is possible that when on an intense rappel, the 
rescuer trailing the Prusik knot in the nonbrake 
hand just above the descender, with the accessory 
cord attached to the seat harness, enough heat is 
generated to severely damage or melt the Prusik. If 
control is maintained the Prusik will not melt. 
CAUTION: Hot-dogging can cause a rappeller to 
get into trouble. Control must be maintained. One 
manufacturer of Prusik cord has designed a polyester 
or dacron sheath cord with the thought that polyester 
on nylon would not melt as easily as nylon on nylon. 

Although not recommended for self-belay, a Prusik 
is better than no belay at all. The main thing to 
remember when using the Prusik as a self-belay is 
that unlocking the Prusik when the body weight is 
on it is a simple technique but does require practice. 
To unlock the Prusik, keep the brake hand on the 
rope, then cross one leg over the other or bring one 
foot up to the knee. Then, using the nonbrake hand, 
reach down and grab the standing rope and wrap 
the foot three times with the main line used for the 
rappel. Next, bring the left han-1 above the descender 
to the Prusik knot with the downward side or trailing 
rope still in this hand and wrapped around the foot. 

Now, stand in the foot loop. This removes tension 
and slackens the Prusik knot on which the rescuer 
is hanging, thus permitting the release of the knot 
and the freedom to slide it downward toward the 
descender. Maintain a firm grip with the brake hand 
so as to not slide downward and reload the Prusik 
while unwrapping the foot. 

If a second person is attached to the rappeller, or 
the rappeller is doing a traveling-brake lower, then 
using a Prusik knot is extremely difficult, if not 
impossible to unload, it is hard to get the rescuer's 
body weight and the victim's body weight off the 
cord and the knot to descend on downward. When 
rappelling with a victim, use the bottom or a top 
belay technique. 

Petzl Shunt. The Petzl shunt device is lightly 
constructed and designed for mountain climbing. 
The Petzl shunt is designed for a one-person load 
and should not be used to rappel with a second 
person or litter attached. The Petzl shunt is easy 
to unlock once it is loaded, unless it is hard-shock 
loaded with a two person load, then it can fail. A 
600 lb. load can easily produce forces of 1200 to 
1400 lbs. which may cause the device to fail The 
Petzl shunt is designed for self-belay on either a 
single-rope or a double-rope system. When using a 
double-rope system, both ropes must be the same 

diameter and rigged with the same amount 
of tension. The shunt has an attachment point to 
fasten to a chest harness or the webbing can be 
looped behind the chest harness down to the seat 
harness. Located on the back of the Petzl shunt is 
a small hole to which a small piece of accessory cord 
or string is attached to form a loop approximately 
twelve inches long. 

A problem with this technique occurs if the rap- 
peller becomes frightened and panics. A rappeller 
may clamp down on the device keeping it open for 
free traveling and the rappeller ends up riding the 
rope all the way to the ground. Do not hold the 
device. Hold the string with the finger and thumb 
of the nonbrake hand, and trail the device down the 
rope just above the descending device. 

If the rappeller panics and loses control, he or she 
will likely release the string and reach for the device 
itself, A fraction of r second is all that is necessary 
to activate the belay causing it to lock up. As soon 
as che person releases the string and reaches for the 
rop<3 or the shunt, he or she attempts to grab the 
rope above the descender with both hands. This 
provides a fraction of a second for the string to 
slacken, which allows the shunt to grab the rope 
and lock up the descent. To continue the rappel, 
the rappeller can yank hard on the string, causing 
the shunt to release. 

The Spelean Shunt. Many cave rescuers use a 
self-belay technique called the Spelean shunt. This 
apparatus is an oval carabiner looped through the 
eye on the Gibbs ascender and over the shell of the 
ascender. A piece of webbing strung through the eye 
of the ascender is attached to the body harness in 
the same manner as with the Petzl shunt. The car- 
abiner provides a release handle, since once the 
ascender is loaded with body weight, it is extremely 
difficult to unload and get back on to rappel without 
additional leverage. The oval carabiner can be used 
as a handle or bar on the side of the ascender to 
make a release mechanism. A Spelean shunt is best 
rigged with a spring-loaded Gibbs ascender that can- 
not travel freely down the rope. 

This technique is called the Spelean shunt. Attach 
a small piece of accessory cord either to that bar or 
to the oval carabiner. If the rappeller panics and 
reaches for the rope or the ascender, the piece of 
cord will slacken and permit the device to grab the 
rope and stop the downward fall. Many cavers use 
a free-running Gibbs for the Spelean shunt. 



The Spelean shunt, using the Gibbs ascender, 
should not be used as a belay device with a two- 
person load. The Gibbs ascender can damage the 
rope sheath and strip the sheath completely off the 
rope when loaded with a weight of 1700 to 1800 lbs. 
On a traveling-brake rappel with a victim, it is 
necessary to have a bottom belay with the belayer 
paying close attention. 

Top and Bottom Belay. Good communication 
between the rescuer and the belayer is a must. If 
there are problems such as loose dirt, rocks, or debris 
falling from the traveling rope of a top belay, then 
use a bottom belay. When using a top belay with a 
traveling load, the two-person load should be the 
second choice. The third choice for a belay is to use 
a skilled rescuer who is not dependent on a belay 
and is able to maintain control regardless of the 
height of the rappel. 

Locking Off 

L To lock off after stopping the rappel, reach 
between the device and the body with the non- 
brake hand and grip the rope above the brake 
hand. If you are right-handed, use the left hand 
as the nonbrake hand. It now becomes the 
temporary brake hand. Place your brake hand 
on the standing rope above the eight-ring (see 
Figure 109). 

2. It will be necessary to coordinate three simul- 
taneous moves into one smooth motion. Pull 
the body weight up sightly with the brake hand. 
While pushing up with the feet, bring the rope 
up and over the top of the eight-ring. Pinch it 
between the eight-ring and the standing rope 
with a firm tug down to the left side of the 
eight-ring (see Figure 110). Keep the temporary 
brake hand on the rope (as shown in Figure 

Stopping a Rappel 

Once you have descended to the desired work level, 
stop the rappel. This is accomplished by squeezing 
the rope in the brake hand so it cannot slide through 
the hand (see Figure 108). When moving in on a 
victim, such as a rock climber who is stuck on an 
edge, or a victim hanging out the window of a burning 
high-rise, stop the rappel at a safe distance to either 
side, so the victim cannot pounce on you and cause 
both of you to fall. Once you are locked off and 
tied off, move over to the victim. The victim cannot 
knock you off the rope once you are locked and tied 

Figure 108. Stopping a Rappel 

Figure 109. Preparing to Lock Off 






111) next to the eight-ring, and open the grip 
between the index finger and thumb (see Figure 

112) . 

3. Remove the hand from the standing rope, and 
reach below and grab approximately four feet 
of rope. Make a bight and lay it across the 
nonbrake hand into the finger and thumb (see 
Figure 113). 

4. Reach around in front of the eight-ring with 
the right hand, bringing the bight around the 
front of the eight-ring with the brake hand (see 
Figure 114), then into the chest (see Figure 
115) and down under all the ropes and the left 
arm (see Figure 116). Push the bight upward 

Figure 112. Opening Finger and Thumb 








through the hole at the backside of the non- 
brake hand where the knuckles protrude (see 
Figure 1/7). 

Figure 117. Push the Bight Upward Through at the 
Non brake Hand 

5, While working the left hanu out of this knot 
(see Figure 118), pull the slack out of the over- 
hand knot that has just been formed around 
the base of the eight-ring. Tighten or set the 
knot by pulling on one rope at a time. 

Figure 118. Working the Left Hand Out of the Knot 

Follow this procedure closely to secure the body. 
Be sure to check the carabiner gate since 
pulling rope across the carabiner may have un- 
screwed the gate (see Figure 119). T)o not tighten 
the gate tight, but make sure it can be opened. 
At this point you have both hands free and can 
move in close to the victim. 

Figure 119. Checking the Gate of the Carabiner 

Before untying, grip the rope where it comes out 
of the eight-ring with the left or temporary brake 
hand (see Figure 120). Untie the safety knot using 
the right hand only (see Figure 121). After the 
safety knot is untied, keep the left hand in place 

Figure 12L Untying the Safety Knot 





as a temporary brake and check the biner (see Figure 
122). Next grip the rope in the right hand with the 
thumb side of the hand toward the eight-ring, Then 
remove the left hand to unlock (see Figure 123). Lift 
the rope over the eight-ring and yank down toward 
the right side (see Figures 124 and 125). This will 
put the rappeller on rappel again. 

These instructions must be followed precisely. This 
procedure will work on a double or single rope, and 
on all types of eight-rings, with or without ears, 
round or square. Figures 126 through 132 show lock- 
ing off and tying off with double ropes, 

Figure 123. Left Hand is Removed to Unlock 

Figure 122. Left Hand Used as a Tempo ary Brake 






Figure 128. 



Figures 126 thru 132. Locking Off and Tying Off With Double Ropes 




Figure 129. 

Figure 131. 

Figure 130. 


Figure 132. 

Figures 126 thru 132. Locking Off and Tying Off With Double Ropes 





Once the victim is reached, stop the rappel and 
add all the bars to the rack. Stop in a position so 
that the victim's armpits are just above the rescuer's 
thighs. Next, lock off, and tie off. Once the rack is 
locked off and tied off, use a pick-off strap and 
daisy chain to attach the victim to the descending 
device (see Figure 133). After the victim is attached 
to the rescuer's descending device, lift the victim's 
weight off the rope-grab device from which he or 
she is hanging. 

If the victim's weight is about the same or slightly 
less than that of the rescuer, attach a Prusik knot 
on the victim's rope directly above the victim. Next, 
hang a carabiner in the Prusik knot. Attach a piece 
of accessory cord with a small loop tied in one end 
to the victim, and run the cord up through the 
carabiner and then down, leaving a loop large enough 
to insert a foot at the free end (see Figures 134 and 
135). If the victim weighs less than the rescuer, it 
may be possible to lift the victim while the rescuer 




Figure 135. Accessory Cord Attached to Victim 

Figure 136. Standing in Foot Loop Preparing to Lift 
a Victim who is Lighter Than the Rescuer 

is standing in the loop (see Figure 136). However, 
if the victim weighs nearly as much as or more than 
the rescuer, there will be no mechanical advantage, 
and it will be strictly a one-to-one system. Even a 

victim who weighs more than the rescuer can be 
lifted. Simply reach down, grab the victim by the 
harness, and lift with the arms while standing with 
one foot in the loop (see Figure 137). 





Figure 137. Lifting a Heavier Victim by the Harness Figure 138. Unpinning the Victim's Rope-Grab 
and Using the Foot Loop ircmnMrai u t 

As soon as the victim is in position so that there 
is slack on his or her rope-grab device, unpin the 
rope-grab device and detach it from the victim's 
rope (see Figures 138 and 139). After completing 
this step, slowly lift your body weight off of the foot 
loop (see Figure 140), and back onto your seat har- 
ness. This will lower the victim slightly, applying 
weight onto the pick-off strap and daisy chain con- 
nected to the victim. 

Once the victim's weight is on the pick-off strap 
and daisy chain, position the victim between the 
rescuer's legs with the victim's armpits resting on 
the rescuer's thighs. This is possible if the victim 
has a front attachment point harness. 

Figure 139. Detaching the Victim's Rope 


Foot Loop 

If a reat attachment point harness is used, it might 
be better u> have the victim hanging slightly below 
the rescuer Before untying and unlocking, check to 
make sure a bottom oelayer is in place ready to 
proceed, and knows that you axe going to untie and 
unlock the device to start the descent (see Figures 
141 and 142). 





A slow, steady descent helps control the heat 
buildup in the descending device. Use the nonbrake 
hand to spread the bars to lessen the friction or to 
push the bars together to increase the friction (see 
Figure 143). This descent in which the victim is 
attached to the rescuer, is referred to as a travel- 
ing-brake lower. 

Figure 143. Nonbrake Hand Controlling the Descent 

When the Victim Outweighs the Rescuer 

If a victim outweighs the rescuer, rig two double- 
sheave pullies, making a small four-to-one mechan- 
ical-advantage system. Clip the four-to-one system 
into the Prusik hanging directly above the victim 
and attach the other end to the victim's harness. 
This gives the rescuer the mechanical advantage 
necessary to lift the victim. 

Another method that can be used is to rappel 
down to the victim with a second rope to be attached 
to the victim's harness. A topside crew can then 
haul the victim up to safety without having to unpin 
or detach the victim's rope-grab device from his or 
her rope. Also, the victim may be hauled up ap- 
proximately T to slack the device so the rescuer on 
rappel can detach the rope-grab device and the top- 

side crew can do a fixed-brake lower and lower the 
victim to the ground. 

When rescuing a victim suspended outside a build- 
ing do not attempt to break out a window at any 
height. There is a possibility of the glass cutting the 
victim's rope or injuring persons below. 

With practice, a rescuer using either the one-on- 
one rescue system or the four-to-one mechanical 
advantage system can complete a rope-grab in two 
to three minutes. Once the rescuer has reached the 
victim, the one-on-one pickoff technique is effective 
and requires only a minimal amount of equipment 
and workforce. 

Using a Litter to Lower a Victim 

Depending upon the emergency situation, a sus- 
pended victim may not be in a body harness, but 
in a belt that can crush the ribs or cause lower- 
spinal damage. Belts can restrict breathing and be- 
come quite painful to the suspended victim. 

If the victim has been suspended for a long period 
of time or a back injury is suspected, it may be 
necessary to use a litter. This should be attached 
to the rescuer's rack for the descent. It is not difficult 
to litter-package a person hanging in midair. Use an 
adjustable litter spider to get the victim into the 
litter. Tighten the adjustments to level the litter. 
One end or side of the litter can be dropped if an 
airway problem develops. 

To lower the litter and yourself to the victim, use 
a traveling-brake lower. With the assistance of an- 
other rescuer who is rappelling on a separate line, 
litter-package the victim to get his or her body 
weight out of the harness or belt and onto the litter. 

An advantage of the adjustable litter spider is the 
ability to maintain airway management. If the pa- 
tient vomits, drop one side of the litter by pulling 
down on the spider Prusiks nearest the rescuer to 
position the patient on his or her side. 

To lift the litter back to level, attach a cord 
(commonly called the "barf line") to the litter-side 
rail nearest the rescuer, and loop it through a car- 
abiner clipped into the main spider carabiner using 
the foot loop in the free end. Stand with one foot 
in the foot loop, lift the siderail with your hands, 
and slide the spider to adjust the Prusiks and level 
the litter. 

A "barf line" used on a nonadjustable litter spider 
must be attached to the litter siderail away from 
the rescuer. The rescuer must stand in the foot loop, 




grab the siderail, and lift with both hands and one 
foot to flip the litter on its side. 

Using an Eight-ring for a Pick-off 

Another technique used to do a pick-off is to use 
an eight-ring. When rappelling on a single rope, it 
is necessary to double-wrap the eight-ring or use 
two ropes for the descent to increase the friction. 
This procedure acts like a double-wrapped single 
rope. It is extremely difficult to unlock the eight- 
rinrf once the victim's weight is hanging from the 
rescuer. The heat buildup on the device can also be 
a problem. If the rescue involves a long drop, use 
a brake -bar rack. 

Once the rescuer rappels to the victim, cutting 
the victim's rope is not recommended. This proce- 
dure creates a shock-load to the entire rope system. 
If a rescuer uses a knife in the presence of a person 
who is scared and suspended in air experiencing a 
lot of pain, a scuffle can occur, causing the victim 
or rescuer to accidentally cut the rescue rope. 


Changing from Rappelling to Ascending 

A rope rescuer must be able to change from as- 
cending to rappelling, or from rappelling to ascend- 
ing. To change from a rappel to an ascent stop the 
rappel, attach a top ascender and allow the body 
weight to rest on the top ascender, then attach a 
k,*2e and a foot cam. 

Leave the rope slack at the knee and r oot cams 
so enough slack remains to allow the climber to 
remove the descending device from the rope and 
complete the changeover. 

Changing from a rappel to an ascent can be useful 
when rappelling into a deep pit. When you reach 
the figure-eight knot tied in the end of the rope, 
and realize the rope is several hundred feet short 
with no additional rope available, there is only one 
thing to do; transfer from rappel to ascend, and 
climb out of the pit. 

Changing from Ascending to Rappelling 

It takes more practice to change from ascending 
to rappelling than rappelling to ascending. First, it 
is necessary to stop the ascent and hang from the 
top ascender with a top safety above the roller as 
in the rope-walker system. This positions the climber 


hanging so that he or she is suspended from the top 

Next, unpin the roller and reach down and detach 
the right foot cam, Then open the knee cam and 
pull up enough rope to rig a descender. This leaves 
the climber hanging from the top safety but backed 
up by the knee cam. 

When using an eight-ring, attach it to the harness 
and work the slack rope down through the eight- 
ring so that the eight-ring is pointing up the rope. 
Next, stand on the left foot to slack the top safety 
ascender, and detach the top safety or the top as- 
cender from the rope. 

Next, set a brake hand beneath the descender. 
Lower the body into a seated position, bring the left 
leg up over the right kneel, and unpin the knee cam. 
The changeover is now completed and the rappel 
can hegin. This procedure sounds simple; however, 
it does require practice. 

Changeover Using a Petzl or Spelean 

When using a Petzl or Spelean shunt for a top 
safety, hang from the shunt, unpin the chest roller, 
release and detach the knee cam, rig the descending 
device, and set a brakehand under the descending 

Next, pull the slack out of the descender so it is 
pointed up the rope and remove the slack between 
the shunt and the descender. Reach down and unpin 
the foot cam and, with the brake hand in place, 
reach up with the nonbrake hand and yank hard on 
the shunt to release it. 

Changeover Using a Gibbs Ascender 

It is more difficult to do a changeover using a 
rack and a rope-walker system with a Gibbs or 
handled ascender as the top safety above the roller. 
It is necessary to totally stop the ascent, hang from 
the top safety, and remove the chest roller and knee 
cam. Next, pull slack rope up through the foot cam 
and rig the rack into place. Be sure to pull enough 
slack through to lock off the rack. The rack should 
end up pointed up the rope. 

Locking the rack off as weight is applied on the 
right foot tips the rack downward and outward, and 
away from the body. This allows you to slack the 
top safety, so that it can be detached from the rope. 
Next, position the brake-hand and reach down and 
disconnect the foot cam, and then unlock the des- 



cender. The changeover is now completed and the 
rappel can begin. 

Safety Precautions for Changeover 

Changeover evolutions must be practiced for pro- 
ficiency. It is easy to forget what to unpin first and 
end up with all the equipment jammed together. 
When practicing, ise an additional belay rope with 
no slack. 


Many people think rope rescue involves descending 
techniques only; however, technical rope rescue and 
vertical rope rescue require the rescuer to know not 
only descending, but ascending techniques as well. 

Ascending techniques require a rescuer to be phys- 
ically attached to a rope. Prior to using today's 
ascending procedures, ascending rescuers used hand- 
over-hand climbing and hanging onto knots for as- 
sistance. This technique resulted in many fatalities. 
A margin of safety is provided to the ascending 
rappeller with the addition of Prusik knots attached 
to a rope. If the rappeller gets tired and needs to 
rest it is possible to let go of the rope and hang 
safely on the Prusik knots. 

Today's classic ascending system has one Prusik 
attached to a chest or seat harness that is then 
looped behind the chest harness. A second Prusik 
is attached to the left foot and extended slightly 
above the knee. A thiH Prusik is attached on the 
right foot slightly belo>. the knee. This method is 
a traditional system. The rig is inexpensive and 
provides a great deal of safety. 

Mechanical Ascenders 

Another way to climb a rope is to use a mechanical 
ascender. A mechanical ascender (except for the 
Gibbs type) is a toothed ascending device which 
actually digs into the sheath of the rope to provide 
the rappeller a hold. A mechanical ascender should 
be used only with kernmantle rope. Various me- 
chanical ascenders available include the Gibbs as- 
cenders, Jumars, the Petzl, the Clogs, and the CMFs. 

The Petzl shunt was designed for self-belaying not 
ascending; however, it does not have teeth and will 
work as an ascender in some situations. The Gibbs 
ascender is one of the strongest types of mechanical 
ascenders. It is so strong it can damage a rope when 

1800 to 2000 lbs. of force is applied in a shock-load 
situation. Some tooth ascenders have been found to 
damage a rope with a shock-load as minimal as 1100 
to 1200 lbs. 

Do not use handled descenders in a mechanical- 
advantage system when dealing with a two-person 
load such as in a one-way safety in a system, or as 
a belay for a one-person load that could be shock- 
loaded. Any amount of slack in a belay rope that 
has been shock-loaded will cause the rope to be 

Rope-Walker Ascending System 

Other systems can be used to attach ascenders. A 
system referred to as the rope-walker system can be 
rigged by attaching one ascender to the right foot, 
one in a stirrup positioned at the left knee for the 
left foot, and one on the right shoulder. 

Next, attach a bungie or shock cord to the knee 
cam, draw it up over the right shoulder, and attach 
it to the back of the climber. The shock cord will 
pull the left knee cam up the rope every time the 
left leg is lifted. 

This system allows a person to move quickly up 
a rope without using the hands. The leg muscles 
provide the power to climb a rope while the arms 
are used for balance when ascending. 

Chest Roller. The shoulder cam has been re- 
placed with a chest roller. The chest roller provides 
little or no friction, and no grip; however, it does 
allow a climber to speed up the system, keep the 
spinal column in a straighter line, and keep the body 
vertical. Keeping the body vertical allows the climber 
to keep the feet driving downward directly under 
the buttocks thus forcing the individual to move 
upward. Pushing out with the feet in front of the 
body is a waste of energy and not as effective as 
pushing downward under the body. 

The Frog Ascending System 

The frog ascending system is one where an as- 
cender is attached to the climber's harness between 
the chest harness and seat harness. A second as- 
cender is attached to the feet of the climber with 
an accessory cord or with webbing. The frog system 
position allows the climber to use a sit-stand move- 
ment similar to an inch-worm motion. As the climber 
stands, the chest ascender is slid as high as possible. 
Next, bend the legs moving into a seated position 
and * .ng from the chest harness. This slackens the 



cords to the feet and permits the climber to lift the 
foot ascender up the rope with the hands. Repeat 
the sit-stand procedure to continue the ascent. The 
frog system is slower to use than the rope-walker 


Using an Eight-ring for Self-Rescue 

The first eight-rings designed did not have ears, 
so if a rescuer bellied over a lip or slacked the rope 
while standing on a ledge it was possible to have 
the rope ride up and over the top of the eight-ring 
and form a girth hitch (see Figure 144) or cinch 
knot. Once a rescuer is in such a situation it is 
possible to be stuck in this position until the body 
weight is taken off the eight-ring. However, it is 
very easy to correct this situation by tying a 6' or 
8' length of accessory cord into a continuous loop 
with a double fisherman's knot using the following 

Figure 144. Girth Hitch 

1. Use the free hand to remove the accessory cord 
from over the shoulder. Do not let go with 
the brake hand! 

2. Hold the cord by th* double fisherman's knot 
and lay it against tb -\ standing rope above the 
eight-ring (see Figure i45). Next, spiral the knot 
around the standing line, wrapping it three 
times through itself (see Figure 146)* This is 
called a Piusik knot. 

Figure 145. Accessory Cord Positioned Against the 
Standing Line 

Figure 146. Cord Wrapped Three Times Through 

3. Pull the fisherman's knot to tighten the Prusik 
knot. Always pull one side of the double fish- 
erman's knot more than the other. This pre- 
vents the fisherman's from forming right at the 
end of the loop (see Figure 147). 

4. Dress and set the knot (see Figure 148). Slide 
the Prusik knot up or down the standing rope 
to just a few inches above the eight-ring. It is 
now possible to stand in the loop to slack the 
tension on the eight-ring and remove the girth 
hitch or other offending objects (see Figure 







While this procedure is being done, it is im- 
portant to keep the brake hand in place at all 
times (see Figure 150). This means that the 
self-rescue must be completed using one hand 

Figure 147. Tighten the Prusik Knot 

Figure 148. Prusik Knot Set and Dressed 

Figure 149. Standing in Loop 

Figure 150. Brake Hand Kept in Place 

5. Next, clear the jammed descending device, load 
the body weight onto the eight-ring, retrieve 
the accessory cord, and proceed with the rappel 

Eight-rings and other descending devices will gob- 
ble anything nearby. If a rescuer leans against the 
device while rappelling, hair, a beard, a glove, or 
clothing can be pulled into the eight-ring and tangled 
to a point that downward travel is stopped. For this 
reason it is best to keep the brake hand clear of 
the eight-ring and let the rope slide through it rather 
than allowing the brake hand to travel with the rope 
up to the eight-ring. Then, slide the hand back down 




the rope and allow it to ride back up to the eight- 
ring. If the rope is not fed in this manner, there is 
a risk of catching a glove in the device and injuring 
the hand. 


An ascending system must be constructed so that 
the climber cannot fall. If any portion of an as- 
cending system fails, the climber must be protected 
from falling upside down. If the top cam or chest 
roller fails, the climber ends up hanging by the heels. 

This position is awkward and one from which it 
is difficult to recover. The most physically fit person 
usually gets only one chance to recover from a dou- 
ble-heel hang. To recover from a double-heel hang, 
cut one foot free, allowing one leg free to use as a 
balance beam. Swing the free leg until momentum 
is gained to pendulum the upper body back into a 
vertical position. This is a difficult and dangerous 
maneuver. Do not practice this procedure. 

To prevent this situation attach an accessory cord 
from the seat harness to the knee cam. If the top 
roller fails, the climber ends up hanging on his or 
her back or slightly inverted, but not completely 
upside down. Many climbers attach a top safety in 
lieu of the accessory cord from the seat harness to 
the knee cam. 

Dropping a Rope to a Suspended Victim 

If a rescue situation occurs where descending to 
the victim is out of the question or where it is not 
necessary to send a rescuer to the victim, lower a 
rope with a locking carabiner attached in the end 
to the victim. Then rig a mechanical-advantage sys- 
tem at the top lifting point to allow rescuers to haul 
the victim safely to the top. If a victim is unconscious 
or cannot reach a rear attachment point, it is nec- 
essary to send one person down to the victim to 
attach the system. 

Rappelling Past a Knot 

Rappelling past a knot can be done with a single 
Prusik; however, two Prusiks are preferred. When 
you are rappelling down and come to a knot, stop 
the descent with the descender about a foot above 
the knot; do not jam the knot in the descender. Rig 

a Prusik, wrap it three times through itself around 
the rope above the descender, and attach it to the 
harness. Next, shove the Prusik up as high as pos- 
sible and derig the descender from the rope. 

Attach both Prusiks above the knot so that one 
backs up the other. Derig the descender, rerig it just 
below the knot, do a foot wrap, stand up to slack 
the Prusiks, retrieve the Prusiks, and transfer the 
body weight onto the descender. Do not jam a Prusik 
into the knot. Retrieve the Prusiks, and proceed to 
rappel. This procedure is useful if a rescuer finds 
that a rappel rope is too short or if two rappel ropes 
have to be tied together. 

Ascending Past a Knot 

Ascending up a rope past a knot is a simple 
procedure. When using a modified rope-walker sys- 
tem, ascend to the knot and remove the top safety. 
Place the top safety above the knot and unpin the 
chest roller, ascend up the rope, and reattach it to 
the rope above the knot. As the knee cam reaches 
the knot, detach it, and reattach it above the knot. 
The same procedure can be used with the foot cam. 
When using the original Gibbs, three-cam, rope- 
walker system, it is helpful to use another safety or 
a Prusik. Ascend the rope until the shoulder cam is 
a couple of inches below the knot, attach the Prusik 
or a separate ascender above the knot, and connect 
to the seat harness. 

Next, detach the shoulder cam, ascend approxi- 
mately twelve inches, and reattach the shoulder cam. 
Use the same procedure to move the foot and knee 

This technique is used to pass a fixed intermediate 
belay, such as a bolt, or when transferring from one 
rope to another while ascending. When a rope is 
dropped over an edge, the edge is referred to as the 
lip. To clear the lip while ascending, it is helpful to 
have an extra handled ascender to attach to the 
rope above the lip. Attach it to the rope just past 
the lip or roller. The chest roller can then be un- 
pinned. The same procedure can be used with the 
Gibbs cam rope-walker system. Preattach a handled 
ascender with a piece of webbing or accessory cotf 
to the harness. 

Ascending can be useful in some rescue situations 
when it is impossible to rappel down to a victim, 
or is necessary to climb from a lower point up to a 
victim. Practice is required to become proficient in 
the technique. 



Ascending While Carrying a Victim 

If two climbers have ascended or rappelled and 
one becomes injured, it may be necessary for a 
climber to ascend while carrying the other person. 
To execute such a rescue, rig a pulley or locking 
carabiner and a Gibbs ascender onto the victim's 
harness. Take the tail of the victim's ascending rope 
and loop it down through the rigged Gibbs ascender 
to act as a one-way safety and then through the 
pulley. Next, attach the tail of the rope to your own 
seat harness. While climbing, you will be working 
at a two-to-one mechanical advantage. This means 
that you will be lifting half of the victim's weight 
during the ascent and that as you ascend the first 
twenty feet of rope, the victim will be lifted ap- 
proximately ten feet. 

Next, hanging from the top safety, place a second 
pulley and Prusik on the rope. Remove the hauling 
rope from the rescuer's harness and place it through 
the pulley. Unpin the knee cam and transfer it to 
the rope coming out of the pulley. Unpin the foot 
cam and attach to the rope below the knee cam. 

Use your legs to pull the victim up while climbing 
in place to this level. During this phase of the rescue, 
you will be operating at a three-to-one mechanical 
advantage. Next, rerig the foot or knee cam on the 
standing rope that is being ascended, and attach the 
end of the rope back to the seat harness. The victim 
will hang on his or her safety until you climb to 
where the victim's weight is felt on the rope. Repeat 
the procedure until the victim is at your level. Once 
again, use your legs to pull the victim up the rope. 
Each time you repeat this procedure an additional 
length of rope is available to pull the victim up the 
rope. The first twenty feet of this climb is the most 

Rescuing a Victim From Inside a 

One of the worst one-on-one rescue situations oc- 
curs when a victim is trapped inside a furnace. Many 
power companies have 300' high furnaces with a pick 
(motorized scaffold) hanging inside a furnace making 
it impossible for a rescuer to rappel down from above 

to a victim. Often this type of furnace has a small 
inspection port (4" or less diameter) at the top 
through which a rescue rope can be lowered to the 
bottom of the furnace. 

In this situation, the rescuer must enter from the 
bottom of the furnace, ascend to the victim, transfer 
from a change-over to rappel, and remove the victim 
from his or her safety line. This technique requires 
a minimum of three people, one rescuer, one belayer, 
and one rigger. If a rescue department has a highly- 
trained rope rescue team, additional help may be 

Many cavers feel that if the rappeller has the 
attachment looped behind the chest harness and 
down to the seat harness, and becomes unconscious, 
the body will start to lean or pitch backwards, thus 
activating the cam of the Gibbs ascender and stop- 
ping the fall. 

But if the rappeller is sitting in an upright position 
and becomes unconscious, he or she will free fall. 
The force of gravity is equal on all parts of the 
body. It is unlikely that the body will pitch back- 
wards unless he or she is already backwards or hits 
something to force the body back. 

The spring-loaded Gibbs, which cannot freely travel 
up and down the rope, should be rigged with a 
Spelean shunt. Pressure must be applied to the 
trailing spring to keep the device or the cam open 
while a rescuer is on rappel. The instant the spring 
or accessory cord is released, the spring in the Gibbs 
ascender activates (rather than depending upon the 
body to lean backward to activate the device.) 


Rope rescue techniques appear to involve simple 
tasks but require an extensive knowledge of the tools 
and equipment used. Along with this knowledge, any 
rescuer who engages in rope rescue procedures must 
have training taught by an accomplished rope rescuer 
with recognized expertise. To enhance their training 
rescuers must continually practice the techniques to 
be used. There is no replacement for training and 

t 1 


« The important* of preparing the victim before the lift 
• How to use the backboard in an aerial lift procedure 


An aerial rescue presents a situation that brings 
together two units of the public safety service; the 
emergency medical team and the fire fighting de- 
partment. Cooperation and good communication 
among all personnel involved are essential factors 
for the safety of the victims and the rescuers. 

Preplanning is helpful in all rescue procedures. It 
is especially helpful to know of an access route to 
hazardous terrain for a rescue that may involve a 
cliff, a valley, or a river. In cases where a victim 
cannot be safely retrieved from a low place or taken 
down from a high area, an aerial ladder may be the 
appropriate tool to be used to execute a safe rescue. 


Preparing the Victim 

Before any rescue procedure can be initiated, an 
emergency medical team must get to the stranded 
victim. This situation presents another rescue op- 
eration where preplanning and improvisation are 
essential. The medical team's responsibility is to take 
care of the physical needs of the victim before pre- 
paring for rescue and transport. If the victim's con- 
dition permits, it is advisable to take the time to 
obtain the best equipment available for the rescue. 
Position the equipment to properly execute a safe, 
successful rescue. 

Preparing the Backboard and Related 

Before proceeding with the rescue, prepare the 
backboard and necessary equipment. Use the fol- 
lowing steps to prepare the equipment. 

1. Straps may be put on the backboard before or 
after the victim is placed on the board. 

2. Attach a foot rest to the backboard. 

3. Place the two web belts through the handholds 
on the sides of the backboard by passing the 
belts down through the handholds on one side, 
continuing under the backboard and up through 
the handholds on the other side of the board. 

4. Place a cravat through the two slots at the head 
of the backboard, going down through one slot, 
continuing under the board, and up through 
the other slot. 

Placing the Victim on the Backboard 

Follow the steps when placing a victim on a back- 
board- Patient should be packaged as shown in Pa- 
tient Care and Handling Techniques. 

1. A blanket should be placed on the backboard. 

2. Place the victim on the blanket, covering the 
victim's arms and legs with the sides of the 

3. Strap the victim on the backboard, keeping the 
victim's feet against the footrest. 

4. Place the first strap around the backboard and 
the victim just above the knees. 

5. Place the second strap around the board and 
across the victim's hip region. 

6. Place the third strap around the board and the 
victim's chest, and fasten just below the 

7. Reassure the victim that everything possible is 
being done to execute a safe rescue. Procedures 
need to be explained to the victim. This will 
help calm the victim and reduce the chance of 

8. Place a cervical collar around the victim's neck. 
Using a cravat at the head, tie the victim's head 
to the backboard covering the eyes with the 
cravat. The knot on the cravat should be placed 
to one side of the head. If the victim's head 
does not line up with the slots, it may be 
necessary to use two cravats to tie the head. 






9. Using a second cravat, tie the victim's feet to 
the footrest. Place the middle of the cravat over 
the ankles, then take the ends of the cravat 
under the ankles and up between the legs. 
Continue taking the ends down between the 
victim's feet and under the footrest against the 
footrest pins. Tie off under the footrest. If the 
victim has injuries to one or both legs, use an 
alternative method of tying the victim's feet. 


The fire fighting team will need to use the fol- 
lowing steps when preparing the aerial ladder equip- 
ment for a rescue operation. 

1. With the aid of a second fire fighter, position 
the aerial ladder so that it will extend directly 
over the victim. 

2. Observe all obstacles such as wires, trees, or 
objects suspended in the air. 

3. Place a hose roller on the top rungs of the fly 
section cf the ladder. Secure the hose roller to 
the ladder. 

4. Place one end of an approved life-saving rope 
over the hose roller. Using a slip knot, tie off 
the end of the rope to the top rung of the 
ladder. Leave a tail of rope long enough for the 
rescuer to reach. 

5. Next, run the life-saving rope down the center 
of the aerial and lay the remaining line on the 
turntable or the ground. If the rescuer is unable 
to reach the end of the rope after the aerial is 
raised, it may be necessary for someone to climb 
to the top of the aerial and drop the rope over 
the hose roller to the fire fighter. 

6. Raise the ladder to desired location. Do not 
lock the pawls. 


Use the following procedures when preparing to 
lift a victim using a backboard and/or rescue basket. 
When using either device, attach four straps with 
D-rings with two at the foot-end and two at the 
head of the device. Position the D-rings as follows: 

1. Bring the four "D" rings together with the two 
from the foot between the two from the head. 

2. Pull on the tail of the rope from the hose roller 
to untie the slip knot. 

3. Thread the rope through the "D" rings twice 
and tie using the appropriate knot (see the rope 
rescue techniques chapter). Leave a five to six 
foot tail of rope to use as a safety knot after 
tying the knot, 

4. Pull the slack rope toward the turntable, take 
two turns around the top trunnion bar, then 
tie a clove hitch and safety knot around the 
bottom brace bar. This method of tying will 
allow the rescuer to safely loosen the clove hitch 
if necessary to readjust the length of rope. All 
aerials/platforms may not have a trunnion bar 
and/or a brace bar but whatever the rope is 
secured to must rotate with the turntable. If 
the rope is secured to something other than a 
part of the turntable the rope may break when 
the aerial is rotated. 

5. Next, raise the victim two or three feet and 
check the knots. 

6. Tie the two smaller ropes to the backboard, 
one at each end, on the same side toward the 

7. Drop the two smaller ropes to the rescuers 
below to be used to stabilize and guide the 


Moving the Victim 

Use the following steps when moving the victim. 

1. Use the standard hand signals, the radio, or 
the ladder intercom to direct and communicate 
during the rescue. If it is a roof rescue, one 
person on the roof should direct the movement 
of the aerial ladder until the victim is clear of 
all obstacles. 

2. Raising and lowering a victim in a straight 
verticle line may necessitate alternating the 
controls (raise/lower or extend/retract). Using 
two controls simultaneously is confusing and 
may not be recommended by the vehicle man- 
ufacturer. The power is reduced for each op- 
eration when two controls are used at the same 

3. Once the victim is clear of all obstacles, the 
ground person should direct the movement of 
the aerial ladder until the rescue is completed. 




4. Aerial rotation is done by using a hand crank 
except when using a ladder with an electrically- 
operated backup system. (The operation must 
be smooth; without quick starting and stopping 

5. When the victim is at ground level, place the 
backboard with the victim strapped in place on 
a stretcher for transport. Various high- or low- 
level emergency situations may require varia- 
tion from this basic procedure. 


Most rescuers carry a basket stretcher or a rescue 
basket as a standard piece of equipment. When this 
stretcher is used, place a blanket under the victim 
to facilitate moving the victim from the stretcher. 
Implement the following procedures if this stretcher 
is used in lieu of a backboard when performing an 
aerial backboard rescue. The basic rescue procedure 
will be the same. 

1. If the condition of the victim is such that the 
backboard is NOT needed, place the victim 
directly into the basket on a blanket. 

2. Then, strap the victim into the basket using 
the normal procedure. Small victims may need 
to be wedged under the restraining straps by 
using blankets, pillows or other materials that 
will not injure the victim. 

* 3. When the victim is ready to be raised, fasten 
the hoisting ring and straps into place. Pretie 
the hoisting straps to the hoisting ring and leave 
a length of the strap ends necessary for fas- 
tening. To fasten these straps, hold the hoisting 
ring over the stretcher. Fasten the end of one 
strap to the top or head-end frame hand-holds 
on the side of the stretcher. Do not use the 
hand-holds on the oblique part of the head of 
the stretcher. 
4. Next, fasten the other end of the strap to the 
second set of frame hand-holds from the foot 
of the device, on the side of the ntrtt^her. Do 
the same with the strap on the other side of 
the stretcher. Fasten each strap on the same 
side of the basket or diagonally so that the 
basket can be tilted in case the victim's physical 
condition is such that the person's head or feet 
must be elevated. Fasten the four strap ends 
in such a way that little or no twist is in the 


straps. If there is a need to hoist with the 
stretcher in a vertical position, loosen the knots 
and re-adjust the strap lengths so that the 
straps can be fastened to both the top or head 
end frame hand-holds and the hand-holds on 
the oblique part of the head of the stretcher. 

Low Places 

When performing a rescue from a low place, ropes 
may be attached to the backboard or rescue basket 
using the aerial as an arm for lifting, and a hose 
roller to reduce the friction on the ropes. 


High limits. The height from which a victim can 
be removed is limited to the maximum extension of 
the aerial ladder. 

Low limits. The depth is also the maximum ex- 
tension of the ladder unless a supplemental hoisting 
mechanism is used. When using a hauling system 
the depth of rescue is limited to the amount of rope 
or cable used for the system. For example, a wrecker 
with a cable and wench or a long length of rope 
attached to a vehicle that can drive away with the 
hoisting rope going through the aerial (used as a 
pivot point) to lift the victim. In these operations, 
use the aerial to position the rope or cable directly 
over the victim and the pivot point of attachment 
for the change-of-direction. (See chapter on rope 
rescue techniques.) 


Another method for removing a victim from a high 
or low place is to use the aerial platform. 

High Places 

When performing a rescue from a high place using 
the aerial platform, secure the backboard or rescue 
basket across the top rails of the platform. This 
method allows a rescuer to provide constant atten- 
tion to the victim's needs. 

Low Places 

In a low place, once the victim has been secured 
to the backboard or rescue basket, place the platform 
directly above the victim. Drop a life-saving rope to 
the rescuers below. Tie the backboard or rescue 



basket to the rope the same as it was in the aerial 
rescue, Using a bowline, tie the other end of the 
rope to the underside of the platform. Tie a guy 
line to both ends of the backboard or rescue basket 
to be used by the rescuers positioned at ground level 
to guide the victim being lifted from the low place. 


It is essential that continuous communication is 
maintained between the point where the victim is 
prepared for evacuation and the operator of the 
aerial platform. 

Use of Walkie Talkies 

Portable radios such as walkie-talkies are valuable 
for communicating but a backup system should be 
available. A suggested set of hand signals is shown 

Position the person in charge of communicating 
the hand signals given to the aerial operator in a 
location where a clear visual contact can be main- 
tained simultaneously with the victim and the aerial 
operator. Isolate this person from any others who 
may unknowingly give an inappropriate signal. 


1. The use of a Stokes basket is preferred to using 
a backboard if the victim's condition permits. 

2. The use of static Kernmantle rope is preferred 
to using manilla hemp rope. 

3. The use of a 100' aerial ladder is preferred to 
the using a 65' aerial ladder. 

4. The use of an aerial platform is preferred to 
the using an aerial ladder. 

5. If a victim must be removed from a high or 
low place at a construction site and a crane is 
on site, it may be better to use this piece of 
equipment and its operator in lieu of an aerial 
ladder or platform. This decision must be made 
by the incident commander.