Rope Rescue Ops for Engine and Ladder Companies

The basis of this article is to show that engine and truck companies with limited rope and rope hardware can still affect a successful rescue. All it takes is a little outside-the-box thinking and an understanding of how applied forces will move...


The basis of this article is to show that engine and truck companies with limited rope and rope hardware can still affect a successful rescue. All it takes is a little outside-the-box thinking and an understanding of how applied forces will move objects. I would also like to convey that the information and techniques in this article are designed for a minor slope-type evacuation. This serves as a means for an engine or truck crew to bring someone to a safe area if they conditions are safe and don't include the the possibility of a straight vertical drop.

To start things off, and to obtain an easy understanding of how we’re going to achieve our goals using limited or no rope hardware, let’s look at a simple 2:1 mechanical advantage system (MAS). Like any rope system, we need a good anchor. From there, we’ll take our rope and run it through the bead of the stokes basket and back towards the anchor. In three easy steps you have an MAS that will cut your load in half.  

Normally, we would place a pulley on the head of the stokes and run the rope through it. However, we can achieve the same goal by just running the rope through the head of the stokes. Sure, we pick up more friction by not running the rope through a pulley; however, the friction gain and effect on the hauling operation will be minimal. A 2:1 MAS is a quick, effective, and simple means of hauling something or someone to a desired location of safety.

Now that you’re warmed up and have a feel for what’s going on in this article, let’s look at another MAS system – the 3:1 (see Figures 1 and 1A). When building systems without hardware, you really need a good eye and a understanding for what’s going on and what needs to happen. When I say that, I’m referring to the building and theory of mechanical advantage systems. A little knowledge will go a long way.

Let’s begin this system by tying the rope to the stokes with a Figure-8 follow through. This will give us a fixed connection point to the stokes as well as a life safety knot. Next, look for a good anchor point, bombproof of course (see Figure 2). Now, utilize two Figure-8 bites or one double-eight bite knot, making sure the knot(s) are facing the load. Next, run the load rope through the knot and bring it back up to the load. At this point we would connect a pulley onto the load line, however, because we don’t have any hardware, we’ll simply tie a butterfly knot in the load line just underneath the main knot. Now we’ll take the rope that we just fed through the knot located at the anchor and pass it through the butterfly knot and bring it back in the direction of the anchor. There you have it a 3:1 MAS with no hardware.

Creating a Hauling System

On a normal MAS you would have a progress capture device (PCD). This would hold the load during longer hauling operations. The system we just built is designed for a single stroke, meaning we can get the load from point A to point B without having to reset the system. We will, however, attach a safety line to the stokes and run that rope through a separate rope tied to our anchor (see Figure 3). We can then stop and hold the load by simply crossing the rope over itself (see Figure 3A). The friction created by the bend of the rope is sufficient enough for a rescue to securely hold the load.

Now, let’s create a 4:1 MAS (see Figure 4). We’ll begin this time from our anchor, so do a proper rigging size-up and find the best possible anchor that’s inline with the intended load. Like we did earlier, we’ll wrap the anchor with a length of rope. However, this time we’ll need to leave them untied (you’ll understand why in just a bit). Next, we’ll take our rope and create what looks like two upside down J’s. Now, we’ll need to create a connection point on our load. This can be done simply by taking a short piece of rope and tying it around the head of the stokes, finishing it with an eight on a bite. Now, working left to right, the first “J” you created will need to pass through the knot on the rope you just tied onto the stokes. At the end of that rope, tie a Figure-8 bite. Next, pass the second “J” you created through the eight on a bite you just tied and bring that rope down toward the load. That’s the rope you’ll be hauling with. Now, take a step back and give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve built a 4:1 MAS using no hardware. Wait, we’re not done yet! Be sure to attach a safety line to the stokes and, just like on the 3:1 MAS, this will act as a “belay.” We’ll create another anchor point using the same method as we used with our original anchor.

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