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...

For any seasoned rope users who are reading this, allow me to answer the question that’s been burning in your mind this entire article. Being that we’re using no hardware and utilizing knots to redirect our rope, we’re going to be creating the worst kind of friction we could possibly create – “Rope on Rope.” Because this is an operation for departments or companies who may have little or no gear other than rope, here’s a quick fix for that problem. Cut small pieces of garden hose (see Figure 5) to fit over the rope wherever it will be rubbing. This is a cheap fix that any department can afford.

Safety Is Vital, Even With Limited Gear

Depending on where you’re located, and the response time of outside agencies, you may very well be a victim’s last chance. Injuries may not allow the victim to wait 20 or 30 minutes for a team to arrive, so it’s up to you to make something happen using what you have. I will stress, however, that safety should never be compromised in any operation. A true professional can think outside the box and maintain an effective safety margin throughout the operation.

I hope this article sparked some creative ideas for training. I also hoped it showed companies who are not directly involved in rope rescue that with a little knowledge and training they could make a big difference in the overall outcome of a victim’s fate and well being. Above all else, training is what makes ideas and skills like the ones you just read work. When it comes to someone’s life, you shouldn’t question your skills or ability. Remember, “Training prepares you for moments that define you.”

Stay safe and stay progressive.

MICHAEL R. DONAHUE is a 14-year veteran of the fire service is assigned to Rescue Company 1 in Elizabeth, NJ. Mike is the owner and founder of Progressive Rescue, a company dedicated to further firefighter's in all aspects of the job. He holds the title of rescue specialist with New Jersey's Urban Search and Rescue Team (NJ-TF1) and he is actively teaching at Middlesex Fire academy and the Middlesex County College as their Fire Science Program Coordinator. Mike has been on two podcasts: The Buzz on Technical Rescue: Rope Rescue Operations and The Buzz on Technical Rescue: Special Operations Roundtable. He has taught as a HOT instructor at Firehouse Expo and is the Specialized Rescue Forum moderator for You can reach Michael by e-mail at