Emergency Egress for Fireground Survival: The Rope Slide

Your crew is performing a primary search of the floor above the fire when you hear the evacuation tones over your portable radio. Turning to exit down the stairway, you suddenly realize that your crew is cut off from the stairs by rapidly spreading fire...


The firefighter should make certain to grasp the rope at a point that will allow his hands to clear the windowsill and avoid being pinched beneath his bodyweight (see Photos 3 and 4).

With the anchor secured and the rope grasped in front of the body in the proper wrapped position, the firefighter straddles the windowsill and begins to roll out of the window (see Photos 5 and 6).

As the firefighter rolls out of the window, he transfers his weight from the windowsill to the rope system while maintaining control with his interior leg (see Photo 7).

When his weight is transferred, he controls his slide by adjusting the grip of his hands. The friction that is created by the rope being wrapped around the upper body and SCBA creates a friction device that controls the descent (see Photo 8).

The firefighter should control his descent in a slow and deliberate manner and should avoid any shock loading to the rope system.

Keeping the arms and hands close to the body increases the braking effect (see Photo 9) and moving the arms and hands away from the body decreases the braking effect (see Photo 10).

Knowing your job and possessing a strong background in firefighting basics is the first and most important step that all firefighters should take when it comes to self-survival skills for the fireground. Everyone working on the fireground should be aware of the conditions that can create the need for an emergency escape and should be well versed on what is needed to prevent getting into a bad situation in the first place. Maintaining an open and progressive mentality and training with safety as the number one priority, firefighters can acquire the skills and confidence needed to react to an emergency successfully on the fireground. Is your crew ready for the challenge?

JEFFREY PINDELSKI, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a 20-year veteran and student of the fire service and is the deputy chief of operations with the Downers Grove, IL, Fire Department. Jeff is a staff instructor at the College of Du Page and has been involved with the design of several training programs dedicated to firefighter safety and survival. Jeff is the co-author of the text R.I.C.O., Rapid Intervention Company Operations. Jeff was host of the recent Preparing for Tomorrow's RIT Deployment Today podcast was a guest on the inaugural edition of the Training & Tactics Talk. View all of Jeff's articles and podcasts here. You can reach Jeff by e-mail at firelt226@aol.com.