One of the neat things about rope rescue is that it takes a creative mind to make it work. I mean no disrespect to my fire suppression brethren (and sisteren), where things are driven by standard operating guidelines (SOGs) and procedures — at least at the Awareness Level, which is how it should be. The fire service covers such a broad spectrum of fire suppression and rescue that the only way to operate safely, at least initially, is to be very dogmatic in the approach. This is why we also have the Technician and Specialist levels where the greater depth of learning, understanding and thinking come into play.
Looking at the evolution of decent control devices, one sees that they all have involved the use of friction to overcome weight and gravity. Early rope techniques included the "body wrap /belay/rappel" friction techniques, which were limited to one-person loads and not a lot of fun.
From there came the carabiner friction wrap, which led to the eight plate, which in turn led to stitch plates of various designs. Then along came the Brake Bar rack, which, when rigged correctly, allowed the user to add or reduce the friction placed on the rope.
From there, with various side variations on this theme, came Air Traffic Controller (ATCs) descent devices and the Brake Tube, an oversized device that was rigged like a carabiner friction wrap, but because of its size, could operate dual ropes and pass a knot without having to re-rig it. (When operating it with dual lines, the rope technician had to be sure to offset the knots by at least a foot as the device would easily pass one knot at a time, but not both at the same time.) The next major evolution was the addition of the hyper bar to the Brake rack, which added compression forces on the bar thuds supplementing or compounding the friction the bars created. (I believe Kenny Laidlaw wrote an excellent article on the history of rope friction devices that is well worth tracking down.)
The SCARAB Rescue Tool is the next level of friction control device. Utilizing a single bar and maximizing the addition or release of friction to the rope through the utilization of 180-degree twists of the rope around the horns/tines, a rescuer is able to achieve greater friction with ease of use and no twist factor on the rope as it exits the load end of the device.
Rather than tie-up space with a series of photos on how to rig and use this device, go online to http://scarabrescue.com for their product demo. To rig this device, simply push a bite of rope through the middle of the device and engage the single bar, the same as you would for a brake bar or hyper-bar rack. From there you have a decision to make. If you are lowering a light load, simply take the working end of the rope, that part between the device and anchor as opposed to the device and the load, and wrap it around the forward tine or horn on your side of the device and bend it back towards the anchor. If extra friction is required, twist the rope 180 degrees and wrap it around the back horn on the same side closest to the anchor.
If, however, you are working with a medium to heavy rescue load, follow the same procedure, but begin on the opposite side of the SCARAB that you will be operating it from. This way, when you cross the SCARAB to gain the extra friction by utilizing the remaining horns, your working line is on the same side of the device you are operating it from.
While there are several techniques for tying this device off, I have found that the same tie-off I used for a brake bar or hyper-bar rack is equally as effective. And since it is already in muscle memory, it made adapting to use of the SCARAB all the easier.
The SCARAB is available in two models, a stainless-steel NFPA-approved fire/rescue model for $99.95 and a Titanium Alpine model for $249.95. The stainless steel model is about the same weight of a stainless steel brake bar or hyper-bar rack, but half the size. What is the real difference between the two aside from price? Weight. The Titanium Alpine model is 60% lighter than its Stainless Steel counterpart, which is a significant factor to take into account if you have to haul your rescue hardware any distance from your rescue vehicle.
If I had one complaint about the SCARAB device, it's that it is too efficient with its compact size and use of space. Pretty much every surface is a working surface, so there is almost nowhere to mark it as your device. I ended up putting a sliver of yellow duct tape on each end of the single bar to mark this device as mine. That is probably the only area for engraving as well that won't create a burr or the wrong type of friction on a rope.
Like just about any friction device, except for the Brake Tube, it is impossible to physically pass a knot through this device. The solution is the same as for all the other devices. Establish a Radium Release hitch or a pig system next to your SCARAB. When you come to the knot, transfer the load to your back-up system, take the rope out of the SCARAB, lower the load until the knot is past the SCARAB and then re-rig it. Once done, transfer the load back to the SCARAB and continue to lower. If you have additional knots to pass, as we frequently get in the alpine environment, be sure to re-rig your Radium Release Hitch or pig system to be ready for the next knot. With all that said, I believe that you once you have a chance to play with it, you will find that the SCARAB Rescue Tool's compact and efficient design and ease of operation makes it the next level of generation of friction device for the rope-rescue world.