A Simple Tool for Complicated Tasks: The Rescue Loop

Today's fire service operates in a very volatile environment -- both on and off the fireground. A question that we have to continually ask is: are we ready for these challenges and how do we overcome them? Learning the basic core skills of our work and...


To use rescue loops to help move a firefighter up a staircase;

  1. Locate and assess the downed firefighter placing them on their back.
  2. Drag the downed firefighter to the base of the staircase positioning them facing away from the stairs in a seated position.
  3. Rescuer 1 will take position behind the downed firefighter and will grasp both shoulder straps of the downed firefighter's SCBA.
  4. Rescuer 2 will take a rescue loop and place it in a girth hitch on the downed firefighter's leg as high up in the groin area as possible.
  5. This will be repeated for the second leg also.
  6. Rescuer 2 will position themselves inside the downed firefighter's legs grasping a rescue loop in each hand.
  7. On command, Rescuer 1 will pull straight up on the SCBA shoulder straps while Rescuer 2 will pull straight up on the rescue loops. At this point, the SCBA of the downed firefighter should be up high enough to clear the stair treads easily.

The rescuers should be able to navigate the stairs quite easily with proper execution of this maneuver. If needed, they can stop on their way up periodically to regroup or get a better hold. Just remember, once committed to going up the staircase, it must be performed quickly -- the staircase is a ventilation outlet for any conditions on the lower level!

Prussiks can also be an effective tool for fireground search procedures.

Holding onto a boot and following one another in a line on the wall is not an effective search pattern as it is very slow and leaves a large amount of area not searched. If conditions force firefighters to search while contacting one another, using a prussik can extend their reach to help cover more area (see photo 10).

Accessing a bedroom by performing VES can be easier and quicker as opposed to looking for access from the interior in hostile conditions. If the window being entered is on the first floor or street level, the firefighter will need to make the proper provisions to enable themselves to get up and over the windowsill. A prussik used in combination with a steel hook can come in handy for this task.

The benefit of the knot used in the prussik is that it when weighted, it grips the object that it is fastened around. This allows the loop to be used as a step for the firefighter when placed at the proper height on the hook. When the firefighter removes their weight from the loop, it is free to slide once again. Not only is this an effective technique for entry but could also be a lifesaving technique that allows a firefighter to escape from a lower level if they are trapped (see photos 11 and 12).

One of the key points to forcible entry practices is to control the door that is being forced. A prussik applied to the door handle with a girth hitch on an inward swinging door can help accomplish this in a safe manner also (see photo 13).

When using a power saw to cut through padlocks, it is recommended that a second firefighter assist by holding the lock from moving. The traditional way of accomplishing this task is to grip the lock with a pair of vise grips that have been modified with a chain welded to them to allow the second firefighter to stand safely out of the way. This same task can be accomplished with the use of a prussik. It is important to note, however, that the prussik may burn through from the sparks emitted from the saw but the prussik is easy to replace and much lighter to carry in a pocket than the vise grips (see photo 14).

Setting up a rehab or preparing for operations at a high rise fire incident will require an abundance of SCBA cylinders to be carried to a less than convenient place. Prussiks can be utilized to help accomplish this task. Placing girth hitches on the stems of two cylinders and draping them over the firefighter's SCBA being worn on the back or over their shoulder allows them to transport two spare cylinders in a hands-free manner (see photos 15 and 16).

In a pinch, a prussik can also help control a larger diameter handline much like that of a traditional rope hose tool. The prussik is applied to the hoseline with a girth hitch and the firefighter simply turns into the loop allowing it to position across their body. Their body weight, in combination with the prussik, will help control the line (see photo 17).