Rapid Intervention Training: Moving an Unconscious Firefighter Across a Horizontal Surface

Moving a downed firefighter across a horizontal or level surface can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, under certain circumstances. Using a fire station bay floor made of smooth concrete is an unrealistic training environment when conducting downed firefighter-dragging evolutions. The...


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Moving a downed firefighter across a horizontal or level surface can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, under certain circumstances. Using a fire station bay floor made of smooth concrete is an unrealistic training environment when conducting downed firefighter-dragging evolutions. The smooth surface does not create the friction, snags or realistic surfaces that we will have to encounter during a real-life situation, giving firefighters a false impression of what it will really be like.

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Photo by James K. Crawford
Photo 1. This is an example of the push/pull drag method of manually moving a downed firefighter horizontally using two rescuers.

Most real-life situations will put you in the position of having to drag a downed firefighter across a carpeted area, hallway or lobby as well as over debris. This will create a difficult situation when having to move a firefighter a long distance. If you add water to the carpet and the downed firefighter’s already heavy gear from the attack line, building plumbing or sprinkler system, you now have a serious weight issue. If the horizontal drag is not performed correctly or the use of other moving techniques are not used, the rapid intervention team will quickly tire.

Certainly, if a bay floor is the only location you have for this type of training, you must use whatever resources are available to you. If this is the case, try to obtain a large piece of carpet that can be rolled up and placed in storage and used to simulate a carpeted floor. This will at least give you a somewhat realistic approach to drag training. The carpet will have to be anchored before any drag training is started. An acquired structure with carpeted floors would be the ideal training environment for these evolutions. Ensure that all dangerous materials and debris have been swept up before starting this training. Syringes, glass, utensils, and other sharp objects or debris do not belong in this training scenario and could cause serious injuries.

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Photo by James K. Crawford
Photo 2. Make a figure-eight knot in the end of the rope and slide the loop over the upper fork of the claw.

Push/Pull Drag

One of the most common downed firefighter moving techniques is the push/pull drag. This completely manual technique is physical, but productive when performed properly (see photo 1). The advantages to this downed firefighter moving technique include:

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