From The Officer’s Seat

Mark J. McLees continues his lesson on using a rapid intervention rope bag to rescue a downed firefighter.


With the inherent dangers to firefighters that are associated with suppression activity, maintaining and improving our rapid intervention skills continues to be a priority. While numerous firefighters have lost their lives in building collapses, there are also cases of firefighter fatalities in...


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The key to this tactic is estimating the distance from the working platform down to the floor where the victim is lying. If it is an eight-foot ceiling, the team walks off eight feet of rope, then ties an overhand knot in the line. Then, the team marks off another eight feet of rope; add on four to six feet of pulling section; walk off another eight feet; and tie another overhand knot, creating a huge "W" with the rope (Photo 8). The two overhand knots are joined (photo 9) so that the rescuer in the basement has only to deal with one hook. On the working platform, there are now four separate lines coming from the hole (photo 10).

Coordinating the hauling is not as critical now. Each member can pull at will from four different corners of the hole. This brings the victim straight up the center of the hole. It must be stated that no matter which method is used, the rescuer in the basement is needed to steer the victim through the hole. Invariably, the SCBA tank will hang up on a floor joist. The basement member can attempt to guide the victim, even if only turning his legs. You must be able to do this in zero visibility.

Other Methods

There are many other ways to perform a rescue through a hole in the floor. Many departments use webbing and place the "handcuff knot" on the victim's arms. This is an excellent method, especially when the victim is not wearing an SCBA. The hook/pulley of the RIT bag is simply attached to the webbing. The more ways you know to perform this evolution, the better prepared you will be when faced with a situation that will tax you and your team.

The next installment will review methods used to remove a downed firefighter from a peaked or flat roof.


Mark J. McLees, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is captain of the Syracuse, NY, Fire Department's Rescue Company 1. Part 1 was in the April 2000 issue.