From The Officer’s Seat: The Rapid Intervention Rope Bag - Part 3

Mark J. McLees outlines ways in which the rapid intervention rope can be used to remove a downed firefighter from a roof.


In this third article on the rapid intervention rope bag, we will discuss another use of this simply fabricated life saving device. We hope to illustrate to you how you can use the rapid intervention rope to remove a downed firefighter from a roof, another location where we classically operate...


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In this third article on the rapid intervention rope bag, we will discuss another use of this simply fabricated life saving device. We hope to illustrate to you how you can use the rapid intervention rope to remove a downed firefighter from a roof, another location where we classically operate.

10_01_rope1.jpg
Photo by Mark J. McLees
For safe peaked-roof operations, members should be tethered into the roof ladder via a belt or harness. Note how the wire can be doubled up to shorten the slack or run single to give a greater reach for the saw operator.

It would be nice if we never had to place ourselves at risk by working above a fire on a roof. There may be departments whose policies restrict members to roof operations only from an aerial device. This may be due to a predominance of lightweight truss construction used in roofs. Under fire conditions in an attic or concealed space, these roofs are quick to fail and standard procedures may direct us from even setting foot on such firefighter killers.

Based on climate and topography, many locations enjoy an abundant combination of one-story structures, buried underground utility lines and aerial devices aplenty. In the Northeast, however, we do not have such luxury in our aging cities.

We have all seen the photos of narrow streets lined with aboveground telephone poles and their myriad cable TV, telephone, and secondary and primary electric lines. More often than not, these overhead wires prevent us from using aerial devices to "get the roof." Coupled with setbacks of only 20 to 30 feet from the street, often the only alternative route to the roof is via portable ground ladders.

"Two-and-a-halves," "triple deckers" and the like routinely force us to use extension ladders to access these peaked roofs. With snow loads existing for up to half the year, building codes require a heavier construction of roofs. We feel that we can operate on them under fire conditions for a greater duration than, say, a tiled roof found in the western desert, and so we do.

When operating on a peaked roof to ventilate, a member must wear a safety harness of some type. A roof ladder must always be present to hook onto. The pitch of some roofs prevents the vertical vent team from venturing off the roof ladder. The idea of being tied in is to keep members from falling off the roof in the event they lose their footing.

10_01_rope2.jpg
Photo by Mark J. McLees
The simplicity of the hook makes the operation quick and simple. Unlike firefighter removals where some mechanical advantage is desired, here the pulley is placed on the rungs, which act as the anchor. This change of direction allows members on the ground the ability to lower the member off the peaked roof.


10_01_rope3.jpg
Photo by Mark J. McLees
Once you have hooked up the firefighter onto the rapid intervention rope, you may still need to "unload" him from his ladder belt. It is critical that when this operation takes place the victim is always connected to the roof ladder.

Recently, a fire officer in upstate New York suffered a cardiac-related problem while operating on a peaked roof. In a situation such as this, we have a medical emergency in one of the most at-risk locations on the fireground. There is no time to lose in getting a stricken member to medical personnel. Fighting heat and smoke only compounds the urgency of the scenario.

If your department mandates ladder belts or harnesses while operating on peaked roofs, then read on. If you are not required to be tied in, then the medical emergency on the roof will quickly become a medical emergency on the ground and you don't need these tactics. Your trauma skills will be needed instead.

10_01_rope4.jpg
Photo by Mark J. McLees
With one (or more) rescuers in place on the roof ladder, the hooks of the roof ladder will be firmly planted in the peak. You can now lower the victim in a controlled manner. The concern will be when the firefighter victim approaches the edge of the roof. Care must be taken by the rescuers to insure limbs of the victim are not pinned by the rapid intervention rope, and that there are no sharp edges that might cut the rope. Should we take time to provide edge protection? Not if this is a full arrest and the structure continues to burn beneath the unconscious firefighter.
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