Speak Up 3/14: The Panic Snap: Simple Tool Save Lives

We’re no strangers to loving gadgets. Bright lights. Items with Maltese crosses emblazoned on them. But typically, things used for safety aren’t as publicized; let alone purchased.
Why? Because they aren’t sexy. You can’t Instagram it and receive viral jealousy in the form of likes and comments. 
A flashlight bright enough to illuminate half a football field? Any firefighters would find themselves salivating over it. A knife that cuts through everything like a pair of hydraulic extrication tools? They would be back-ordered by the next holiday. 
But there’s a product out there where its sexiness is found in its simplicity and ability to potentially save our lives. And in my experience and exposure, it’s not well known.  
What is this cheap miracle piece of equipment? A panic snap.
Intended for use with horses and dog sleds, it can hold rope, straps, light equipment and various other items. With simple downward pressure applied to the middle section, the clasp releases, letting whatever it’s holding to be detached.
I first saw it during a week-long rapid intervention crew training course at a community college in Metro Detroit. An instructor donned a panic snap and praised its use.
Where does it come in handy? The application I’ve seen it used most is with 90-degree flashlights tethered to the turnout coat. Those flashlight are essentially a snag hazard.
It’s an awkward piece to attach to your gear, and it will get snagged on any piece of wiring, netting or other hazard. Where the panic snap sees potential in the fire service are those times when we enter an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) environment, which is almost daily. 
In a situation where rapid egress is needed, that last thing a firefighter needs is an entanglement, especially an entanglement due to something intended to aid in their tasks (i.e., a flashlight). Instead of fumbling with wires or feverishly searching for a hand tool, that same downward pressure would release a flashlight and the firefighter, permitting an escape.
The panic snap has appeal to firefighters on multiple levels. First, its price. Online and local farming stores carry it for low prices – usually under $10. It’s made of durable metal so it is rugged enough for use on a fireground. And finally it can be disengaged while wearing fire gloves.
Its only drawback, where complaints can be made, is with its weight. In the palm of your hand, it weighs significantly more than a smartphone. But when attached to a turnout coat, the weight seems to disappear.
It’s not sexy. It doesn’t light up or cut things. But it’s a simple product that can be adapted for firefighter safety. Which is always something very high on our priority this.
Chris Hagan
Orion Township Fire Department
Orion Township, MI