1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Search Rope Ideas Wanted

    I could really use your help, suggestions, and ideas from your "hands on" experiences with search ropes. Thanks!!

    Part 1:
    - What's a good length - 150 feet 200 feet?
    - Should we tie a knot every 20 or 25 feet?
    - What's a good diameter and type (strength, etc) to use?
    - How can you use a knot to indicate the way out of the building?

    Part 2:
    - What's a good length for personal pocket ropes - 25 feet? More?
    - What's a good diameter and type (strength, etc) to use for a personal pocket rope?
    - What's a good diameter
    - Do you prefer webbing to a personal rope?

    Part 3:
    - Carabiners - threaded locking kind or snap?
    - MUST a carabiner be large enough to snap over a tool like a haligan bar?

    Part 4:
    - Anybody use stop watches to time their search crews; calling them back out after 10 - 15 minutes (when SCBA is about half)?

    Please post or feel free to email with your thoughts. ALL suggestions welcomed.
    Thank you for all your help.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I guess the length depends on your buildings. If you have mainly smaller buildings you can probably get away with less. Use your common hose lengths as a clue. Weight is also a factor. A 600' line would be nice but who wants to carry it? As far as knots, I've tried both and didn't see a tremendous amount of value in the knots. The guy carrying the bag and deploying the rope has to lead the search, keep checking for obstacles and also check and remember the knots. Diameter has to be small enough to be light, big enough to be able to feel. We use 200' of 3/8" nylon. Basically hardware store rope.

    Personal rope - our packs each have 50' of 3/8 with snap hooks. I have 40' of personal escape rope in my pocket with OSHA type snap hooks that can do double duty for escape or search. I think webbing is good for making a harness, etc.. most of us have 20' tied in a loop. Overall, I think the rope pack on the SCBA is the better deal for extending a search.

    I have found regular old dog clips seem to work fine. Smaller ones are a pain with gloves. Biners are bigger and easier to find, but I wouldn't want to have to unthread the lock when its time to go! As far as locking over a tool, if your using it for bail out, yes.. if not, just wrap it around the tool and clip. Remember, it's not really bearing any weight.

    Timing a search line crew is important. They are typically only deployed in larger areas and making sure they have adequate time to exit is vitally important.

    Fire Service Rope in Matawan NJ has some pretty good systems. The owner is former FDNY and has everything they use and more.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We are getting ready to start using a new system. 200' search rope, with 25' individual ropes. The search rope is 3/8" nylon with a steel ring tied in every 20' and an overhand knot on one side of the ring. The way that the rope is deployed ends up with the knot on the exit side of the ring. The knot shows the way out!. Each engine carries a 200' search rope and the tower has 300'. We have carabiners (aluminum non-locking) on the anchor (outside door) end of the rope. The other end of the rope has a figure eight tied into it -- if we need a longer rope, we just clip two of them together.

    The individual ropes are 25' of 5/16 NFPA "bail out" rope with two carabiners (alum non-lock) at the ends. It is carried in a pouch on the airpack. It is used for search, utility, and in a pinch, for an emergency bail out. We put the kits together ourselves for about $28.00 each.

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest



    Like eCappy, I too have been looking for search rope ideas. Our station is starting to look into RIT training and operations. I have been looking for all info on search ropes, including deployment and search procedures to be included in this training. If anyone can pass along this info it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,


  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    A 200' search line is ideal. This will give the users a good area to search without getting them in to deep to worry about the air supply. A 20' tag line is enough for the leader to keep tabs on the searchers. I attended the fire safety seminar in Worcester last month and I am trying to implement the following search team procedure in the departments I work for.

    This works best with a min. of 6 fire fighters.
    On the outside of the structure you have two rescuers that are only to be used if the interior crew goes down.
    At the door you have the control man who's job is to monitor radio traffic and the smoke/fire conditions in the building.
    The team leader attaches the guide rope to an object outside the fire building. He enters the building with two other fire fighters that are attached to the guide rope with the 20' tag lines. His/her job is to maintain contact with the two searchers. The team leader may also have a thermal imaging camera to aid in the search.
    The two searchers sweep out and work the area as far as the tag lines will allow. They then return to the guide rope and after they communicate with the team leader advance together into the fire building.
    This is perhaps the safest way to do a team seach of a larger complex.

    I carry in my bunkers a 20' webbing strap for utility and rescue usage. I also have a 35' personal escape rope with a carabiner to be used only for my bailing out of a structure.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Thank you all for your help, suggestions, and informative emails. Just one more question: What are your thoughts, views, and/or experiences with the "lighted ropes" some of you have described? Thanks again!!

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We got a piece of lighted rope to play with this year from a manufacturer. He does not market to the fire service and was kind of suprised at our request. It seems very similar to flexlight and is extremely durable. We tried it under heavy smoke conditions and found it to be useful to about 30 feet. We just ordered a 300' length, I'll let you know how it works out.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Stupid question:
    What are you all talking about "baling out of a structure"

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    There was a question about using knots on rope to show the way out. I believe this was in FH magazine... Every 10 or 20m feet you tie 1 knot, about 6 inches up you tie 2 knots about 1 inch apart. Only time this runs into a problem is this... Do you tie off the lanyard end or the bag end at the door? You have to keep it consistant! Some guys may not like dragging the rope bag with them... other guys (or gals) may prefer looping the bag over their shoulder and going in!

  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    My dept. uses 200 foot rope. I personaly have a 20 ft in my bunkers for ersonal use. I have done a lot of readin on these lighted ropes, havent actually used them, but I hae taked to depts. who ave an tey seem t al like them.

    You lite 'em, we fight 'em

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In the UK we call them 'Guidelines'.

    Length: 200’
    Diameter: 1/4” - 5/16”
    Construction: Rot resistant hemp or synthetic material (non thermoplastic)

    Running end has a metal snap hook spliced on to enable connection to a fixed point outside of structure.

    Other end has a 6” ‘spliced in loop’ for attaching to the inside of the line bag.

    To identify the way in/out pairs of tabs are spliced into the guideline at 8’ intervals.
    The two tabs are 6” apart. One tab is 2” long and has a knot at the free end. The other tab is 5” long and has no knot at the free end. The shorter knotted tab is on the ‘way-out’ side of the pair.


    Personal Line

    Each BA set has a personal line (in a pouch) fitted to the waist belt. This line is 20’ long and 3/16” diameter. One end is attached by a clip, through a slit in the back of the pouch, to the waist belt. The free end terminates in a carabiner hook with a spring clip. The line has a ‘D’ ring spliced in 4’ from the carabiner end. The ‘D’ ring is attached to the inside of the pouch with a small clasp type clip. This enables the 4’ part of the line to be used rather than the full 20’ when connected to another BA wearer or guideline.

    The line is stowed in a line bag. The bag is worn so that the line pays out of a hole in the top. The second BA wearer (we only work inside structures with a minimum of two wearers) ties off the line to available points along the route at waist height if possible.

    This type of guideline is used throughout the UK. Although not completely foolproof, this system has served the UK Fire Service well for over 25 years. There are a number of developments undergoing testing at this time.

    A development of the personal line uses the design of the retractable dog leash to keep the line free of slack, preventing loose line becoming entangled.

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I assume your questions are directed for applications at a building fire?

    We use rope for searches only in buildings that would have large search areas such as a warehouse or high-rise office buildings. You don't need it for residential homes or apartment buildings because the search areas are often small enough where you can cover the entire room without any problem.

    I would never use knots to determine which direction I'm going. It may become confusing in a panic situation. Just drop the rope and follow it back. Knots would be good for measurement increments, i.e 50', 100', etc.

    A good length to carry in your turnout gear is roughly 25'-30' and it will serve many purposes;(1) To vent windows below you; (2) 25'is enough to tie on a tool and hoist it to the floor above or lower it below you; (3) Securing attack line to the fire escape rail (cut a smaller piece for a hose strap);(4) Anchoring an extension ladder to the building; (5)Enough for you to make a harness for a rescue or lower yourself to the next floor below. Do you all remember how to tie the rescue knot?

    For these I just mentioned 3/8 inch (10mm) ropes are good. I carry 30'of webbing instead of rope in my turnout coat. It is stronger and is able to take more abuse.

    Always tie on to your tools. Don't just clip a caribiner to them and hoist away! It may be quicker just to clip it on but you don't want anything to slip out of it. Knots are better and more secure. Practice tying them!

    A heavy duty locking "D" caribiner is good to carry but not necessary. It may be useful if you have to lower yourself out a window or use it to help secure a tool. Remember your knots first and always carry a pocket knife incase you have a knot you can't untie!

    In training there would be no point to use a stopwatch. Yes time is important but at a worker your goal is to be effective and efficient! Each building and room size you encounter is different so what would you base the time on? Rely on past experience and use good judgement when it is time to leave a building. Practice evolutions that include mask confidence and sense of direction training rather than time. The more confident you are working in those conditions the more effective and effecient you will be at it.

    Glen Bordas

    [This message has been edited by RescueCoFireman (edited 02-20-2001).]

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