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  1. #1
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    Default Rappelling vs Lowering

    Do you prefer to lower a rescuer to a victim in a rope rescue with the descent device managed up top or have the rescuer rappel down to the victim? What are the pros and cons of the two techniques?


  2. #2
    Forum Member vehext's Avatar
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    Default Rappel vs. Lowering

    Self-rappel pros: rescuer has control over their descent and lock-off. May be fastest way down.

    Self-rappel cons: rescuer has to pay attention to what they are doing at all times and may be overwhelmed as they reach victim. Rescuer has hands occupied with DCD until locked off.

    Lowering pros: rescuer can concentrate on victim and has hands free.

    Lowering cons: hard to adjust and control since lowering crew usually cannot see the rescuer and has to have commands relayed.

    Most departments use either one or the other technique and are very happy. As with everything we do, the best thing is to practice both techniques and use the best one suited for the particular situation.
    John E. Burruss, NREMT-P
    Heavy-Technical Rescue Instructor
    Virginia Department of Fire Programs

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    I do confined space/high angle rescue in an industrial setting, and our protocol is to lower the rescuer. We do practice rapelling sometimes, partially as a confidence builder and mostly because it's fun , but in a real rescue situation and in training we opt for the lower. Vehext hit on most of the major reasons why.

    Another reason in our setting, during a confined space rescue if the rescuer is lowering into a vessel and succumbs to an IDLH atmosphere, or for any other reason has to be retrieved, if he's self-rappeling you can't get him back...if he's being lowered the system can be converted to a hauling system to get him back out.

    (And before everyone starts about entering the IDLH atmosphere, no, we would not knowingly enter a vessel containing a hazardous atmosphere. Our rule of thumb is if the victim is unconscious or unresponsive, we're on breathing air. If the victim is talking and oriented, we'll go in without...but you know, stuff happens.....)
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream ó and I hope you don't find this too crazy ó is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    ó C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  4. #4
    Forum Member HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
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    i know almost nothing about rope rescue, but I would almost always lower a rescuer rather than rappell, for one simple reason:

    if you are rappelling down the side of a building to make a rescue and the victum panics and jumps for the rescuer (when the rescuer isn't expecting it) both are going for a long fall.

    if you are being lowered, and the patient jumps for the rescuer (when the rescuer isn't expecting it) the rescuer don't have to worry about keeing himself from falling as well as catching the victum.

    also, if the victum is grabbing at the rescuer, and someone gets his hands off his rope, again, both are going for a long fall. if his is being lowered, keeping the rescuer from falling is the job of his fellow rescuers, and even if the guy ends up upside down and banging against the wall, he still isn't going to fall.

    just my uneducated opinion, it's probably better to listen to the other guys.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

  5. #5
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    We have trained in both methods, but lean more toward lowering. That way the rescuer's hands are more likely to be free for victim assessment, packaging, or whatever else is necessary. If the rescuer is going into a vault, pit, or other area where his feet will be on a stable element , we may choose rappel to get to the victim a little quicker. In reference to the posts about a fall, we always use two ropes. One for load, one for belay. That's how I was trained, so that is what we do.

  6. #6
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    i think it would depend on the situation. in a situation where you were going down a cliff or even a building or off a bridge or piece of equip., basically any high angle situation, rapelling would be choice. for confined space, esp with possibility of hazardous atmosphere, remember that you must monitor at all times in a confined space rescue, lowering is choice. this is odd because my company just did training on this yesterday.

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    Default

    It all depends on the situation, the fire service likes its black and white senarios. You can't say always and never in a rescue environment.
    Myself I like to controll my own descent but their will be situations that require the rescuer to be lowered.
    Our regional team leaders had a huge debate over belay lines recently, one side said it is mandatory for everyone to be on a belay, the other said you need to look at the situation and see if it is safe and appropriate. By the end of the meeting the mandatory crew won out, about a week later we had a rescue that required a 300' rappel that involved a lot of lateral movement during descent. The rescuer would have been tangled in a belay line, causing far more problems then it was worth. So much for always and never

    So the moral of the story is; practice both use what is most appropriate.

    Stay safe

  8. #8
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    It is always nice to see rescuers acknowledging the situational nature of technical rescue incidents and not being so married to a particular technique or approach that it is difficult or impossible to adapt to the needs of a particular situation.

    I am a big fan of having a "preferred" method of tackling a problem since it tends to expedite things, but if the preferred method is the only method and the problem doesn't fit that method the chances of a serious problem rise. Units should make sure that they train on any technique that they ever plan on utilizing. Just training on one means that, for all practical purposes, the other(s) are not viable options without adding potentially significant risk to the rescue.

    Too many "trainers" at local agencies seem to have a myopia that prevents them from seeing or understanding other options because they have never seen or experienced anything beyond what they were taught. It unfortunately becomes a self-perpetuating problem because those that they train never get the experience either. The knowledge base never gets broad or deep enough. Probably not a huge deal if all the agency ever does is 1x-a-year-car-over-the-embankment-40' rescue, but if there are likely responses into more complex environments people can quickly get in over their heads and not realize it. They don't know what they don't know, but think they know it all.

    Enough soap box. All that being said - I prefer lowering for some of the reasons others have noted, but will rap if needed.

  9. #9
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    Cool both

    both, this way you have all the benefits of every thing, self rappel, lowering, belay, and rigging your raising sytem while doing the lower/rappel if needed.
    For confined space, lower/raise sytems all the way, use radios and oath.
    Probably the only time not to be belayed is when it creates a greater entanglement hazard just like in confined space.
    My two cents.....

  10. #10
    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    In a confined sapce rescue, I prefer to be lowered.

    In a twoer or rope rescue setting, I prefer to rappel- I like to be "in control" so to speak of my descent and what I'm doing. Having said that, in a rappel and rescue situation I will only ever use a double stop descender in case something goes wrong...
    Luke

  11. #11
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    I prefer a self rappel, with a top belay using a DCD, which can be converted to a haul. Another safety if self rappel, is to use an Auto-Bloc which if the rescuer lets go of the DCD, he isnt going anywhere.

  12. #12
    Forum Member sfdR1LT's Avatar
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    It depends on the situation and ability of the rescuer. Basically in a CS situation always lower the rescuer. In a High angle situation it depends on the operations plans and goals. If itís a pick off or getting a rescuer into an area for rescue a rappel may be OK. Letís not get too fixated on one method. If youíre doing CS or high angle rescue everyone needs to be proficient in rope rescue to be flexible enough to adapt to situations and conditions.

  13. #13
    Forum Member croaker260's Avatar
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    In my area we do a lot of moutainous terrain and steep scree/verticle work (although we do have some CS areas and urban stuff, we usually dont get much action there). I think everyone above has good points, and I cant add much to them. I will say that in the near verticle setting, regardless of location, our prefered method is to be lowered, just to have your hands free. The issue is when you are short in trained manpower, time constrained, or limited on equipment (all of wich are realities when you get in the mountains of Idaho) it is sometimes better to do a solo rope rescue than a lower....but usually that is the exception not the rule.

    Steve
    Steve

    Paramedic, CCEMT-P, Geek

    "Boldness is like a condom. If you depend on it all the time, no matter how good it is, and no matter how good you are, eventually it will break. "

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