Thread: Tower Rescue

  1. #1
    Forum Member
    vehext's Avatar
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    May 2003
    Charlottesville, Virginia

    Default Tower Rescue

    We are in the process of putting together a tower (cell or tree) rescue bag. So far I have a laser range finder, 200' dynamic rope, line throwing device, telephone pole climbing spikes and wire grabs. What else should we include?

    We are not interested in the assembled (pre-rigged) systems you can buy, just equipment we don't have since we have little experience with tower rescues.

    Thanks in advance!
    John E. Burruss, NREMT-P
    Heavy-Technical Rescue Instructor
    Virginia Department of Fire Programs

  2. #2
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    Halligan84's Avatar
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    Jan 1999
    Blackwood NJ, USA


    Do you have any ladder safeties? Either cable or crimped pipe? If so those are helpful. Bypass lanyards for lead climbing on ladders without protection. Short haul system to take someone off fall protection. Lower system to get them to mother earth. How about detection for or protection from RF? Grounding ability for radio antennas? I never realized the amount of hazards until we had some installation work done on a 360 tower and met up with a tower rescue guru. More than just high angle.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2001


    I hope the dynamic rope is being used for lead climbing and nothing else. The large deceleration distances you can have with dynamic rope make it unacceptable for rescue. It is also extremely inefficient for mainline applications for rescue.

    If you can afford it, look into the "Tower Rescue for Emergency Responders" video. It was made by Reed Thorne of Ropes That Rescue. Reed has tons of experience with tower work and the DVD set is great. You can purchase it from:

    The Petzl I'D is perfect for this type of rescue as it is lightweight and can serve more than one function. You can use it as a descent control device for rescue loads and then you can build a haul system, using the ID as the progress capture pulley at the anchor. It can also be used as a belay device for single person loads.PETZL ID

    There are a few different ways to climb the towers. The use of bypass lanyards is quick and easy but there are some limitations. Most manufacturers of bypass lanyards did not intend for them to be used for vertical progression on a structure so you need to look into this when purchasing. The Petzl Absorbica Y MGO and the Yates Tower Bypass Lanyard are two examples that were designed for this type of work. You will still be limited by the size of hook, which may only fit some of the structures in your area.

    Another type of climbing protection is the use of a shepherds hook. This is a common tool for tower workers. It is a large hook shaped like a ram's horn with a low stretch rope attached to it that is attached to an extendable pole . You reach up and hang the hook on the structure and then climb the structure while attached to the rope with a rope grab like a Petzl Shunt, Petzl Rescuescender, Tractel Stopfor D, or a MIO. When you reach the hook, you secure yourself to the structure with a work positioning lanyard like a Petzl Grillon, and advance the hook another 20-30 feet up the structure. You can see a shepherds hook at .

    Lead climbing is another access technique. This technique is the most versatile because the size of the structural members is not an issue and if you need to progress horizontally and vertically, like on a bridge structure, you can still protect yourself. The down side is, you need a great deal more training and the climber is exposed to large fall distances. Because most towers get wider at the base, the climber is likely to stike the structure a couple times before he is brought to a complete stop.

    Also consider purchasing aluminum rescue carabiners. CMC rescue has some that have a 40kn(9000lb) rating. CMC proseries biners . Using these can cut your equipment weight considerably which will improve your safety margin when climbing structures.
    Sometimes, in order to make an operation idiot proof, you must remove the idiot!

  4. #4
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    Feb 2005


    Quote Originally Posted by Halligan84
    How about detection for or protection from RF? Grounding ability for radio antennas? I never realized the amount of hazards until we had some installation work done on a 360 tower and met up with a tower rescue guru. More than just high angle.
    This brings up an excellent point. I was certified in RF Safety a while back as I am a former paging system engineer, and would have to enter "hot" areas (including tower climbing) to do my job. You would not believe the amount of radiated energy in some of those places.

    Now, you can't just "ground" an antenna. More often than not, the radiating element is encased in fiberglass or plastic, so all you're going to do is induce RF into the wire you're holding. Given that some antennas are putting out thousands of watts at frequencies that can hurt you, this is not adviseable. Also, never grab an antenna anywhere unless you know it to be cold -- RF burns hurt like hell and take a long time to heal, since it fries you from the inside out.

    Basic guideline with RF exposure though, is that it is non-ionizing (so the radiation doesn't stay with you after you leave) but is cumulative. Much like food in a microwave, the longer it's in there the hotter it gets. It actually works the same with your body, though if you know what to avoid you can work in the vicinity of antennas for a fair amount of time before coming down to "cool off". The catch is, you heat up internally first where you don't feel it, so you just have to know to come back down after a certain amount of time. Eyes are also generally the first to go, since they're mostly water and boil easily (unless you touch a hot antenna, in which case you'll get localized burns all the way through the tissue).

    My suggestion is that you follow something similar to the OSHA Lock-out/Tag-out procedure for transmitters. Now, obviously you can't identify each antenna and transmitter pair in the expedited time necessary for a rescue, so just "lock out" the whole building. Any radio site is going to have a large power breaker (or several) on the outside of the buildiing. This breaker should be between any backup generators and the equipment inside, so shut it down if you feel it's necessary. Some transmitters may have battery backups as well, but you'll get most of it.

    If you don't want to shut the place down, be mindful of your position awareness. Minimize time on the tower, and do NOT (repeat do NOT) EVER get in front of anything that looks like a dome or cylinder - these are microwave antennas, and just like what you cook your food in, can have a similar effect on you. Also going in front of dishes that aren't aimed skyward should be avoided. These directional antennas focus all of their power in a tuned manner and can cause problems for you with anything more than brief (i.e. walking without stopping) exposure.

    If you guys want I could put something together that shows what to avoid, etc. However you aren't going to do this type of rescue very often, so that may or may not be of value. Let me know if you want it though.

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