The advantage of using rope access methods mainly lies in the safety and speed with which firefighters can get to or from difficult locations and then carry out their work.
The definition of a rope describes it as a group of plies, yarns or strands which are twisted or braided together in order to combine them into a larger and stronger form. This all sounds very simple, but in emergency response, rope can be a vital piece of equipment in achieving a successful outcome.
Highly trained teams are working in emergency response utilizing ropes in a variety of ways. So what is rope’s function in emergency response?
Rope access is a form of work positioning, firstly developed from techniques used in climbing and caving, which applies practical rope work to allow emergency responders to access difficult locations without the use of ladders and aerial platforms. Trained emergency response rope access technicians descend, ascend, and traverse ropes for access while suspended by their harness. The support of the rope is intended to eliminate the likelihood of a fall altogether in the response. Responders will use a back-up fall arrest system for the unlikely failure of their primary means of support. This system is usually achieved by using two ropes.
Technical rescue refers to those aspects of saving life or property that employ the use of tools and skills that exceed those normally reserved for fire fighting, medical emergency, and rescue. These disciplines include swiftwater rescue, confined space rescue, ski rescue, cave rescue, excavation rescue, and building collapse rescue, among others. In the United States and Canada, technical rescues will often have multiple jurisdictions operating together to effect the rescue, and will often use the Incident Command System to manage the incident and resources at scene.
Rope rescue involves the use of static nylon kernmantle ropes, anchoring and belaying devices, friction rappel devices, various devices to utilize mechanical advantage for hauling systems, and other specialized equipment to reach victims and safely recover them. Three primary categories of rope rescue exist; high angle urban, mountain rescue, and cave rescue. There are significant differences between each in both technique and equipment. As a rule, urban rope rescue involves heavier equipment and is of relatively short duration. Cave and wilderness rope rescue involves lighter equipment with extended rescue times.
Confined Space Entry
Confined space is a term which refers to an area which is enclosed with limited access which make it dangerous. An example is the interior of a storage tank, which responders may enter for a rescue but which is not ordinarily a habitable space. Hazards in a confined space often include suffocation by unbreathable gases which may be present but not visible, submersion in liquids or free-flowing granular solids in grain bins, or electrocution. Often these spaces will have a predetermined rescue plan which incorporates the appropriate safety harness and other rescue equipment.
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Being able to track your response equipment and maintenance is one of the reasons D4H™ Equipment Management was created.