This post was originally published in Dec of 2012. After switching servers we lost the video and some of the pictures.  We’ve recently found them again and wanted to repost this for the many people who contacted us during the past 4.5 years asking about it. Enjoy.


During our most recent “New Technologies” class in Lancaster, PA, we we were posed with the scenario of how to create a high point and system for rescue from grain silos. It was explained to us that the flimsyness of a roof on a silo doesn’t exactly inspire confidence to operate on. Not to mention that there aren’t that many anchors up there.

After thinking on it for a bit, we were able to come up with what basically amounts to a gin pole lashed to the interior ladder and rising up above the top of the silo, much like a flagpole. So we called it the Appalachian Flag Pole (naturally).

After searching around for a while after class, it appears we were not the first people to figure out the AF. The cell tower industry uses this sort of thing to raise sections of their towers. They just call it a gin pole…BORING.  As far I can tell, nobody has tried this as a rescue technique.

Boring Gin Pole:

cell gin

The basic setup of the Appalachian Flag Pole consists of lashing a few sections of an Arizona Vortex to the interior ladder of the silo. With about 3 feet of it sticking up above the top of the structure. Yes, it is unsupported, but there is not a lot of bending force on the top of the AFP. The resultant force is pretty much straight down the leg, with the force being transferred to the ladder.

Version 1 of the of the AFP had the haul system attached to the orange head, which is at the bottom of the AFP and lashed to the ladder, with a change of direction at the top of the AFP and the rope going back down to the victim.



It worked well, but required a lot of resets.

So, while working with Collin Moon and the guys from Elevated Safety in Chicago, we were able to refine the technique by attaching out MPD to the top of the AFP and do a counter balance raise. We also figured out that we could the blue AZV head for out top anchor point instead of a foot. And when Rock Exotica comes out with the 720 head…watch out!

Check out the video below to see the AFP in action. A couple of things to keep in mind: Where the camera is filming from would actually be the outside of the silo. Collin is the rescuer in this case; the victim outweighs him by a good 50lbs and he was still able to easily accomplish the task. This only happens when the rescuer hauls upwards on the victims line while simultaneously sitting down on the counterbalance line. Lastly, after the victim is out of the hole at the top (the metal grating in this case) they can be pushed to the outside of the silo and lowered with the MPD. If the video below is taking too long to load, CLICK HERE for the video on Youtube. Take a peak:

There are some urban applications that we believe the APF would excel at and will post the results when we complete the testing on it. It is our belief that it can be used successfully in the urban setting, such as the chimney in the picture below, where a man suffered a fatal fall into the chimney while attempting to take pictures. This happened in Chicago on 12/13. Article Here

CT Intercontinental00003.JPG

If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to leave them or to contact me at  Enjoy!

Well…it’s Carbon Monoxide (CO), so there isn’t a smell. But there is something interesting going on with the hose lines in this Supplied Air Breathing Apparatus system.

Air Line CO

115 PPM of CO !


While scouring the internet for all things pertinent to Rescue work, our newest member, Jimbo H, found an interesting after action report from LA County. Apparently, two firefighters entered a tank using SCBA to make a rescue of a downed worker. After about 15 minutes the firefighters switched from SCBA to Supplied Air; 3 minutes after the switch is when things started going downhill for them. An attentive  person working the communications kit noticed the firefighters breathing funny and started the process to get them out.


I’m not sure how they switched from SCBA to SABA. It’s possible they switched out their entire system while in the space, which seems like a bad idea. Or, they could have been using their SCBA and then just hooked up to their EBSS or URC from a remote source. If that were the case, the air from the remote source would seem to be the problem.


I’m not sure that the level of CO present in our hoses and in that small of a volume would cause the same problem as experienced in LA County, but it’s interesting to note that bad air can exist in the hoses.

LA County Blue Sheet





We repost this every year on the anniversary of Mark Falkenhan’s death because we feel very strongly that we don’t want to lose the lesson about closing the door while searching. Mark’s death is a very graphic example of how much more tenable rooms can be by simply closing the door.



If you’ve not read about this LODD, please take a minute to read some of our thoughts on it as well as the NIOSH report. There are also several fire models done by the ATF that show how the fire progressed. One interesting note: A sharp eyed reader of this website noticed a PPV fan in one of the pictures while the fire was still going on. He had asked if that had any bearing on the rapid fire spread. After reaching out to the ATF agent who did the modeling, he replied that the fan was never turned on and thus had no bearing on the fire spread.

We want to thank you, the readers, for picking up on stuff like this as well as the ATF for responding so quickly and candidly.

A link to our original article:

Close the Door Please, I’m Busy in Here

NIOSH report:


Please email to register.



Well… We blew right past our usual springtime open enrollment time frame and,  after many requests, we have finally nailed down a date for our next Modern Technologies In Rope Rescue class.

Come join us in Lancaster, PA on July 23 and 24  2016 at the Lancaster County Public Service Training Center for our latest offering of the always popular Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue class. In this two day, all hands-on training, you will learn how much more efficient your rescues can be with a few pieces of modern gear and a whole lot of practical applications learned from real world experiences. Here is your chance to keep up on the latest equipment and trends in the rope rescue world.



Topics included this time around include:

Use of the AZTEK kit to pass knots, perform a pickoff, basket attending, and a whole lot more.

In depth discussion and use of the Two Tension Rope System utilizing the MPD.

Use of the Arizona Vortex high directional in the urban environment.

The Rescue 2 Training original: The Appalachian Doortex! For urban anchoring and elevator rescue. High Directional? Anchor? Both!?… Come find out!

3 dimensional anchoring with the UFO.

The Skyhook capstan winch.

…And much more.


The cost of this two day, 16 hour class is $295 per person. Just bring a harness, helmet, and any ideas or equipment you would like to see used.

Please contact Kelly Byrne at 240-462-6610 or for additional registration information or questions.




Check out this video sent to us by Francisco Palacios, owner of Ascendere SAS in Cali, Columbia. There seems to be a slight disagreement between the firemen and police on the scene of this training. What they are arguing over brings itself to light around the 00:46 mark.

There seems to be much debate about how to properly load the pulley on the track line. Ultimately the law does win, but they certainly are not right.



While there is great debate about whether the mirrored Two Tensioned Rope System (TTRS) using CMC Rescue Multi-Purpose Devices (MPDs) should or shouldn’t be the way to go, one argument seems to be more popular than others regarding it: If one of the lines should fail and the person operating the second MPD fails to let go, the load will have a catastrophic fall. This is a simplified statement that I feel sums up the majority of what the argument seem to be about.


Mirrored system run off the head of an Appalachian Doortex:


What I find most interesting with this argument is that we now want to account for a SECOND point of failure i our system. What if: one rope is cut, one anchor blows out, etc… AND what if the belayer doesn’t let go, doesn’t realize the first line is compromised, etc…

No other system rope rescue system is viewed in this perspective despite the fact that any belay system can be overridden by an inattentive belay operator. So if we want to assume a second point of failure, do we need a third rope? Of course not; we need a fourth in case the third one goes. I’m kidding, of course.

The arguments seem to hinge on whether or not failure one causes failure two and if the nebulous “human factors” can be accounted for. It’s an acceptable thought, but again, we don’t apply this anywhere else in our rigging process. Otherwise we would have tertiary anchors and ropes for every main anchor and change of direction. While human factors that can affect performance and safety are certainly worth looking at, I find it difficult to see how they can be applied equally to ALL systems.

What I think this segues into is a topic of the BCCTR BCDT (or more correctly ASTM F2436-05) criteria and whether or not it needs to be changed. The MPD meets the BCDT criteria. So does a T3WP and a 540. Both of these can be overridden when in use, but meet the BCDT criteria. How do we apply an equal rule about not letting go (human factor) of a device during a belay event? I don’t think there is one. By simply doing what ever you can to make a device fail while operating it during a belay test will only lead to a witch hunt against whatever device you don’t like.


The pessimist in me wants to do a presentation at ITRS entitled “They all Suck. A look at modern belay Devices” Now of course I don’t believe that, but I think this is the area that you will get to if you try and account for human factors in a test. As a fireman, I’ve seen lots of ways people have gotten themselves in trouble and I am positive that the rope world is not ready to account for human ignorance as part of a test method. I think the line has to be drawn somewhere. To quote the great author Douglas Adams: “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” A better idea, and one already in NFPA 1006 (make of that what you will), is to have people pass a competency test to operate a belay system.

But do we really need another test? We’ve got the BCDT to determine if the device is capable. We’ve got the “whistle test” to test our rigging if everybody were to let go. These two tests can be equally applied to a traditional main and belay system as well as a TTRS. Is there a way to devise a test that can be equally applied to every system? If there isn’t, then maybe now is the time to figure it out. If not then I think the arguments, while not pointless, will probably not be solved. I can stand on one side of the argument and talk until I am blue in the face that the the TTRS with MPDs meets all of our current criteria and somebody else can stand on the other side and talk about what will happen when somebody doesn’t let go of the handle.

Here is a suggestion for one (expensive) way to solve this problem:


2016-02-06 08.37.22

While the Petzl ASAP and L57 Absorbica are rated for two person loads for what Petzl calls “Accompanied Descent”, it is not shown in the instruction manual that you can attach it to the anchor to be used in the way shown in the picture above. I am extrapolating that it can be used that way. I have not tested this method yet, so I am only guessing as to its effectiveness. It is merely a possible solution to a problem that people have with an MPD based TTRS.

We get all off the benefits the TTRS has to offer as well as being protected from a runaway belay in the event of an inattentive operator.


Is an MPD based TTRS the be all, end all of rope rescue? Maybe, maybe not. But I do think it solves more problems than it causes. It also allows people who are required to perform rope rescue but don’t like it a safe way to operate, while at the same time allowing some unique options for the geek that a traditional slack belay system doesn’t allow.

There’s a ton of different ways to attach your travel restriction to your anchor; some right, some wrong. One of the easiest ways to make it happen is also one of the worst. Simply wrapping you  carabiner and rope around the anchor and clipping it back to itself is not an entirely uncommon sight.

Take a look at the videos below that were taken by Richard Delaney of Rope Lab and  Rope Test Lab on Facebook. They show what can happen if you actually took a fall on this type of tie off. This type of demonstration should be enough proof for the doubters that you should actually pay attention to how you tie off. It’s obviously an issue of training to make sure it always gets done correctly. Sometimes it can be the littlest attention to details that can have the biggest effect.



The wrong way:


Better ways to tie off are to use either a clove hitch or Italian (Munter) hitch:IMG_1654IMG_1652



Today is the 5th Anniversary of the death of FF Mark Falkenhan of Baltimore County. As we do every year on this day, we want to remind those of you tasked with searching above the fire to keep doors closed behind you.


If you’ve not read about this LODD, please take a minute to read some of our thoughts on it as well as the NIOSH report. There are also several fire models done by the ATF that show how the fire progressed. One interesting note: A sharp eyed reader of this website noticed a PPV fan in one of the pictures while the fire was still going on. He had asked if that had any bearing on the rapid fire spread. After reaching out to the ATF agent who did the modeling, he replied that the fan was never turned on and thus had no bearing on the fire spread.


We want to thank you, the readers, for picking up on stuff like this as well as the ATF for responding so quickly and candidly.

A link to our original article:


NIOSH report:


Keep the door closed!


There was a rescue from the Paulinskill Viaduct in New Jersey earlier this week. A young female injured her ankle while apparently climbing around under the viaduct, a popular place to do some urban exploring. The viaduct is listed a seeing 125′ above the creek below.


Reading the article linked below and looking at some of the pictures, a few things jumped out at me. The first was that just because you can access somebody on foot, in this case climbing down the manhole, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest way to remove them. It looks like the rescuers entered down the manhole on foot and came up the side of the viaduct as an attendant on the side of the stokes basket.

viaduct entrance viaduct edge transition


A couple of things I noticed: Great use of the tools at hand to construct a high directional. I do think, however, that it was leaned out a bit too far. If you watch the video in the link, you can see the difficulty in trying to bring the basket up and over the rail while the attendant is still attached. Not a huge difficulty, but probably frustrating.


Four quick thoughts on fixing that, from guy who wasn’t there and is Monday morning quarterbacking it.  First, don’t have an attendant. There didn’t look to be many obstructions on the way up.  Attendants are popular because it looks cool and we often times do it in training, but they are not needed as often as we put them on.

Second, have the attendant get on terra firma as soon as possible. This will cause  the edge crew to only have to haul a single person load out of plumb and up over the rail. This means that the attendant needs to EASILY be able to move up and down the rope; either be great at ascending and descending quickly or use something like an AZTEK kit for the attendant’s line.

Third, don’t lean the bipod over so far. It’s nice to not have any rope touching the edge anywhere, but it makes it a tremendous pain in the butt to try and get back up over the edge because you are trying to pull a load a couple of feet in on a short rope. Difficult, to say the least.viaduct distance

Fourth, make gravity work for you. I’m not sure if it was possible or not, but why not just lower all the way to the ground? Have the Gator at the train the bottom and move them up to the ambulance on that, perhaps? Again, I wasn’t there, but options like this one should always be considered during the size up.


After sharing a bunch of stories from around the world, here are two rope stories from the general where Rescue 2 Training is based out of.


The first story is of a cave rescue out of Monroe County, WV. The victim was approximately 4000′ inside of the cave when he fell approximately ten feet and broke his leg.  A mere 8 hours and 75 members later, he was back outside of the cave and on the way to the hospital. A picture from one of the local news stations shows just how much rope work went into this rescue.

I wasn’t there, so I feel a little bad about Monday Morning Quarterbacking it, but… A picture is just a snapshot of one small moment in time, but from looking at the picture, it seems that there were a couple of missed opportunities to tighten up the rigging a little bit. For starters, the double overhand safeties on the 8’s seems like a bit overkill. Additionally, the bights on the 8’s are overly long. And if clearance is an issue, and I assume it is being in a cave, why not just tie direct to the litter bridle with a scaffold knot and get yourself an extra 1′ or more of additional space?  Those minor quibbles aside, to looks like it was a difficult rescue and that they had to construct a highline in a cave just to provide a high anchor point to pull him up.




Even closer to home is the report of a man who fell 75 feet down Sugarloaf mountain while hiking and then had a seizure. Being on the dividing line between two counties, both Frederick and Montgomery County units assisted with the helicopter evacuation flown by Maryland State Police. I’m not sure about Mont. Co, but I know for certain the the Frederick County ATR (Advanced Technical Rescue) team does perform regular drills with the MSP helicopters in order to perform on these types of calls without any confusion. If your agency has the potential to run extract calls with a helicopter, do you have any special training to make sure nothing goes wrong when the helicopter shows up?


From the Frederick ATR Facebook page (cool video there of rescuers perspective too):

sugarloaf hoist



An interesting point from the news interview in the link below: When asked if he would go hiking again, the man who fell said that he probably wouldn’t do it unless he go there proper footwear and even then, would only stay on the trail. That’s an interesting point that might be lost on most people who have no idea why they might have fallen. Good for him for being self aware!






A department in Oregon was on the news for a rescue they accomplished when they rescued a kid who fell 50′ down a cliff while trying to retrieve a cell phone (thank goodness for job security). In the video footage win the link below, you can briefly see the setup they used during the actual rescue. The Fire Chief also took the opportunity of the news interview to have his guys using an Arizona Vortex at ground level for some good public education. Nicely done!


If you are interested in upping your game on how to use the Arizona Vortex, we still have a few spots available for our Oct. 19 and 20 Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue class.  HERE

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