confined space rescue

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





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.


If you’re pulling on pulleys, multiplying the power of your polyester,  performing a panoply of pick-offs, or trying to find a towel to wipe the spit off of your computer screen from reading so many “P” words in row; take a look at the videos below. They are each a description of how pulley systems work and are in order from simple concepts and explanations to a little more involved. You might know this stuff cold or it may be a good review. Either way, watching these videos is a fun and easy way to make sure all of the people on your team a staying fresh on pulley systems.

This first video is from the old Bill Nye the Science Guy show. If the opening cartoon brings you back to your youth, you can also look for “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock. It must have been the same animator. Thanks to Phil Box at Rope Test Lab for posting a link to this

A little up the food chain is this classroom type demonstration from New England Rope:

Here is Pat Rhodes going over his 5 rules for a Mechanical Advantage system.

This last lesson for the day is Pat explain how to stagger your compound Mechanical Advantage systems so that they collapse at the same time:

While the Arizona Vortex is usually thought of as an industrial and wilderness rescue piece of equipment, it’s no secret that I think its full potential as a tool for the urban rescuer has not been fully explored. With that in mind, we are constantly trying (occasionally failing) to find out how to best use this tool to our advantage.  We’ve been working on different configurations of the Appalachian Wedge Pole (AWP) lately.

The first and perhaps the most useful version of the Wedge Pole is used to create anchors in a hallway where others might not exist. While no permanent name has been found yet, and because it appears to be bombproof, we’ve been calling it the Atomic Wedge Pole. Or Atomic Wedgie for short. As in: “Hey give him an Atomic Wedgie quickly, so we can get on with this rope rescue. ”  But again, no permanent name yet.

Below are some pictures we took during the discovery phase of these anchors, a scale model so to speak. They were loaded with a couple of guys giving it all they had, leaning into the load line. It was an initial test to see if the anchors would move at all. The next step in the process will be to load these with a one person load and operate a raising and lowering system. Then on to a two person load.


A slightly more complex version that allows for a longer haul field that runs toward the edge.


2 to 1 Wedgie

Some techniques might be setups in search of an application, the picture below being one such example. I envision using this above a hole in a hallway, where there are no other anchors present. This might be more of an industrial confined space setup, but it’s neat to see in action.


These pictures above are of urban usage, but we developed the technique out on the rocks. Here are two pictures of the first AWP setups, one horizontal and one vertical, from when the idea first struck.



This last picture comes to us from the men of Group 2 on Rescue 1 with the Boston Fire Department. They constructed an Appalachian Lean-To and changed the direction of the haul line 90 degrees at the head resting on the floor. To counteract the resultant force that wants to lift the left leg away from the wall, they front tied the setup to an anchor spanning the doorway with two AZTEKs, one of which is doing the job of keeping that left leg in compression when it naturally wants to pull away from the wall because of the COD on the head. Good job guys!

sandy lasa

Enrollment is now open for our Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue. The class will be held March 30 and 31 at the Lancaster County Public Service Training Center in Lancaster County, PA at a cost of $280 per student.

This class covers multiple versions of the bowline along with some pretty god reasons to consider them, several uses of the AZTEK kit, a thorough introduction to the Two Tension Rope System concept with the MPD, and the use of the Arizona Vortex Artificial High Directional in some pretty typical urban setup configurations as well as some Rescue 2 Training exclusive uses of it in a few of the Appalachian Doortex configurations.

Below are some pictures from the last MTRR class in Lancaster. It was during this class that the Appalachian Flagpole was developed. The AF is designed to create a high point for grain silo rescue while not having to rely on the lightweight roof for support. A couple of the pictures show its first inception. The picture of the AF with the an MPD attached to the A frame head (next to the conex boxes) is where it is currently at. It is another high directional/anchor combo.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s on the cutting edge of rope rescue equipment and techniques, contact Kelly to reserve a spot in this popular class. Call 240-462-6610 or send an email to

open enrollment March 2013

IMG_1219 IMG_1223 IMG_1233 IMG_1234 IMG_1235 IMG_1236 IMG_1238 IMG_1239 IMG_1241 IMG_1243 IMG_1247 IMG_1250 IMG_1265 IMG_1123 IMG_1109 IMG_1103 IMG_1122

Near Olympia, WA a man was rescued after falling approximately 30′ down a well into waist high standing water. Good heads up by the rescue team when they threw him a PFD to help keep him from drowning into water of an undetermined depth. Note also, the presence of well known volunteer Batt. Chief Andy Speier of the technical rescue team.

A local press release:


Shortly after 10:30 this morning, members of the Thurston County Special Operations Rescue Team (SORT) assisted Mason County Fire District #4 in the rescue of a man that had fallen into an abandoned well at a residence located in the 300 block of SE Arcadia Road near Shelton. According to Andy Speier, Battalion Chief with the McLane Black Lake Fire Department, the man was in the process of demolishing a shed and was standing on what he believed was a four foot deep sump when the earth gave way, plunging him 35 feet down the well into deep water. First responders from Mason County Fire District #4 and the Sheriff’s office were able to successfully lower a floatation device and protective clothing to the man who was treading water to stay afloat.

According to Speier, “With the rescue team in place, Lt. Mark Schreck of the Olympia Fire Department was lowered into the well to prepare the victim to be hoisted back to the surface”. “Once secured in a harness, the man was then hauled up and out of the well”. While the patient was wet and cold, he appeared to be uninjured from the fall.

Technical rescue trained firefighters from Mclane Black Lake, Olympia, East Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater Fire Departments assisted in the rescue.


[brightcove vid=2081848354001&exp3=836564316001&surl=,AAAAR_p154k~,Ay3i1IziTki8aMdGaY0jFtvV8ga6DiJN&w=615&h=392]





Thanks once again to Mike Forbes for the heads up on this.




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!

A pig and a dog walk into … Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn’t it? Really, it’s just the start of a bad day for two animal owners.

Some people like ham during the holidays, this pig in Colorado wanted no part of that family tradition and attempted to bury himself to get away from ending up on the family table. Thankfully, the local FD was on hand to make sure this giant hog didn’t stay in his makeshift hole for too long.

In all seriousness though, how would you have handled this incident had the pig not been able to assist in is own rescue. My initial thought would be to wrap a salvage cover and some large ratchet straps under his belly to make a sling, which could be rigged to a raising system. As for a high point… maybe a couple of ground ladders lashed together at the tip and a block and tackle attached? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Click on the “comment” button (above or below the post, depends on how you’re viewing it). Thanks to Statter911 for making us aware of this one.

In another animal related story, a dog fell down what is believed to be an airshaft for an abandoned mine. The shaft is roughly 150′ deep. The dog was uninjured in the fall and happy as heck to see his owner upon surfacing, naturally. The dogs owner also seems genuinely appreciative of the rope team’s work.

Make sure you click on the link ti the photo gallery to the left of the article. One of the pictures there shows the opening to the hole. It definitely looks like a pretty dangerous opening, with lots of debris ready to fall down the hole. A good high point looks like it would almost be mandatory, so your ropes wouldn’t be rubbing on the edge.

Here are some new AZV uses we at R2T have been testing to see the real world practicality of.  There are some earlier proof of concept pictures on the multimedia page, but these were done in exposure with a two person load. They’re all versions of what we’ve decided to call the Appalachian Doortex (APD), an obvious attempt at getting some East Coast love into the rope world.

The purpose of these APD is to create either an anchor, a high directional, or both simultaneously in the urban environment. The initial thought was for use in elevators, but can obviously work to create an anchor anywhere there is a solid block wall surrounding a door. We run A LOT of stalled elevators in in the city where I work, 15 a day is about average in our geographically small city. Not many require any rope work at all, but the one’s that do can be a real pain. Have you ever looked in an elevator lobby for anchors or a high directional? Not much around. That’s the problem we were trying to solve.

The “Ram’s Head” is the first version we came up with. In this configuration we hooked both MPDs right to the head of the APD; there was no guying, tying, or anything. The foot of the lazy leg was not resting against the opposite wall. Aside from a very minor initial settling in of the APD, it did not move during the operation. It was loaded with a two person load that was raised and lowered several times. One of the MPDs was hooked up in a fashion that caused it to bind against the head of the AZV a bit because it allowed us to have the operating handle facing outward. Because of the angle of the rope leaving the MPD into the elevator shaft, this very minor binding was felt not to be an issue.

Next up is an Upside Down APD, with no clever name given yet. Maybe the Appalachian Lean-To (ALT)? Yup we’ll go with that for now.  Just another way to make an anchor/HD combo. Also loaded with a two person load, operated up and down a bunch.

Here is the close up of the dual MPD anchoring on the Appalachian Lean-To.

Below are two pictures of what we used to keep the the Appalachian Lean-To from kicking back should it have wanted to. It didn’t want to. We had a dynomometer in there to see if there was any force trying to push the ALT away from the opening. The needle didn’t move at all during the operation. We were pulling against an extra leg section of an AZV run through two 4×6 blocks with holes drilled in them to keep the leg section from resting on a small, roll prone contact point on the hoistway doors. We’ve been calling them “Brace Blocks” (Appalachian Brace Blocks?) They worked really well. I suspect they can be used to help span doorways in buildings to create quick, simple anchors in a hallway.

While we have not tested a center pulled AZV leg to failure yet, this one was pulled to 500 lbs without any visible deflection. Further testing on this configuration will be conducted in the near future and we’ll let you know what we find out.

If anybody has any thoughts, questions or comments on this, or would like further training on operating on rope in an urban environment please feel free to leave a comment below or send Kelly an email directly at

From St. Paul Minnesota comes video and pictures of this confined space /trench / rope rescue incident where a worker fell down a hole that he had just bored in the sandy soil for a column for the light rail tracks. Thanks to Collin Moon from Elevated Safety for the heads up on this one.

Clever job by the St Paul guys using a horse collar to hand down to the guy in the pit to raise him up with. All in all a decent looking job done simply; the best way. If I could pick some things to improve, I’d definitely make the bight attached to the rescuers harness smaller, I’d probably control the operation with the rope instead of the bucket (which they may have done but it doesn’t look like it), and I would probably get the two guys out of the bucket during the operation.

Here is a link and two pictures of the incident. The CMC MPD looked to be used in this incident for the mainline.