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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.


No matter how cool your wife is with rope stuff and your mastery of fear while working at height,  I’m sure you will find that it is always cooler to you than it is to her. While you may be dying to impress her with your ability to tie an Alpine Butterfly with one hand or some other type of awesomeness, I think you’ll find it leads to more trouble than it is worth.

Take for instance the fellow who wanted to be flown in by crane to impress the girl he was proposing to. It does not end well. Take note of a few things here: The first is that we have one crane supporting the boom of another in order to lift a one person load ! I’m not a crane guy, but I can’t imagine that this is advocated for in any safe rigging manual. The other issue is the sling itself. A simple choker wasn’t cutting it. That thing needed to be wrapped a few times in order to keep it from slipping up the boom. Just keep that in the back of your mind next time you sling an anchor that has the potential for a lateral load. It’s hard to tell, but it also looks like it might have been short jacked in the back.



Below are some examples of woman humoring their mans desire to strut his peacock feathers on rope

One of them looks like they are having fun:

wedding rope swing


Below is another example of 50% of the participants thinking “This is the coolest thing ever!” Although there actually is  a pretty cool backstory to it HERE

wedding rappel 2


Cool only because they managed to get an artificial high directional in the mix:

wedding rappel 3


I wonder if the chicks in the pictures are bride-zillas about the rigging. You know like compromising rigging angles in order to get the best pictures, “does this harness make me look fat” etc…  Just thinking out loud.  Stay Safe!





Check out this article from Las Vegas. It’s about the new 550′ Ferris wheel that can hold over 1100 people and the article highlights some of the planning that went in to possible rescue situations.

Kudos to the Las Vegas FD tech rescue team for being proactive in the situation. It looks like, should something ever happen, that it will be a complex mix of lead climbing, aid climbing, and some team based lowering. The fact that the fire dept. was consulted at all during construction is pretty neat too. Anchors were placed inside each pod so that a system could be hooked up and 3 victims at a time can be lowered.

Neat stuff!

ferris wheel

Thanks to my sister, Caity, for pointing this one out to us. It’s not rescue stuff, but be sure to check out her awesome website Lots of great sculptures there!

The recent rescue by the South Walton Fire District’s Technical Rescue team in Florida is a great example of rescue where it is easy to access the victim by something as simple as a ladder, but where a rope based system might still be the best alternative for getting them down to the ground safely.

You can see in the pictures that the guys on the ground are able to guide the basket most of the way to the ground while it is supported on  the ladder and being lowered with rope.

Two quick points: If possible, I would have tried to line up my ladder with my anchors so that it was all in plumb. Maybe there is a good reason they didn’t. It’s hard to tell from just a picture.  Secondly, you can see how easily they overcame this by just having a rescuer on the roof do a very minor deflection by just pulling on the rope. It’s a good example of knowing how to easily overcome a problem by knowing a few physics tricks.

Not all rope calls are high pucker factor incidents of life and death. Sometimes it’s just the simplest way of getting  the patient to the ground. Good job, guys.


swfd easy access

Here is a comparison of rescues performed at different speeds. The first one is an actual rescue from down in Florida of a worker who was suspended in his fall arrest harness after the scaffolding he was on collapsed. The word from our sources who were on the scene informed us that it took 1.5 hours to perform this pickoff rescue. I was not personally there and can not speak first hand of the details, but I am told that it was a pretty straight forward scenario that just took a very long time to accomplish.


The good news is that it was successful, but had the victim been in distress, it might have been a different outcome. A pickoff should be one of the bread and butter operations of every rope team. On the scene is not the time to figure out where your attachments go to the victim, method of unweighting them from their system, etc… This should all be hammered out and drilled on well in advance.

Click here for the story and video:


The opposite end of the spectrum is this video, brought to our attention by Eric Ulner of Ropes that Rescue, of a rescue competition which includes pickoffs. These guys are FAST!!! It looks like the video is sped up, but this is just the end product of dozens of hours of disciplined practice.

While real world rescues obviously present situations you are unable to specifically PLAN for, you should always be PREPARED for what might come your way. Rescues don’t need to happen at competition speed, but that’s no excuse for taking an excessive amount of time, either.

What, climbing up the outside of the Shard in London is not what you were thinking?

Six activists from Greenpeace were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic and decided to let the world know about it by shouting it from the roof top. The roof they chose, however, was the top of the Shard in London which is 1017′ high. It took them 15 hours to make the climb up the outside of the building. From looking at all of the pictures, it sure looks like they were well prepared to make the ascent without trouble.

shard protest

As a rescue consideration, it sounds like there were several points along the route where a rescuer could have accessed a climber without having to start at ground level. Letting them get to the top to make their point and then arresting when they came in was probably the easiest way to deal with the situation without any snafus and without placing anybody in additional danger. Should it have been necessary though, this kind of climbing and exposure is certainly outside of the normal scope of the urban rescuer. All the more reason to train and be equipped for just such a rescue.

Here is some video from the climb:

Climbing that is a little less well planned is the focus of the story Height of Stupidity which highlights the exploits of British youth who free climb cranes and other high structures. Ah, the invincibility of youth ! Sooner or later the inevitable will happen and somebody’s grip won’t be as strong as it was yesterday or they had a moment of clarity and decided they were scared and are hanging on for dear life. Whatever the case may be, somebody is going to have to go and get them.  Just as with the Shard climbers it is going to take some lead climb skill and in this case, will also require a harness be put on somebody who doesn’t already have one. Hopefully your team is prepared for that. If you don’t have a manufactured victim harness, make sure the team knows how to fashion a webbing seat around somebody who isn’t willing or able to lift their legs up to slide into a harness.


Stay Safe!

Enrollment is now open for our Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue. The class will be held August 24 and 25 at the Lancaster County Public Service Training Center in Lancaster County, PA at a cost of $295 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. As you can see in the pictures below from our last class, we did a good bit of work with the Rock Exotica UFO. One particularly challenging and fun scenario was to change the direction of our main and belay lines 180 degrees on an anchor that was free floating in the middle of the stair landing. There was also some excellent use of the UFO to simplify the rigging of a Two Rope Offset.

In addition to the Arizona Vortex, Appalachian Doortex, MPD’s, UFO’s, and AZTEK’s, we’ll also have available for use in this class three new products (some not even on the market yet) from Rock Exotica:

The little brother of the UFO; the rockStar.

The Enforcer load cell; which features swivels at both ends, a digital readout, and Bluetooth transmitting capabilities!

The AZORP (Arizona Omni Rigging Pod); an add on used to increase the already amazing flexibility of the Arizona Vortex.

open enrollment August 2013

Here are some pictures from our last MTRR class; we did some heavy duty 3D rigging along with some urban AZV usage:

IMG_1408 IMG_1412 IMG_1420 IMG_1429 IMG_1432 IMG_1434 IMG_1393

This class is different each time we run it and we’ve developed new techniques each class with input and ideas from the students. If you’re interested in seeing and helping develop 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

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

While Batman may have nothing to do with these two stories, they are nonetheless a bit holy in that both of the following rope stories take place in churches.

The first story is of 85 year old Rev. Tim Harrison of St George’s Cathedral in Perth, Australia who rappeled 130 feet down the side of the bell tower for Seniors week. From some of the pictures, it looks like he has better form than a lot of 20-somehthings! Good job Reverend.

Heavenly Descent

And if you think bell towers and rope go together like milk and cookies, you might be right. But then again, you might end up like an unlucky bell-ringer from near Bath, England. While ringing the bells at her local church, the unlucky victim made the rookie mistake of not letting go of the rope in time. What followed was the inevitable flying up in the air and the requisite return trip to terra firma at the speed of gravity.

The victim was knocked unconscious and had to be lowered through a hole in the belfry floor rather than carried down the small stairway. Not an obvious place for a rope rescue, but certainly a heads up call by the responders on scene.

Unholy Ascent