Apparatus & Equipment, Drills, Firefighter Training, Firefighting

Drill of the Week: Ropes and Knots

Many fire service tasks have “wizards” connected to them somehow-pump wizards, roof wizards, vehicle rescue wizards, etc. Ropes and knots are no different. For some firefighters, ropes and knots are their least favorite thing to learn, while other firefighters are naturals at learning them all and the myriad uses each knot has. Whether or not ropes and knots are your thing, you should have a basic knowledge of some of the easier knots and their usage and be able to tie them proficiently when needed. Obviously, officers should know the capabilities of their crew. Preparing to lower an injured worker from a peaked roof in a stokes is not the time to turn around and wonder, “Who are my knots guys?”

Howard Chatterton’s ropes and knots drill is designed as a once a year drill and can be conducted indoors during the winter months. The objectives of the drill are to:

  • Review the procedure for inspecting utility ropes;
  • Ensure that the members can competently inspect rope and log the results of that inspection;
  • Develop proficiency in knots and rope throws.

NOTE: This drill is for utility rope usage only. Lifelines and rescue ropes have special care and use requirements.

Setup time for the drill is about 15 minutes. Materials required include:

  • Utility ropes carried on apparatus;
  • Personal ropes carried by firefighters;
  • Two sawhorses;
  • Straight ladder;
  • Basket stretcher;
  • Axes;
  • Fans;
  • Pike poles;
  • Hose roll and nozzle.

Preparation for the drill requires only that you ensure the proper equipment is available for the drill.

Running the Drill
Run the drill according to Chatterton’s plan or add other knots in which you feel your members should be proficient.

Have members remove ropes from the apparatus and conduct an inspection of each one according to your procedures. Enter the results of the inspection in a company log that shows the date each rope was placed in service and the date of the inspection.

Have members place a ladder flat across the sawhorses and have them demonstrate the clove hitch and figure eight knots on the ladder. Have them tie these knots:

  1. Facing the ladder;
  2. Facing the ladder with eyes closed; and
  3. With their backs turned to the ladder.

Each member then demonstrates attaching the rope to raise the ladder using a figure eight on a bight. At the next station, each member ties a rescue knot, followed by the next station where each member ties a line to raise or lower a basket stretcher. Next, practice throwing the rope you would use for water rescue. Place the members at one end of the apparatus bay with a trashcan for a target at the other end. Strive for both distance and accuracy.

At the end of the drill, split the members into two relay teams on one end of the apparatus bay. Place a straight ladder, axe, two hose rolls with nozzles, a pike pole, and a fan at either end of the bay. Place a rope beside each. Decide which knots you want to practice and how you want to apply each knot–i.e. a half hitch and clove hitch on an axe for raising, or a figure eight on a bight for raising, etc.

As with any drill, brief participants beforehand and always critique it at the end, to determine how to make the drill better.

Visit to review training officer and safety officer considerations.

For more information on this drill, visit to purchase Volunteer Training Drills-A Year of Weekly Drills.″> Drill of the Week Archive