The Rescue Cablelight


Learning is 80-percent visual, but in low visibility or nighttime rescue scenarios, visual input is all the more important. In this-post 9/11 world, the rescue paradigm has shifted to include not just disasters but terrorist actions as well. We all have heard that “every second counts”; this is as true as it has ever been. In this changing environment, all first responders—fire, police, and EMS—have to work together. In addition, during these tough economic times, rescue crews have to do more with less. Finally, the two main reasons we lose firefighters are (1) stress-related health (i.e., heart attack and stroke) and (2) disorientation. The Rescue Cablelight was designed to assist firefighters and rescue personnel to stay calm and on task and to know the way out to fresh air and safety.

Vision is a product of rods and cones in our eyes processing visuals and then sending that information to our brain. There is photopic and scotopic (daytime and nighttime) vision; we will focus on scotopic, or low-visibility, scenarios. The eye can see light in the visible spectrum, which for humans is roughly from 400 to 700 nanometers of wavelength. The most visible wavelength is at or near 507 nanometers; in the color chart, this corresponds to blue to green or turquoise. The Rescue Cablelight emits light right at this optimum-viewing wavelength. So, the color of light emitted from the Rescue Cablelight most closely resembles the color most visible to the human eye in the dark. We have heard from more than one firefighter that keeping track of a knotted black rope is not an easy task, especially when visibility is zero and lives are on the line.

The Rescue Cablelight kit consists of a Storm Case, which houses the battery pack; electronic controls; and a reel loaded with 200 feet of flexible Cablelight, which has 480 pounds of tensile strength, is heat resistant to 385°F and cool to the touch. The Cablelight profile is about ¼-inch in diameter and can be fed down through openings and cracks to members who might be trapped below, signaling to them that they have been located. The lithium-ion battery pack lasts for 3½ hours and can easily be replaced with a backup pack. The rugged light line is directionally marked every 20 feet, so rescue personnel can instantly know how far in a structure they are and which direction is out to safety. The first responders would tie off the case at their entry point and slip the nine-pound reel harness over their shoulders as they enter. They play out the line as they go because often they are advancing around obstacles.

Using the Rescue Cablelight during RIC/RIT training at Fort Ord (Monterey Bay, California), firefighters were advancing farther into the structure faster, and their respirations were lower because they knew they had an egress pathway marked out for them. If a rescue professional finds himself deep in a building, either in a basement or behind some twisted metal or a concrete wall, he is not always reachable with a radio frequency signal. The Rescue Cablelight provides an Emergency Flash Mode that can be activated from the exterior so interior members can be instantly signaled about a potential collapse or other hazard.

The Rescue Cablelight is ideal for any situation where low or nighttime visibility, a power outage, a hazmat emergency, dangerous terrain, or a collapse situation presents itself and a first responder wants to mark a safe pathway for potential victims and other emergency responders to follow. Being able to place ambulatory individuals on the lighted path out to safety frees the responder to concentrate on those victims who truly need their lifesaving assistance.

Being able to quickly ferry victims along a marked pathway to safety is a paradigm that presents itself in terrorism situations as well. During the Mumbai terror attacks, the terrorists disabled fire alarms to the buildings, knowing that if someone could activate one, the building would quickly be “dumped” of potential hostages. As terrorists become smarter, we must stay a step ahead when it comes to embracing new technology that can counter their moves and help save the lives of first responders and potential victims. Flashlights and chem lights are adequate, but neither provides a continuous 360° illuminated, visible light path that can mean the difference between being lost or trapped and getting out in time.

Photo by Tom Daley.

Different responders all have their specific equipment and protocols, but one thing that is common to all of them is their eyes. The Rescue Cablelight is usable by any of the responders with virtually no training. When firefighters are running through their 30-minute air bottles in nine minutes because of the stress and strain of their lifesaving work, it is clear that “every second counts,” and being offered more seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

ALEX PARR is the president of Lumiflex Corporation.

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