Life-Saving Rope…For Civilians?

By Diane Feldman

A man called the equipment chief of a busy northern New Jersey urban fire department. He explained that his daughter lived on the 22nd floor of a local high-rise and he wanted to know what kind of rope he could buy her to use if she needed to escape a fire in her building.

The chief patiently explained to the man that it probably wasn’t a good idea for the daughter to slide out her 22nd-floor window on a 200-foot rope! The chief went on to say that she most likely would be injured or killed doing that and that the daughter would be better off wetting a towel and placing it under the front door and waiting for the fire department to arrive.


Don’t try this at home!

A department was making a Thanksgiving meal early in the day and decided to try deep frying a turkey. The members got out a burner, put a huge pot on it, filled the pot with oil, got it hot, and proceeded to lower the turkey into the hot oil for frying.

They put too much oil in the pot, however, forgetting that the turkey would displace some of the liquid (hot oil). When they lowered the turkey (using pike poles), the oil overflowed and ran down the sides of the pot onto the burner.

They were able to take the turkey out of the pot as soon as they discovered what was happening, but the damage had been done—and the burn marks on the ceiling from the ensuing fireball in the apparatus bay serve as a reminder of the “turkey incident” to this day.

Old equipment making a comeback?

Thirty years ago, deodorizers were carried on rescue trucks. The firefighters would use them in homeowners’ closets after a fire to try to rid clothing of the smoke smell (perfume to firefighters’ noses; stink to civilians’ noses).

Actually, William Peters, retired battalion chief and apparatus supervisor for the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department explains, such deodorizers are on the National Fire Protection Association’s list of recommended equipment to carry on a ladder truck (“deodorizer unit, power-operated”).

Some departments use them, but mainly cleaning services that specialize in after-fire cleanup use them. Wouldn’t that be a great customer service for your department to provide to the homeowner after their devastating life-changing event (if time, schedules, and staffing permit, of course)?

From the video shoot files

When we were shooting Bill Peters’ Factory Inspections of New Fire Apparatus video for Fire Engineering a few years ago (the Yenta served as producer on the video), we were off to a great start. The natural lighting the outdoors provided was perfect on that cool fall weekend morning, Peters was all gussied up in his crisp dress uniform to film his speaking parts, and the hosting fire department was graciously on time to let us onto the fire station premises.

We were on schedule and ready to shoot. All the equipment was set up—there were extra batteries and electrical cords, personnel were all in their places, Peters was positioned and fitted with a microphone … and then the videographer discovered he left the camera at home—40 minutes away!   

Famous wine/whine: “I want to go to Miami”

Some Miami-Dade (FL) firefighters call a great majority of their EMS calls “V and D” calls—“V and D” stands for “veak and dizzy”—the common complaint among the elderly population!  

On an unrelated note, the Yenta called a captain there on cell phone, and he was on the rig going to inspect hydrants. “What are you doing that for?” I asked, my civilian-ness showing. “In the very, very, very unlikely event we have a fire and in the very, very, very, very, very unlikely event that we have to hook up to a hydrant.” Think the EMS calls are outweighing the fire calls there?

Photo found on Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Nevit Dilmen.

The Yenta
Diane Feldman, a 21-year veteran of PennWell Corp., is executive editor of Fire Engineering and conference director of FDIC. She has a B.A. in English communications. She has been a yenta (look it up) for most of her life. If you have a story for the Yenta, e-mail





The FDNY Life Saving Rope (LSR) is 150 feet of 9/16-inch nylon with a hook at each end. It has a minimum breaking strength of 9,000 pounds and a workload of 600 pounds. Regulations require that the rope be used only for life-saving purposes (not for towing vehicles or moving tree limbs).

The rope is carried in a backpack carrying case for a total weight of 16 pounds (the rope is 14½ pounds, the case 1½ pounds). An anti-chafing device is carried on the rope and stored in the carrying case to protect the rope during use.

Each firefighter is equipped with a belt that has a hook with a gate/gate lock attached. The belt can be used to lower a person or to support a person being lowered.

ITie lowering and rescuing operation normally involves two firefighters. The firefighter to be lowered is secured by his life belt to the hook at the end of the rope. The other firefighter (termed the lowering man) slowly feeds the rope through the hook with the gate/gate lock on his life belt to lower the rescuer down to the victim. Usually the lowering man is separately tied off and secured to a substantial object (girder, bulkhead, etc.). This prevents him from toppling off the roof from the subsequent impact load of two people.

Much care and attention are given to the LSR assembly. As it is used only in extreme and dangerous situations, we place much importance on maintaining the rope itself. For example, we examine the rope daily and scrupulously check it weekly. Any defect, however slight, causes the rope to be taken out of service. If the rope is subjected to any strain, such as an impact load, it also is taken out of service.