Training Days: Rope and Knot Review

By Tom Kiurski

In the Midwest, when winter comes, you look to stay inside as much as possible during your tour of duty. Training doesn’t stop when the weather changes, but I do look for ways to stay inside during the cold winter days. A review of ropes and knots is one indoor class for Livonia firefighters.

The ropes and knots we reviewed were taught back in the early days of the fire academy. Firefighters who were in the academy more than 10 years ago may not be “in the loop” on some of the newer ropes and knots available. Tying knots is a skill that is lost if not practiced regularly.

The class starts out with a Power Point® presentation that explains the basics of ropes and how to maintain them. We discuss the many types of ropes available, and which are best suited for the fire service. Advantages and disadvantages of the various ropes are discussed, as well as some of the higher-priced ropes available that are (currently) cost prohibitive for most fire departments. We specifically discuss the ropes we use and their locations on our apparatus. This presentation also reviews some of the basic terminology relative to ropes, such as the working end, standing end, and running end, as well as the different bends in the rope we might use to form a knot, such as the bight, a loop, and a round turn. National Fire Protection Association 1983, Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services, is referenced for any research firefighters may wish to take on.

Our monetary investment in the class is the cost of 150 feet of rope, which we cut into 10-foot pieces. These pieces of rope are passed out to the group after the presentation so we can get some hands-on training. The basic knots are all practiced: figure-of-eight, figure-of-eight on a bight, bowline, becket bend/sheet bend, clove hitch (with an end of the rope and in the middle of the rope), and the handcuff knot. During the class, it was great to see some firefighters helping out others who may have forgotten a step in tying a knot. It was also great to see the number of different ways of tying the same knot that are out there. By turning wrists, twisting arms, or telling stories, knots were formed in many ways.


(1) If you aren’t the rope expert on your fire department, recruit them for this class. Here, recently retired Fire Marshal Andy Walker conducts the Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue ropes/knots class. Click to enlarge

As the class was winding down, the rescue knot was demonstrated with a longer piece of rope. This brought up the topic of life safety vs. utility rope. While tying the rescue knot, we reviewed our rescue harnesses and where they are stored on our apparatus. In many cases, retrieving a rescue harness might take up less time than tying the rescue knot. As usual, the parting thought was to take that information and review it back in their fire stations. Inspecting ropes, cleaning out the rope compartment as they remove the rope, and performing some in-station knot tying was highly recommended.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators ( Fire Engineering, 1999) , is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.



Subjects: Firefighter training, training evolutions, hands-on training, rope rescue, knot-tying, firefighter knots.

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