Creative Thinking in Technical Rescue

Article and photo by Mike Donahue

If you’re in the emergency services business, you know that outside-the-box thinking skills are a must. To travel outside the box, you need to have the ability to think creatively about applying your tehnical rescue skills.

In this article, I will share a few different methods that I came up with for use in rope rescue and structural shoring with the hope that it may help you develop a few methods of your own. Unique and what are considered “strange” ideas are sometimes met with resistance in our profession. I encourage you to ignore the resistance and allow your knowledge to live and breathe.

The Type 2 Sloped Floor Shore. (Vertical Posts)

In the many years I’ve been doing this, it always seems some time is wasted when it comes to calculating the degree of angle needed for the system uprights. These situations produce several different ideas on how to calculate the degree of the angle, which wastes times. Ideas are thrown around, slowing the progress of the operation. Don’t get me wrong, ideas are a great thing and trading them off as a group can make great things happen, but this wastes time in an operation where time counts. One of the best techniques I’ve see and used is simply using a scrap piece of 2 x 4 and a torpedo level. Find your plumb point and trace the angle of the slab across the 2 x 4.

Like any good rescue specialist, we’re always looking for more ways to effectively complete an operation or facet of that operation. We train for the “what ifs” and curveballs that may be thrown our way.

Next is a method I came up with that simplifies the act of calculating the degree of angle needed for the upright posts. It requires only a tape measure. It can also be quickly done by one rescuer.

Much like rope rescue, answers can be found and or calculated through straight lines and the angles created by those lines.

Looking at a slope floor shore, our sole plate creates the first straight line. We’ll call this our foundation line, meaning the starting point of this method. Before we move further, I want to note that when performing this method we’ll be recording two numbers that will be given to the cut station via radio coms or face to face.

When doing this, you can work left to right or vice versa. For this to work properly, you will always give the measurement of the high side of the upright. The cut station should have the sole plate and header ready to go. The measurements of these are a given. The spacing of the uprights are 4′ apart inside to inside. The sole plate requires 1′ of overhang on each side while the header requires 1′ overhang on the low side and 2′ of overhang on the high side.

Your task will be providing the next two measurements. To do this, mark off on the ground the length of the sole plate. Chalk or marking paint works nicely.  In this example, work left to right (which will be high to low.) You will need measurements of the “high side.”

After measuring the height of each upright, deduct 3.5″ for the header and 1 1/4″ for the 2 x 4 wedges. The cut station will lay two 4 x 4’s side-by-side and transfer those two numbers to the left side of each upright, with the left side being the apex of each angle. Using a straight edge of some sort, place it on each mark and trace a line. You now have the exact angle marked on your uprights.

Diamond Lashing in Half the Time

Diamond Lashing in Half the Time

When lashing a victim into a stokes basket, tension is key. Tension on the lashing prevents the victim from moving forward or outward during a lowering operation. Outward movement is generally a concern during a vertical lowering operation. You should plan this concern during a horizontal lower, as well. You may be doing a two- line lower to “steer” the victim between obstacles, meaning horizontal to vertical movement.

Another example would be a dynamic stokes, which is when a haul system is connected between the main attachment point and the foot of the stokes. Doing this also allows the ability to move from horizontal to vertical.

In my experience, teaching one of the most struggled-with points of lashing a stokes is keeping the tension in the lashing while securing the rope or webbing, whichever is being used.

Here is a method I came up with while training a colleague of mine. When using this method, the only change made in comparison to a standard lashing is how we will create tension in the lashing and retain the created tension.

Located at the head of the stokes on either side are two small pulleys and a pair of prusiks. At the point where you would take up any slack in the lashing and secure it to the stokes (head or top of the stokes), run the rope through the pulleys instead. Each pulley has been equipped with a prusik wrap to capture the rope that is pulled through it. Just like in a mechanical advantage system, this will be the progress capture device. To take up the slack in the line and apply equal tension across the stokes, pull both “haul lines” in unison. The leverage provided by the anchored pulley allows you to create tension throughout the system with ease, which results in equal compression applied to the victim in the stokes.

Both topics in this article are simply examples of creative thinking. I’ve always enjoyed breaking skills down to their foundation and looking at how they work. The real fun begins when you dissect the jobs of the various components and develop different methods for those components to perform the same jobs. Remember that the skills we perform aren’t set in stone. As long as you adhere to the physics involved and achieve the desired outcome, the sky’s the limit.

Mike DonahueMike Donahue has 18 years of fire service experience and has been a career firefighter in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey, for the last 13 years, working out of Rescue Company 1 for the past 11 years. Mike teaches a Middlesex County College as an adjunct professor and acts as the fire service program coordinator. Mike is the owner of Progressive Rescue and can be reached at

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