By Brian Zaitz
Bailout systems provide a quick, efficient, and safe method for escaping a violent fire event. The system can be broken down into three main components: a harness/attachment, a descending/rope, and a hook. Familiarity with these three components will enhance the bailout scenario and improve the chance of survival when faced with a bailout situation.
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The hook provides the anchor support for the system. As with any rope rescue system, the anchor holds the load. During a bailout, the bailout hook can be attached to a piece of structure (i.e., the remote anchor), a tool, or windowsill. The hook allows versatility in choosing an anchor, providing options to the firefighter.
Typically, bailout systems consist of a Class II or full-seat harness. The harness provides support to the firefighter and an attachment point for the ascender and rescue rope. The seat harness provides more support than a simple waist belt or specialty harness. Most harness systems are integrated into today’s turnout gear, allowing the firefighter to operate normally until the bailout system is needed.
The descender is the control device for the system, allowing the firefighter to control his descent to the ground or safe location below the fire floor. Most descenders operate similarly to a traditional rope rescue ladder rack, using friction to control the firefighter’s descent. The rescue rope is a fire-rated rope, normally 8mm in size. The length of this rope is dependent on the jurisdiction, but it can range from between 50 to 100 feet in length.
Bailout systems can be fully integrated into today’s turnout gear or be an add-on to the ensemble. Either way, the bailout kit provides the firefighter with an effective and safe means to escape a hostile fire situation.
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Brian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy. Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
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