CARABINERS HELP EXPEDITE REMOVAL OF DOWNED FIREFIGHTER

Our department has been experimenting with oversized carabiners in rapid intervention training (RIT) operations. We have found them to be a very cost-effective means of speeding up RIT operations. The carabiners discussed here were purchased from a local hardware store for $4.99 each and can easily be handled with a gloved hand (photo 1). The webbing can be purchased for as little as 22 cents a foot.


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The clips can be used to secure the RIT bag to the downed firefighter. After locating the firefighter, mitigating his problem, and connecting him to a supplemental air supply, you will have to secure the bag to the downed fighter before you can move him to an area of safety. We used to practice disconnecting the shoulder strap from the bag and weaving it under the shoulder straps of the SCBA (photo 2). Although this is an effective way to perform this operation, it isn’t the most efficient, as it was difficult to work with gloved hand with the clips on the chest strap (photo 3). Also, it is difficult to weave the strap under the chest strap of the SCBA in low-visibility conditions. We have found it just as effective and much faster to carry a carabiner on the end strap of the RIT pack and to simply clip it onto the waist strap or chest strap of the downed firefighter’s SCBA (photo 4).


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These carabiners are also helpful to the firefighter at the head of the downed firefighter when performing drags. We used to practice with this firefighter’s grabbing the SCBA shoulder strap or passing a piece of web under the SCBA shoulder straps and using that to drag (photo 5). The problem with this method is trying to pass a gloved hand about four to five inches in diameter (photos 6, 7) between the SCBA shoulder straps and the downed firefighter. This can be especially difficult if the SCBA shoulder straps are cinched down tight. It is much quicker and easier to pass the approximately one-half-inch-diameter tip of the carabiner (photos 8, 9) under the SCBA straps. The carabiner can be flipped so that the wide part is facing out to produce an excellent handle for the firefighter to grab onto (photo 10). (If the carabiner purchased was wrapped in silicone or rubber along the spine to give a no-slip handle, you may want to consider cutting it off. It will be much easier to flip the carabiner around when passed under a shoulder strap.) If your firefighters still prefer to use web to drag a downed firefighter, it is still much faster and easier to pass a carabiner under the shoulder strap and then to pass the web through the carabiner (photo 11).


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When dragging a downed firefighter, it is not uncommon to have the SCBA ride up on the downed firefighter. To prevent this, many agencies teach that the firefighter’s waist strap be disconnected and passed through the legs and then reconnected (photo 12). Problems can occur with this method if you are dealing with exceptionally large firefighters who like to wear the SCBA high on the back. The strap may not be long enough, or you may have to fight with it to make it reach. Also, to make this happen, you have to loosen the SCBA strap on both sides. Because of the SCBA cylinder on the downed firefighter’s back, the unconscious firefighter will undoubtedly roll onto one of the release buckles. The firefighter will have to be rolled off the buckle so it can be released. The rescuer may then have to roll the firefighter off of it a second time after the strap has been reconnected so that it can be retightened.


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Once again, we have found it much easier and quicker to incorporate the carabiner and a piece of web. The carabiner can be clipped onto the firefighter’s waist strap, and a piece of web can be passed through the firefighter’s legs and reconnected into the carabiner (photo 13).

You can also use two carabiners on either end of the web. Clip the first carabiner onto the downed firefighter’s waist strap, pass the web between the firefighter’s legs, and clip the second carabiner to the firefighter’s waist strap (photo 14). If you need to take up some slack in the web loop, take the second carabiner up, and clip it into the SCBA shoulder strap (photo 15). Even more slack can be taken out by crossing the chest and clipping the carabiner onto the opposite shoulder strap. If you would prefer to use an adjustable strap for this task, you can use an old cot strap in place of the webbing (photo 16) or possibly even an old high-angle rescue pickoff strap.


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You can also use one carabiner on the waist strap to achieve multiple tasks. Hook both ends of the web loop through, to create the saddle; you can also secure the RIT bag into the same carabiner (photo 17).

Note: Neither these carabiners nor the SCBA harness are rated for life safety lifting operations. The above techniques are to be used for firefighter drags only, not for lifting or lowering operations.

ERIC J. SEIBEL is captain and training director for the Erlanger and Point Pleasant Fire Departments in northern Kentucky.

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