Throw Back to Basics: Webbing

A firefighter demonstrates establishing a hasty harness using webbing.

By Brian Zaitz

Everyone carries some sort of tool or tools in their gear. These vary by firefighter but usually consist of some type of cutting device, a flashlight, and webbing, with webbing being one of the most common tools across the board. I remember my first company officer giving me a section of webbing when I got on the job. He said put it in my gear “because I might need it some day,” except he never told me what to do with it or how to use it. Over the years, through experience and training, I have learned various uses for this webbing and today find myself using this simple tool on a routine basis.

Personally I prefer to carry a 20-foot piece of tubular webbing with a water knot and follow-through so as to provide a continuous loop of webbing; this loop affords much more versatility and ease of use during emergency operations. Since I carry my portable radio in a strap, I found that the traditional radio pocket provides a great space to store the webbing. It has ease of access and quick deployment when needed. In this bulletin I have provided three separate uses for webbing, but the possibilities are endless.

The first option is that of a hasty harness–this simple harness provides a quick and easy harness for self-rescue and assisted rescue from an elevated area. To create the harness, simply make an eight, step into it, lift the loops of the webbing, and twist and slide your arms through the loops. Although not the ideal harness for rope rescue or prolonged time on the line, it is a quick and dirty harness to get you out of a bad situation.

The next is a step. Take and double up the webbing to create a loop, place one arm in the loop and place hands on the elevated surface or out the window (an example being basement window), then step into the loop and push out. Again, this is a quick, easy method for escape from a bad situation.

The third option is the use of the loop to create a girth hitch; the girth hitch provides countless options for the webbing. The girth hitch can be placed around a downed firefighter or through their SCBA harness. The webbing provides both handles and space away from the down firefighter to facilitate movement and exit from the structure. The tool girth hitch allows a variety of tools to be safely carried up and down ladders while allowing the firefighter to maintain balance and hands on the ladder.

These are just a few options for gear webbing. The key is to get out and practice with it. No matter what you carry in your gear make sure it is practical, accessible, and functional–remember, no need to carry additional gear for no reason.

Download this drill as a PDF HERE.

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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