Firefighter Rappelling: What Rappel Firefighters Must Know?

What is Firefighter Rappelling

Firefighter rappelling is one of the major rescue techniques in this field. Rope rescue rappelling is one of the most dangerous tasks firefighters face. It obliges strength. The art and method of creating appropriate knots to ensure safety is a vital skill that every firefighter needs to acquire. During these hazardous situations, rappelling skills, knowledge, and quick thinking must be applied.

Firefighters are a great profession. To become a firefighter, you must have many rescue skills and pass different skills exams.

Whether it is to shuttle in the fire scene or rescue in high-risk areas, there are always unknown risks in their work.

We can show our appreciation to firefighters with unique gifts like custom Firefighter Challenge Coins designed with their names and images.

We can better cooperate with first responders if we understand their work content.

By learning more about the skills and equipment of firefighters, we can gain a deeper understanding of their occupations and background. Firefighter rappelling is one of the firefighters’ necessary skills.

The technique involves using a special extension stick or a pole attached to a rope to the subject. The rescuer then descends alone or in the company of a victim, applying to rappel or lowering method.

Once the subject is attached to the rope, it is either raised or lowered down to be attended by the emergency personnel. These techniques can all be applied on land, sea, or space.

Let’s take an instance of a burning building. Usually, people and animals end up trapped inside building in such scenarios. These buildings may be very tall, making it inaccessible for the rescue team to reach them on time.

The only way for a successful rescue operation is to rappel on the ropes as fast as possible. The same applies to sea emergencies like burning ships or sinking ships and air balloons. Firefighter rappelling is one of the types of rappelling techniques we’ve explained in the guide.

Rappelling can be used under three major circumstances.

  • To lower a victim down
  • To access a victim
  • To descend after a mission is complete

What are the Rappelling Devices Used in Firefighter Rappelling?

You can’t rappel out of the blues. One has to have the right gear for rappelling to keep safe during firefighter rappelling. This is a list of the rappelling gear used by firefighters when rappelling.

  • Rappelling ropes are essential devices for rappelling. The rope hangs from an anchor suspending you and allowing you to lower yourself.
  • Rappelling harnesses allow you to safely attach yourself to the rappel device and the rope.
  • Lead belay, tube-style rappel devices like Black Diamond Air Traffic Controller (ATC).
  • Carabiners and slings are open gates that hold things such as ropes together, attaching harnesses to belay devices and connecting anchors to rappel rings.
  • Control devices with moving wheels for smooth descent and racks for instant braking.

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How Should a Firefighter Set for Rappelling?

A single rope system does rappelling, but an additional rope should be available for any emergency backup system.

Use Friction Hitch (Third Hand)

The friction hitch (the third hand) will hold the rope, effectively stopping the descent if a falling object hits you. The friction hitch should be well dressed and adjusted. To ensure that the hitch does not malfunction, keep it away from touching the DCD.

Use Fireman’s Belay (Bottom Belay)

Bottom belay also referred to as the fireman’s belay is a viable option. It applies when exiting the rope brings the rappeller to a stop. Here the first person to rappel will not have a belay.

Use Independent Belay

The best way to create an independent belay is to use a second rope. It is mainly applied by learning rappellers. It is more complex, minimizing safety during a rescue.

Firefighter Rappelling

How Should a Firefighter Descend during Rappelling?

Firefighters descend by adjusting from a standing position where all the weight falls on your feet to a seating position where all the weight is put on your harness.

This is a challenging move that is even harder to pull on the ground level. To make it easier, turn towards the wall and put your legs against it to minimize your weight on the rope.

The higher the anchor, the easier it is to sit on your harness. This gives you room to put your feet on the edge and crouch down.

  • Avoid turning upside down by securing your brake hand on the rope.
  • Be careful not to hit down people or objects below you.
  • Align your feet at an angle perpendicular to the wall.
  • Keep your feet on the edge as you rappel until you have your head below the lip. This will avoid hitting your head or face on the rock or wall.
  • There are situations when firefighters should rappel from a helicopter.

Create a Stopper Knot

Tie a double overhand stopper knot to stop movement at the end of your rappel when you least expect it. However, this knot may get stuck on rocks or trees when retrieving the rope.

How to Retrieve the Rope Successfully?

The rope must not be caught on the anchor. If a bend initially joined the two ropes, make a metal knot on which the rope should pull so the bend is free from the anchor. 

What are the Advantages of Lowering Rescue over Rappelling?

The sole purpose of firefighting rappelling is to save lives and put out a fire during emergencies. Most rappellers prefer lowering or rappelling methods to aid their victims in rescue missions. Most rescuers prefer lowering to rappelling since it is more appropriate.

  • If the rope is too short of reaching the ground, rescuers can adjust it at the anchor.
  • Lowering frees the rescuer’s hands so he can come down safely with the victim.
  • If the victim is hurt during a rescue, other rescuers can attend to the victim.
  • The victim cannot interfere with the rope or halt the rescuers unintentionally.

What are the Advantages of Rappelling over Lowering?

  • It requires fewer rescuers. An individual attends to each victim from the emergency point to the safety position.
  • The rescuer has control over the speed of his descent, unlike lowering, where the victim descends alone.
  • The rescuer does not have to be in constant communication during the operation.

Firefighter rappelling is an advanced technique. The firefighter bookstore brings you a library of books on which you can expand your training.

These rappelling books are dedicated to providing firefighters with the emergency responders they need in the field. There are online training sites to access rappelling courses for free or fair charge.

It samples collections like:

  • Technical Rescue Rigger Guide, which focuses on modern techniques, with illustrations of pictures of knots and anchors.
  • Rappel Manual 2nd Edition illustrates the need for rescue professionals, military personnel, and the SWAT team. 
  • CMC Rope Rescue Manual covers incidences that firefighters may face. It explores awareness and technical levels to assist firefighters in performing within their training level, with a well-elaborated checklist to help organize planning for training exercises.
  • Engineering Practical Rope Rescue System, providing a technical approach to rope rescuers from basic to advanced levels. It also recreates stories and scenarios to recreate an actual situation to be applied in problem-solving. It illustrates a superior survival profile for people who adopt its training philosophies.

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