H2S Alive

December 17, 2014 – December 17, 2014

102 – 1500 Hartley Avenue

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Enform H2S Alive course presented by Ronin.

8 hour program, 0830 – 1600, at #102 1500 Hartley Avenue, Coquitlam, BC

$150 per person.


Working in Cuba

May 11-17 saw Ronin Rescue deploy staff to Cuba to teach material handling courses consisting of;

  • ER Guide book,
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods, along with the IMDG code usage for maritime shipping of DG and the IATA DG regulations for aviation.

The host was a Canadian international company and the course was located in Guasimas, Varadero Cuba.

Below are some points of observation…


Once the job was secured, the client coordinated all of the required documentation. An application for work visa was sent to us to be filled out prior to our first trip a year ago. For this trip, the client had all the required personal info to request the visa. The visa was sent directly to the Ronin staff member prior to departure. We reviewed medical, political and travel advisories prior to departure. Many businesses in Cuba now require contractors to carry medical and repatriation insurance. As well, letter identifying that you are working for the client or company hired by the client is an ace in the hole as Customs may request to see it. (It hasn’t happened yet, but may change with different clients.)



As with any tropical third world country staff should be healthy, willing to learn the language (Spanish) and adaptable… understanding of “island time”. Staff capable of resourcefulness, diplomacy and patience should be deployed.



  • MEDICAL CARE: Good, High standard, especially in major cities.
  • FOOD AND WATER: Unsafe.  The tap water is unsafe to drink. Food in good quality restaurants and hotels is usually safe.
  • VACCINATIONS: Routine and specific. Ensure all routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Specific vaccinations may be recommended before travel.
  • MALARIA: None
  • RABIES:     High risk.  Consider vaccination before travel. If scratched or bitten by an animal, seek medical advice.
  • PERSONAL SAFETY:  Generally safe; some petty crime in urban areas, especially at night.
  • UNREST / CONFLICT: STABLE  Occasional peaceful rallies / demonstrations.
  • TERRORISM: Terrorism rare.  Terrorist attacks are rare (Although they just arrested 4 Cubano/Americans in country trying to attack Military installations in April this year)
  • TRANSPORT: Variable reliability.  Some types of transport are reliable, others not.
  • NATURAL HAZARDS: Seasonal disruption. Seasonal weather conditions may affect travel. June is the beginning of Hurricane season
  • CULTURAL ISSUES: Social Consequences. Lack of cultural awareness may inhibit social and business interaction.



There seems to be the standard Caribbean levels of authority. Your first contact disembarking is the “Audenas” – the Customs agents. Prior to landing, you will be asked to fill out a customs declaration and you will be given an entry visa. DO NOT USE the entry visa you are given on the aircraft. You should already have the work visa that was sent to your residence by the client.

The flight attendants will insist you take the card as they have to give them to every passenger. Take it and tuck it on your person so it does not get mixed up with the work one. You will also be given a customs declaration, and a white form that is meant for Cuban nationals… just take it and present it at the port of entry booth. If you don’t have proof of insurance (medical/repatriation), they can turn you back to purchase it from a customs agent sat at a table in a corner. I’m not sure what it costs or how good it would be…..

The military is always somewhere in the background. Remember… EVERYONE does national service here; even though there is a new era in Cuba, the government finds out if there is perceived favoritism on the worksite. (If you give to one; you give to all) They seem to emphasize this to all foreign companies. The roads have “Policia” scattered all along them with motorcycles and or cars. They are changing to European style License plates. This is to facilitate using plate scanners at the checkpoint to monitor travel patterns. They also have some formal checkpoints where sometimes nothing happens and others they seem to randomly stop vehicles. The company vehicles you travel in seem to be handled with courtesy, I suppose they like the influx of money in the barrios.

You will also see the “Patrollo Costa” and they may pop up anywhere in the coastal towns.

Each compound Hotel and Mercado has some sort of private security checkpoint. The attitude is very nonchalant; a nod of the head and “Hola” is all that usually happens.


Making Initial Contact

After immigration, collecting your luggage and handing your declaration to the customs checkpoint #2 you will either be let out to the front of the airport parking, or be sent for luggage inspection. I have not been bothered so far, but the info from the client states; “play the game; you may have to pay a Fee”.


Ground Moves

The client coordinated all ground transport; the ex-pats however have their own vehicles once they get to the Hotel. When there, I was always picked up by a National from the driver pool, or given a ride from one of the Ex-pats. Recreational movement is by Taxi. There are 3 basic types; CoCo (they look like lemons on three wheels), Classics, They are 55 Chevy’s or Model T look-alikes, or New Kia’s or Russian Ladas. If you get to know a waiter/waitress, they may have a regular that will give you a fair deal to where you want to go. Scooters are also available, but they injure or kill a Turista a month. Be careful/ discreet taking pictures/videos; know what you are pointing at, and ask a trusted source. You may be “detained” to ask why you are taking pictures.


Personal Preparedness

No GPS enabled units are allowed by the Government. Although there is a new wave of cell phones there, the government states that any electronic device may be confiscated at any time. A SPOT/ PLB device would draw attention. Sat phones would be confiscated. Be aware they X-ray your bags (carry on and checked, on the way IN to the country). Although there are “Farmacias” around the country, it is best if you take any small antibiotics, Ibuprofen, ASA, etc in with you. You can always leave it for a clinic or a colleague.



Standard Caribbean kit: First aid, Small personal emergency kit if in Hurricane season. Flashlight (Brown outs are not unusual, day and night). Quick dry light clothing (if in somewhat a “diplomatic” role, casual evening clothes if invited to personal residences). This on top of whatever operational kit is required, plus spare parts; no such thing as overnight delivery. Contingency is what gets the job done.



Cubans speak Caribbean Spanish. It takes from Spain, Portugal and Mexico. (i.e.: You’re not a “Gringo”, you’re a “Yuma”) Many that work in the hospitality industry also speak German, Russian and some Chinese. The more you try to speak Spanish, the more they try to help you. But don’t just nod and smile; if you don’t understand ask in English. There are good pages on the net to get some basic phrases from.



Cuba is the melting pot of the Caribbean, it has many European, African, Chinese and North American influences (along with a communist paradigm). They are very resourceful and well educated (as education is free inclusive of university). They love Baseball, Boxing and enjoy other sports. They have pride in ownership of their vehicles, whatever the age and keep them running with whatever they get their hands on. When Canadian companies start up projects there and they get handed over, the Government doesn’t work well with the concept of preventive maintenance. (A fully operational commercial greenhouse was “gifted” to a city to provide fruit and vegetables to the area from a Canadian company and it was inoperable after 3-4 years)

Adult education is done with intensity; if they think your course is valid. Discussions can be very animated and at a high volume. It’s just how they communicate. Debate is encouraged. You may get an understanding of your point but concession is rare. If you have teams doing the same task/skill they are very competitive (This is the land of Machismo).



Quite safe as long as you don’t:

  •  Talk politics
  • Talk revolution
  • Disparage the Government
  • Flash bling around (leave that to the Jinteros)

Make sure to:

  • Acclimatize to the heat & humidity
  • Attempt Spanish no matter how bad you sound
  • Take small gifts for translators/ maids
  • Make sure you have enough swag for all in your classes
  • Start to like hot sweet coffee
  • Minor corruption is everywhere; use it cautiously if at all, because it can bite you
  • For Good or Bad; Cubans remember you…even after a long time away

Arc’ Teryx Khard 45 – Update

Ronin Safety and Rescue utilized four Khard 45 and two Khard 60 packs for GRIMP day this year. First off, a big thank you to Arc’ Teryx and LEAF for loaning us the not yet released Khard 60’s.

For some background – GRIMP day is a one-day international technical rope rescue competition held in Namur, Belgium. You can read more about GRIMP Day 2014 on our blog here.

For GRIMP Day each pack contained:

  • 300’ of 11.1mm rope
  • 1 X knot-passing pulley
  • 1 X MPD

The Khard 60’s also carried miscellaneous anchoring material, messenger cord, patient harnesses and water in addition to the standard kit list above.

Each pack weighed in at a minimum of 22 pounds (loaded), with the 60’s into the 30-pound range. These packs were carried for 9 hours by the team during the day. The packs were emptied at times to load medical supplies into for certain scenarios. Team members also climbed trees, rappelled and crawled through catwalks while wearing the packs.

The packs performed excellently. Despite use around scaffolding, catwalks and concrete environs, not one pack tore or was significantly damaged. The straps remained comfortable under load and while being worn over class three rescue harnesses. The full-length zippers on the pack allowed for easy removal of gear and re-loading of supplies. The semi-sturdy back pad made the pack easy to load rope into (in a bucket fashion). Rope played out of the packs in a similarly easy fashion. The pack stayed tight to the back for use in confined areas and while rappelling.

Our only observation for change (and this was not a 100% consensus) would be for water drains (grommets) to be added into the bottom of the pack. As we were operating around water for some scenarios, our ropes did get wet. It would have been ideal to have drain holes at the bottom to allow water to run out of the pack. The addition of drain holes is not a team consensus however. Some members do not feel the drains holes are required, other members do.

The new Khard 60’s are very similar to the 45’s – just larger. They do have a feature not found on the 45’s though. There is a flap that expands out of the bottom of the pack enabling the wearer to carry a long cylindrical object. LEAF likely envisioned this as a weapon carrier (specialty long arm). We feel it would work for carrying tripod legs (such as Vortex or Terradaptor legs). Tripods were not part of the scenarios at GRIMP and as such we did not get to test our theory. I would like to think we will get a chance to soon enough however…. One other item for a future blog – Ronin may be jumping with the Khard 45 soon. More to follow on that as well…..

GRIMP Day 2014

GRIMP (Group de Recconnaissance Interventione Millieux Perilleux) Day is an international challenge that brings together search and rescue teams from around the world (firefighters, civil defense, military, and police). The event takes place in Namur, Belgium, where teams compete against each other through exercises involving the unique elements related to search and rescue in hazardous environments. This year was Ronins second year at the event (competing as Metro Vancouver Fire) and still the only Canadian and North American team to compete. There was excellent representation from the countries around Europe as well as teams from Hong Kong and Taiwan for the first time.

This years events included:

  • a high line scenario over the river
  • a medical scenario involving a vehicle extrication with a 100’ rappel and raise
  • a “painter” hanging under a bridge
  • a “low visibility” scenario in the darkened catwalks of the theatre
  • a scaffold maze with a suspended basket stretcher and
  • a raise and lower of a patient over a fire engine via ropes.

The teams would report to HQ at the “place de arms” and receive an evaluator and scenario number. From there the team would make its way to the scenario area (up to 2 KM away) with all equipment. Each team had to compete all scenarios by 1830 (on a 0900 start) and could not take longer than 90 minutes on any single scenario. With the temperature hovering around 30 degrees Celsius and 38 teams competing, it made for a long, exciting day. As noted by the Ronin Team Leader, J Budd, the scenarios were more diverse this year, and some teams certainly had problems completing all of the events.

There was an incident this year that brought the complexity and risk of the event to the forefront. One of the teams had a rigging failure that resulted in a patient being dropped into the river. Namur Fire Service had a rescue boat on standby and quickly rescued the patient. This did remind the participants of the inherent risks in technical rescue however.

As in 2013 Ronin was fortunate enough to receive sponsorship from Arc Teryx. The team wore Chimera shirts, Talos pants and utilized Khard 45 and Khard 60 packs. The packs performed exceptionally well (see the blog). The pants were cooler than last years model (this year we opted for the nylon/cotton instead of the softshell). They still performed very well. No one tore a pair of pants during the day while being used on rock, concrete, scaffolding, catwalks and iron bracing. The Chimera shirts however faired slightly worse. At least one shirt had a hole torn onto it during the course of the day. The material did not run at the tear however and it can be mended.

Ronin is looking forward to next year – the 10th anniversary of GRIMP Day. Our team will be back and we challenge all other North American teams to join us. It is a great event with great camaraderie and sharing of knowledge.

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From Rescuer to Swimmer

Ronin was recently contacted regarding confined space rescue standby for a large water reservoir measuring 100 feet high and 40 feet in diameter. Our client indicated they preferred putting staff into the water to clean the space as it was drained. With this information Ronin began looking at confined space and water rescue options in addition to safe work procedures for the project (all of which Ronin can provide). Ronin was eventually asked if we could provide not only the rescue standby but also all required documentation and the swimmers to clean the tank. Always up for challenges, we said yes!

The project started with our CRSP performing a site inspection and creating the hazard assessment, entry procedures, safe work procedures including the use of chlorine, decontamination and lock out. One of our rescue technicians assisted by creating the rescue plan, taking into account any concerns regarding confined space, fall protection, high angle and the 8 degree Celsius water.

Once the documentation was complete we gathered our team and reviewed the documentation. We also “game planned” a few “what if” scenarios regarding both rescue (regular work for us) and swimming around the inside of a water reservoir with brooms (not so regular for us).

Our members entered the space wearing dry suits, protective boots, fins, PFD’s, masks, gloves, neoprene balaclavas and sitting in belly boats. They used medium bristle brooms to remove the “film” off of the walls. We found the team of two could continually “lap” the reservoir and effectively clean at the discharge flow rate. Once the water in the reservoir reached a pre-designated level we removed the staff and sucked the remaining water out. We then went back into the reservoir to finish the cleaning. Once the cleaning was complete we utilized chlorine to disinfect the tank as per AWWA Method 2.

We swapped the swimmers out on a regular basis as an administrative control for fatigue and cold exposure. The external crew was responsible for site first aid, rescue standby, and disinfection of gear that entered and decontamination of gear that left the space. We used 12.5mm static kernmantle rope for fall protection while staff where climbing any ladders or in the space when required. For the rescue standby gear we used 11.1mm static kernmantle rope with the Arizona Vortex as our high point.

This job was interesting as we provided all the required services ranging from the preplanning stage, documentation, completing the required job tasks and ensuring the safety of all workers by providing first aid and rescue standby.

This is exactly what Ronin is all about, providing full service solutions to our clients.
rescuer-to-swimmer-1 rescuer-to-swimmer-2rescuer-to-swimmer-3rescuer-to-swimmer-4rescuer-to-swimmer-5 rescuer-to-swimmer-6

Can Do Attitude – Responding to a Client’s changes in SOW

You’ve administratively and logistically prepared and implemented the planning for a Client’s month-long shutdown. You are providing a two-person Technical Rescue – Emergency Response Team, for 24/7 coverage. The shutdown consists of multiple entries into a multitude of confined spaces and work areas that are awkward to access at the best of times. You will possibly be conducting evacuation of injured workers out of these spaces – via technical rope rescue systems. At some point during the shut-down, the client approaches you with a conundrum: “We need to get a worker into five areas, unreachable by conventional means, is there some way you can assist us with this?” The conundrum is an expansion of your role as a “Rescue Provider” and now puts you into a different scope of work (SOW). How do you respond to this?

“No problem, we can do that” was the response of Ronin’s Team. Ronin has, from its grass roots origins, a ‘can do’ attitude. “We have always had the mindset of being able to accept any challenge a client may have and figure out how best to attack it”. So much so, that one of Ronin’s unofficial mottos is: WDDS (We Do Dat S**t), reflecting the, “Heck ya we can; we accept your problem as our challenge” attitude.


The Ronin Safety & Rescue team were faced with the problem of lowering a worker into five ducts and chutes, up to 40’ in length and with awkward access points, approx. 28” – 36” in diameter. The worker would be applying shot-crete insulation via “spray on” application. This was presented to Ronin near the end of the workweek. During the weekend, Ronin was able to create a (safe work procedure) SWP, gather the equipment, and be ready for a Monday morning start on this “project within a project”. Things were further complicated as the need for hot work (welding and grinding) could also occur while suspended on the rope system. Needless to say, those work activities and ropes do not play well together.

Utilizing a Terradaptor, Ronin created an Artificial High Directional (AHD) at the access points of the chutes. The rope ran through this AHD, and down into the access point. All of the ‘control’ was kept out side the space, as the worker was not skilled in rope work.

TerradaptorTerradaptor 2

Utilizing the Terradaptor as an Artificial High Directional (AHD)

The team used a 12.5mm static Kernmantle rope for a mainline. This was controlled with a SMC Brake rack, and attached to a bosun chair to lower the worker. Ronin chose 12.5mm rope due to the abuse the rope would take from being covered in abrasive concrete. This same reasoning was the basis for choosing a brake bar rack as it had fewer moving parts for the concrete to affect. The worker was raised via the “old School” change over to a haul prussic, ratchet prussic/pulley and piggy back 4:1. This method was chosen once again for best use under greatest abuse circumstances. The worker was suspended in a Yates Voyager harness attached to a Petzl Podium. The podium has a small profile and fit in the narrow spaces well. Besides being heavier (concrete), the Petzl Podium is still in service. The worker was ‘attached’ to a 11mm static safety or back up line via 30” dynamic lanyard and DMM Buddy. The Buddy was cleaned each time the worker exited the space and overall we were pleased with its performance. Despite being fully functional, we have removed it from service due to exposure to the fine abrasive material and not being able to fully inspect the inner workings. The self-closing, self-locking carabineers on the other hand, are permanently cemented shut resulting in having to cut the ropes, as we could not open them.

The additional work did not cause the client’s shutdown any delays. The project completed on time and in a safe and effective manner. This is another example of Ronin’s ability to adapt to a situation on the fly and provide our clients with workable and economical solutions. Ronin prides itself of this guiding principle; the feedback from satisfied clients indicates the time and cost saving solutions are truly one of a kind.


Note the harness and Petzl Podium covered in concrete. The carabineer located on the worker’s Dorsal “D” was frozen closed. The DMM Buddy cleaned up well but we have removed it from service, ‘just in case’.


Close up image of the DMM Buddy showing the abrasion caused by the concrete and how it has worked itself into the workings of the device.


Arc’ Teryx Khard 45

We have been lucky enough at Ronin Safety and Rescue to use some of the best gear in the world for our rescue work. So when Arc’ Teryx introduced the Khard, we had to pick one up to give it a whirl.

Arc' Teryx Khard 45

Some disclaimers to start. We sell gear (not Arc’ Teryx) and our GRIMP Team is sponsored by Arc’ Teryx. We have used Conterra, CamelBak, TAD and other high-end packs for rescue. We have however never shied away from telling “it as it is” when it comes to our gear. As our teams have worked around the world (including conflict zones) and in very remote locations (the most Northern civilian settlement in Canada for instance) our moto for gear is “It absolutely must work!”

The Khard 45 is a 45 litre, 2 pound pack designed in Arc’ Teryx’s LEAF line. It has Velcro inside the pack to add an assortment of gear pouches and opens fully to allow for easy retrieval of equipment. It has the usual chest and waist straps that are common to all packs.

When I first grabbed the pack – I was concerned. The webbing loops and fastex buckles were smaller then the rescue bags I am used to using. The shoulder straps were thinner. I assumed smaller equaled lesser quality or at least lesser durability. I was wrong! The pack was designed with weight in mind. All “extra” size and bulk was removed to lighten the pack. That they have done. My TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed weights 3.5 pounds (21L pack) and my CamelBak BFM comes in at 6.1 pounds (both good packs as well – more on them in the next blogs). While this may not seem like much, I pack a lot in my bags. To start with 4 pounds less is a bonus.

As stated we use our packs for rescue. My Khard carries:

  • 200’ of 11mm static rope, a rope tarp
  • Two edge protection sleeves
  • One SMC rope tracker
  • One edge bot
  • One MP
  • One ASAP
  • One Kong Back up
  • Four prussic
  • Thirty feet of 8mm cordage
  • Six pulleys
  • Ten carabineers
  • Two rigging plates
  • An Absorbica
  • Two soft anchor slings
  • A cable anchor sling

All of this adds up to approximately 40 pounds of gear.

The Khard carries this load well. I am not just talking about carrying this load on my back for wilderness rescue (although the Khard does that well). I often clip onto the handle on the bag and strap it via a sling to my harness so it hangs between my legs while I climb tower cranes. These cranes are between 150’ – 300’ high. The bag bounces off of and catches on ladder edges, platforms and grating. It has not torn or ripped apart. Then the bag gets tossed on dirty, greasy platforms while I open it up in the pouring rain and pull gear out.

The other industrial settings I have used this bag in include concrete manufacturing plants, confined spaces and coal plants. Really quite nasty environments on gear. So far it has held up exceptionally well. So well in fact we are buying two more for our GRIMP Team to use this year (an update will be added to the blog after GRIMP). The pack is also stylish enough that I can leave my rescue gear in lock up and use it as a travel pack around town.

Oh, and just a FYI – apparently the Khard 60 will be out soon.

Working and Traveling in Libya 2014

traveling in triploi libya

In March 2014, Ronin performed a reconnaissance for business development in Libya. We met with 8 potential clients as well as reviewed the security and travel situation in country. We traveled through Tripoli and Misrata. Below are some of the lessons were learned about the region along the way…


The partner company Ronin works with (POIL) ensured that the visa documentation was sent to the Libyan Embassy in Ottawa. Ronin uses a document courier service in Ottawa to ensure the passports of our staff reach the correct destinations. The entire visa process was painless and our staff’s passports were returned within 4 days.



Ideally, fit, security savvy, well-traveled, robust staff members – capable of resourcefulness, self-preservation and patience should be deployed.



Our staff are well traveled and have their usual vaccinations (MMR, DPT, HEP A/B, Yellow Fever) up to date. No other vaccinations were required. We find Dukoral is always necessary for Cholera and gastro-ailments.



The Government of Canada currently lists Libya as Avoid Non Essential Travel. The security threat in the East of the country is worse, and the Government of Canada advises against any travel to many cites in Libya. These threat levels are based on both the frequency of such attacks and that the situation there is very fluid. The airport for instance was rocketed twice during our stay, resulting in major European airlines cancelling all flights. Turkish, Air Malta, Air Egypt, Air Jordan and Air Tunis were all still flying in the country.

Being personally armed as a foreigner is illegal and would likely further endanger the carrier. Militia groups carry out almost all the attacks. For the most part (in the west of the country) it appears Westerners are not their targets. The Militias are in most cases larger and better-armed then government soldiers. Armed checkpoints staffed by Militias were observed on major routes. We experienced no problems at these check points.

While the above information seems contrary – I found the country felt relatively safe. The local people are friendly and want to conduct business. They seem to genuinely appreciate the efforts made to meet with them. I have certainly traveled to worse places. As a comparison I felt the security situation in Libya was better then Trinidad (2008), Afghanistan (2011) and El Salvador (2014)



Arriving at the airport is usual for such locations. Custom lines were not onerous and it was only slightly chaotic as you left the “secure” area. Leaving was more entertaining. Our flight was an added flight by Air Malta as the BA, Lufthansa and Air France flights were all cancelled. Our flight was not listed on the display and if you did not understand some Arabic, missing the flight was a possibility.


Ground Moves

Ground moves were safe by day or night in Tripoli. Fuel stations are always lined up, however the fuel is cheap to purchase. The trip to Misrata took close to 3 hours; with one Militia checkpoint and plenty of war damaged vehicles lining the road to capture the attention. No bribes were required at the checkpoint. The drive to Egypt is apparently a nightmare and the border with Tunisia was closed. Self-driving would be a death-wish while motorcycling would be outright determined suicide. I would estimate you would be more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident then in a gun battle.


Personal Preparedness

Dress for meetings in Libya is suit and tie. A handshake with a ‘Salaam alaikum’ was the standard greeting. After the business day was concluded, pants (jeans) and a shirt are recommended. It is still a Muslim country and some recognition of the local culture and norms goes a long way. Rogers phones did not pick up data, however I could text and talk. Internet is sketchy with outages occurring regularly during the day.



There are plenty of new European vehicles in Libya. I am sure all were damaged from accidents (both minor and major). Libyans park anywhere and traffic lights are a suggestion only.



The land border with Egypt is apparently a nightmare. The land border with Tunisia was closed while we were in country. Good luck trying for a southern border….

This border situation would certainly frustrate E&E attempts.



Consider a local cell phone and a small med-kit (pressure dressings, quick clot, re-hydrate, ciproflaxin etc.). Also consider sunscreen.



Arabic is the main language in Libya. Being able to speak some local language (as anywhere) certainly helps with the local population. Finding someone who spoke English was not very difficult however.



With regard to timings: it is difficult to meet any timing due to the traffic. All of the locals understand this however and tardiness is almost expected.



The Libyans we encountered were all pleasant and friendly. They want Western business in their country. I found them to be honest – I was forcefully given change twice by a cabby. The food was great and most amenities were available.



Tribalism is alive and well. Everyone knows who you are based on name – and you are treated accordingly. If ‘the balloon goes up’ everyone has a side and its not yours.



It is possible to reduce the risk of incidents, but not completely.

Making it to either the embassy or the ambassadors residence would be the best option regarding E&E attempts. It appears there is a platoon of Canadian Soldiers in country and your best bet for assistance would be there should the lid boil off the pot.

Hopefully you can learn from some of our experiences or simply ask us to help you out!


Quite an adventure!

Rope Rescue Long Lowers

On Long Lowers:  A  Discussion Paper

 Written by Kevin Ristau

Long lower rope rescue 

At suspension heights of over 30 metres, it becomes increasingly difficult to operate Belay Control Devices (BCD). The weight of the rope, wind loading, and operator fatigue must be overcome in order to operate a BCD properly.

When a load is transferred from one rope to the other, the load will apply a force to the belay rope that is relative to its mass and velocity, and this force will stretch the rope. The current recommended best practice from the International Technical Rescue Symposium (ITRS) is that a 10% allowance must be made for rope stretch before the belay system arrests a fall due to a failure in the mainline. At 30 metres, this can contribute 3 metes to the Total Fall Distance (TFD). Given a Tower Crane elevation of 196 metres (Port Mann Bridge replacement), we must consider the possibility that a failure of the mainline during the last 20 metres of the lowering operation will result in a ground strike. This is exclusive of any dynamic forces caused by slack in the belay rope or anchor system stretch.

It is desirable to maintain as much control of the rescue load at all times as possible. Therefore minimizing movement of the load during a mainline failure at any time, not just when within ground strike potential, should be the goal of any belay system.

The recommended system for lowering at elevations greater than 30 metres is the two-tensioned rope lower. Twinned lowering systems share the load between two ropes and descent control devices, pre-tensioning each system to take up as much stretch as possible.

The combination of descent control devices and belay control devices on each line limits potentially unsafe Total Fall Distance by sharing the load between both ropes.

The use of a Descent Control Device (DCD) to tension the safety line prevents the weight of the rope from locking up the Belay Control Device (BCD), and allows the BCD to be properly operated. This also prevents any slack developing in the belay system and minimizes rope stretch in the event of a mainline failure.

Rope stretch:

No system can remove all of the rope stretch. The goal is to reduce Total Fall Distance (TFD) and rope stretch as much as possible to provide the greatest margin of safety.

Rope stretch on a non-tensioned line, with no slack in the system, is a factor of the Universal Spring Constant, which is a force of 2.5 times the load when using rescue rope.


A rescue load of 280kg, which imparts a force of 2.8kN when hanging statically on a rope, will impart a force of 7kN on a taut, non-tensioned belay line upon failure of the mainline.

Test Results:

280 kg mass, 0 cm drop, on 30 m of rope (12.5mm PMI EZ Bend), results in 1.9 metres of extension (6.3% stretch) with a 6.1kN MAF (Maximum Arrest Force, measured at the anchor).

This represents the absolute minimum amount of rope stretch possible with current two-rope rescue systems, where the belay line is not tensioned and there is no free fall. Any slack in the belay system will create free fall. Free Fall is a dynamic event that will increase the force impacting the belay line, and therefore increase TFD, rope stretch, and MAF. Rope stretch will increase proportional to the amount of slack in the belay line and the dynamic movement of the load. Allowance must also be made for any Energy Absorber Extension – if used , also known as Deceleration Distance (DD), when calculating TFD if your system uses energy absorbers.

In the case of long lowers (greater than 30m) rope stretch becomes unmanageable, and this is when the use of the two line tensioned lower becomes practicable. By transitioning to a twinned system, where the main and belay lines mirror each other, the rope stretch potential in the event of a failure of either line is minimized.   Each line shares the load equally and is pre-tensioned, minimizing the amount of rope stretch that will occur in the event of a failure of either line.

Adoption of a Two Tensioned Rope Lower System:

Accomplishing a two tensioned rope lower does not require a prohibitive amount of training. The primary procedure changes to a “usual” untensioned belay line system are:

  1. Master Attachment Point (MAP)
  2. Selection of DCD + BCD Combination (or MPD)
  3. Transition to a Two Tensioned Rope Lower


The transition to a two tensioned rope lower system usually occurs at around 30 metres of rope in service. The lowering operation must be halted to transition the system, and the amount of time this takes must be considered as part of the risk benefit analysis. Transitioning to the two tensioned system on a shorter lower would unnecessarily lengthen the time taken to lower the patient package to the ground, without significantly lessening the risk of ground strike (remember, the amount of rope stretch is proportional to the amount of rope in service).

At height greater than 30 metres, there is a dual benefit to transitioning to a two tensioned rope lower system, as not only do we minimize rope stretch, but we also make the system easier to manage, reducing, and likely eliminating, the number of times that we lock up the belay device and therefore minimizing the amount of time that the patient package is suspended.

The use of the MPD in the system allows us to transition much sooner, as there is no halting of the lowering operation to accomplish a TTRL.

Master Attachment Point (MAP)

The method of patient and rescuer attachment must utilize a MAP to accommodate the distribution of the load between the two ropes. Creating a redundant, master point of attachment for the load allows a combined patient and rescuer tie in. This in turn prevents patient and rescuer separation in the event of the catastrophic failure of either of the ropes. Using a MAP for a single rescuer load allows for greater rescuer comfort, as it allows the rescuer to determine their weight distribution.

Utilizing a single method of attaching rescue loads, with or without a litter (such as when performing pickoffs or line transfers) would simplify training and skills maintenance.

Interlocking long tailed bowlines create a simple, redundant MAP that does not require any hardware, provides two separate attachment tails, and can accommodate a three way pull. It is simple and quick to tie, and is versatile. Use of this knot allows any system to be set up very quickly, as one team member can tie the knot and create the MAP using no hardware and without having to know exactly what will be suspended. The loop created can have multiple attachments clipped into it, and the two long tails can be used for attendant and patient tie-ins. Caution must be taken to ensure clipping of both main and belay line loops to achieve redundancy.

A Rigging ring or rigging plate can also be used for the MAP. The primary drawback of using a rigging ring is the amount of carabiners utilized in attaching the load.

Long Tailed Interlocking Bowlines

Long tailed interlocking bowlines. This method of MAP allows the tension to be shared or transferred between the main and belay lines without affecting the rescue load below the knot. (Kevin Ristau photo)

Long tailed interlocking bowlines. This method of MAP allows the tension to be shared or transferred between the main and belay lines without affecting the rescue load below the knot. (Kevin Ristau photo)


Selection of DCD + BCD Combination, & Transition


The MPD can be used as both a BCD that meets the BCDTM and a DCD. In fact, using the MPD simplifies the operation as both lines are mirror images of each other, and transitioning can be accomplished without halting the lowering operation.

The load is first belayed over the edge with an un-tensioned belay line. Once the rescuer is clear of the edge and has control of the load, at approximately 10 metres, the belay line is allowed to come under tension and the operator engages the release handle on the MPD. The load is then lowered equally between the two lines. With two MPD, we can achieve a true mirrored system.


MPD Prototype

Putting the MPD prototype through its paces in Invermere. (Kevin Ristau photo)


TPB in front of Brake Rack

Probably the most versatile system is where a TPB (with LRH) is added in front of the brake rack on the load line, and a brake rack is added behind the TPB on the belay line. Again, this creates a mirrored system where either line can become the belay line or the load line if there is a need to transition back to a single rope tensioned system.

Operation of the TPB needs to be modified somewhat, as the operator will not be able to create the usual 90 degree bend in the rope due to the tension in the line. Care must be taken to avoid an encircling grip, and operate the prussiks using a “scissored fingers” technique, holding the prussiks back just enough to allow the rope through.

The system is transitioned to a Two Tensioned Rope Lower after the patient and rescuer are clear of the edge and any obstacles. Once the rescuer is comfortable with the line of descent and has control of the load, the system can be transitioned.

The lowering operation is halted and a brake rack is inserted behind the tandem prussik on the belay line. A TPB is added in front of the brake rack on the main line in order to provide a hands free backup to the DCD.

The two ropes are now mirrored, and the lowering operation is continued with the operators simultaneously lowering on both ropes while minding the tandem prussiks. Knot passing and transferring of tension can be accomplished quickly and efficiently as a TPB with Load Releasing Hitch (LRH) is already part of the system on each rope.

Two Tensioned Rope Setup 1

Two Tensioned Rope Setup 2

Two Tensioned Rope Lower Application

Two Tensioned Rope Lower being used to lower a worker in a 400’ vertical confined space. A Worksafe variance was required as this was over WSBC’s maximum working height limit (300’). The safety of the TTRL system was a primary factor in having the variance approved. (CanPro OH&S photos)


The potential for rescues at height is increasing. More high-rise construction also means more high-rise maintenance.

Any organization that has a potential for rope rescues at heights of greater than 30 metres needs to evaluate its systems and select a method to deal with the issues of long lowers. Nobody wants to have a patient hanging in the basket while the rescue team attempts to un-cluster a poor system choice mid-rescue.

The two tensioned rope lower system is far safer and more manageable than a standard two-rope system for long lowers. It has been our experience that the two-tensioned rope system is easily taught and readily accepted by rope rescue personnel.

It is important that we continually re-evaluate our systems to ensure that they are safe, effective, and in line with evolving rope rescue technique.


Gibbs, M and Mauthner, K, (1996), Seminar Notes, Rigging for Rescue

Gibbs, Mike, (2007) Rescue Belays, Important considerations for Long Lowers, Rigging for Rescue, Int. Technical Rescue Symposium

Brown, Mike, (2000), Engineering Practical Rope Rescue Systems,

Lipke, M, (2009), Technical Rescue Riggers Guide, Second Edition,

On Rope, New Revised Edition, by Bruce Smith and Allen Padgett, National Speleological Society,1996

Attachment Disorder, Fire Rescue Magazine, 10/2006, Mark Denvir

CSA Z259.16,Design of active fall-protection systems

NFPA 1006, Standard for Rescue Technician Professional Qualifications

NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents

NFPA 1983, Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and System Components

OSSA Post 1

April – 2014

So, late last night I received an email from our CEO Mark. He said that being the Alberta Manager it would be great to have me write an interesting blog on the OSSA (Oil Sands Safety Association) courses we offer. I will admit, I openly laughed out loud for a moment at the idea of “an interesting blog” about courses that most are forced to attend. You’re laughing at the idea now too.

There are really two reasons for companies to send employees on these courses. The first is non-compliance. This may be in the form of a regulatory infraction, an out of date or no safety program or an expired certification. Secondly is due diligence. More and more employers are stepping up and ensuring workers are properly trained in performing their jobs safely.

Due diligence was the basis in forming OSSA. Syncrude Canada, Suncor Energy, Shell Albian Sands and Canadian Natural Resources came together to strive for “an incident free workforce”. By setting standards on specific safety courses, workers could move from one company to the next and not have to be retrained to a different level by the new employer. This eliminated loss of time and money by having one agreed safety training standard that was accepted by all of the major companies actively working in the oil sands area.

This was great news for contactors and their employees that were not a permanent part of the oil & gas industry workforce. No longer did visiting workers have to be turned away because the course they had attended and paid $150-$200 for was unacceptable at that site.

By setting standards on Fall Protection, Confined Space Entry, Elevated Work Platform and Fire Watch OSSA forced some of the shadier fly-by-night safety training companies to step up their programs or risk being left behind. A “Graduating Class of Thursday 10:30 Am” Fall Pro certificate from So and So’s’ Safety Center would no longer cut the mustard.

Between the financial commitments, administrative guidelines and constant oversight required by training companies to remain compliant with the regulations OSSA had set in place, it really showed who was committed to go that extra mile.

So, with all that being said let me ask you this, do you or your employee’s need an OSSA regulated safety course or will a regular one do?

Your first response might be “Heck Yea!” or some other four letter expressive word and you might be right. But I’m going to be honest with you, unless you are going to be working in or for one of the major oil and gas companies you probably don’t. A non-OSSA safety course is more likely for you. There are some great safety training companies out there that do offer good courses. I am self admittedly bias when I say Ronin has a solid course base of both OSSA and non-OSSA that produces safe and effective workers. And after hearing some of the horror stories from workers we have trained, I think I might be justified.

Anyway, if you are in that group of workers that does ply your trade in the “patch”; OSSA courses might be just what you need. Stay tuned, in my next post I will talk about the OSSA Fall Protection course.

Mike S.

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