Reflections on the Annual GRIMP Day


In the mid 2000’s, a friend of mine told me to check out GRIMP Day on YouTube. I watched the few videos about this event that were posted at the time – and was instantly hooked. A day dedicated to competing with some of the best rescue teams from around the world. And in Europe to boot! Who would not want to attend this! From that point forward one of my tertiary goals was to field a team.

In 2013, we managed to make our dream of putting together a team at GRIMP a reality.

First, let me discuss what GRIMP Day is. GRIMP Day is a daylong technical rope rescue competition (although it was two days long in 2015 for the 10-year anniversary). It is held in Namur, Belgium, every year and is hosted by the Pompiers du Namur. Each team needs to provide a 5-person rescue team, a patient and an evaluator, all with their own gear (including team gear). Xavier (Namur FD and the organizer) and his staff get creative each year and produce 6 events – to be completed in the day – that even have veteran teams scratching their heads.

  • Rescuing a 300kg fake horse out of the river
  • Lead climbing under a bridge to pull a “patient” off of the trusses and skate block them back to shore
  • Rescuing a “patient” from a slack line
  • Sites with limited anchors, and for the most part – with the live patient we have to provide.

Each year at least 30 teams from around the world (France, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland, Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil to name a few) attend and compete with each other. We would be, in 2013 (and still are after competing for three years), the only Canadian and North American team to ever compete.

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The Yin and Yang of Rescue

Yin Yang of rescue

I started playing on ropes a long time ago in the Armed Forces. When I released from the Army and joined the Fire Service, my rope knowledge was increased. This occurred due to experiences and training as I went from Team Member to Instructor on our Technical Rescue Team.

This was, in our area, a relatively new field of operations. The first official rope rescue tasking for our department occurred in 1994 (some departments had been providing rope rescue services, in some manner prior to this). Just as there was a learning curve coming from the military rope systems to the fire service rope systems, there would be another learning curve inside the Fire Service as the Fire Services in British Columbia (BC) grew into this new tasking.

In 2003 our department started into confined space rescue. Once again the learning curve from rope rescue to confined space rescue was sharp.

To provide some background and context, in the early 1990’s in BC, the Technical High Angle Rope Rescue Program (THARRP) came into effect. This program took certain industry classifications and assessed them a slightly higher assessment on their payroll. This was done through their workers compensation premiums. This “extra money” was then given to the Fire Service, through an application process, in order to fund rope rescue. However, this was for high angle only and not confined space rescue. Then in 1998 our Provincial Regulations OHS/HSE regulations (WorkSafe BC – WSBC) changed, and having the capability to rescue a worker from a confined space became a written requirement. As such, the private rescue industry began to fill the void between THARRP and what WSBC required for confined space rescue.

In the early 2000’s, I began working private rescue standby. We were almost exclusively full time emergency service personal working on our days off. The statement, “you don’t know what you don’t know”, could sum up these early days of industrial rescue. Like the learning curves from the Military to the Fire Service and within the Fire Service, there was a learning curve in private rescue. While we had some very competent rescuers on sites, these rescuers were not well versed in the requirements, safety procedures, policies or culture on industrial and construction sites. As such, one could imply that we caused as many issues as we solved.

Prior to telling the remainder of this story please keep this in mind: I am not trying to throw anyone under the bus here. The company I was employed by when the first portion of the story takes place no longer exists.

I am using these stories to outline the progress private rescue has made over the years and as a learning tool for organizations hiring private rescue providers.

My first rescue standby job exemplifies this juxsposition. I arrived on site at a Waste Water Treatment Plant, received a 30-minute site indoc, and was sent out as a hole watch and rescue team member. While I was qualified to both the rope rescue and confined space rescue technician level (terminology of the day), I had limited gas monitor or industrial hole watch training. Yes, as part of the training I had taken for my rescue certificates we had spent an hour on gas monitors, and we had to act as an edge attendant (hole watch) for a rescue. However “monitoring” a rescue drill and monitoring a live hole where workers are entering, are two different animals. I did not see (and did not know to ask for) any hazard assessment, entry procedures, rescue procedures, WHIMIS, emergency contact info, etc. I had my Fire Service FMR3 ticket, however no OFA ticket as required by WSBC. I was given an air horn and told to use it if there was an emergency. We were solid rescuers, however we knew very little about the regulations required for work on a working site.

As I was sitting down to read the newspaper at hole 1, events were unfolding in hole 2 that would have me conducting my first private rescue within 20 minutes of being on my first site.

In hole 2 the worker was on scaffolding sandblasting the inside of a waste digester. The worker’s scaffold guardrails were interfering, so the worker removed them. Shortly thereafter, with vision reduced by PPE (hood) and the sandblasting, the worker walked off of the scaffold and fell 35 feet to the bottom of the space. I was pulled from my paper by the other rescuer sounding the air horn. I informed the workers in the space I was watching to evacuate and ran to the other hole.

We had a three-person team on site that day. Rescuer 1 and I immediately accessed the patient via 35 foot unguarded ladder. Rigger 1 (who was also the TL) started rigging the rescue lines outside the space. Once on the floor of the space, Rescuer 1 and I started our priority action approach; packaging the patient onto a spine board and then into a basket stretcher (yes basket stretcher, not a SKED or Spec Pak).

The rescue itself went very well. Working in a dark, wet, dirty space on a live rescue was exhilarating. This was in the days of diamond lashing patients onto the spine board and into the basket stretcher with tubular webbing. With poor visibility and digester dirt covering all things, good communications were required. Even though Rescue 1 and I were from two different fire departments, we moved through our actions and drills as a well-oiled machine. This does speak to the level and type of training the fire departments rescue teams were receiving. We had the patient packaged, 5:1 mechanical advantage and safety line rigged, and patient removed from the space and brought down to the sidewalk prior to the arrival of the local full time emergency services (under 10 minutes). Rescuer 1 and I however were covered in digester dirt (human waste) and were wearing no PPE outside of harness, rescue helmet, rope gloves, boots and hi-vis vest. The site was shut down for the day. While the rescue went well, I would suggest it should have never occurred.

Fast forward 12 or so years. I am still a firefighter and still working private rescue standbys. Under the new company we strive to be a learning organization and have reviewed incidents such as the above. From these reviews we have created SOP’s and requirements for our staff. Prior to going onto a site, our staff are required to take industrial fall protection, confined space, gas monitoring as well as WHIMIS and Lock Out/Isolation training. If they do not have a regulatory recognized first aid ticket they are sent through a recognized first aid course. They are given updated training on rescue techniques, as well as advanced rigging training. It takes on average a week to take a rescue-qualified firefighter and put them on an industrial site as a rescue team member. Staff on site are also required to perform onsite training and orientate themselves with all gear and locations they may rescue from. This all paid off on a site we were on last spring.

We were working on a heavy industrial site, augmenting a client’s industrial Fire Brigade. This was a great opportunity for our staff (primarily city firefighters) and the client’s staff (industrial firefighters) to have a two-way exchange of knowledge. As part of our duties our staff walked the site every few hours. They found all the confined spaces that were being entered that shift. They pre-planned the spaces. They checked all gear. They trained with the client’s staff in order to enhance interoperability.

Then the radio call came in; a worker was in full arrest at the 170-foot level of a tower structure on site.

Staff jumped into the medic truck and responded emergency a short distance. They reached the base of the tower (which was through a maze of scaffolding and piping), grabbed the gear and started the run up 170 stairs. They reached the patient and started first aid protocols. As this was occurring the team also had the crane operator rig and lift the dedicated emergency platform (DEP) to their level. This is pre-planning at its best. Some areas of the tower require technical rope rescue and the team brought gear for that scenario, if required. Once they arrived they knew they could get the DEP close to their location, reducing the time required to get the patient to further medical assistance. The patient was secured into the DEP and lowered with the rescuers to the ground. Taglines were used to ensure the lower went smoothly. The handover to local emergency health services was completed. The worker lived.

The comparison of the two rescues is not to lay blame or dole out accolades. It is to identify the learning curves that have had to occur in the private rescue industry. It is to outline what your private rescue provider should be doing on your site.

These rescuers not only need to be rescue experts, however, they also need to have a good working knowledge of local safety regulations and their client’s sites. They need to conduct pre-planning, onsite training and site familiarization. They need to perform these duties in order to maximize the efficiency of a rescue should it occur.

I can attest that workers lives depend on it.

The InchWorm Technique

inchworm rigging technique


When I started learning about confined space rescue I was shown a technique using a mechanical advantage system called the “Inchworm Technique.” This technique, shown on that course, used a pre-built 4:1 mechanical advantage system on 12.5mm static kernmantle rope. The rescuer would take the system into the space and use it to pull a patient horizontally. It could be rigged to a temporary anchor in the space, a remote anchor extended into the space (rope), or the rescuer’s harness. The system may have to be reset numerous times to cover the required distance and extricate the patient, hence the comparison to an “inchworm”. This system has its advantages in tight spaces with large patients that need substantial horizontal movement towards a vertical or offset exit. As all of the spaces we trained in were large enough to physically pull a patient, and we were all young, fit rescuers, no one utilized the technique regularly. Like most things you spend very little time on, the Inchworm Technique was relegated to the back of my mind.

Fast forward many years later. We were working for a company that was hired to assist gas fitters to check the crawl spaces in close to 100 educational institutes for pipes that may have shifted and therefore be leaking. Due to the policies of the client, the risk of gas leaks, the convoluted nature of the spaces and the condition of some of the workers, it was decided to send a rescuer with the maintenance team into the spaces. We went and did our recce (recon for our friends south of the 49) and found that some of the spaces we needed to enter had to be breeched and were only 18” in height. Throw in the rough dirt floors we had to traverse and viola – the Inchworm Technique came back to the front of my mind.

We equipped our rescuers entering the spaces with a backpack that carried amongst other items – a small mechanical advantage system (AKA a jigger) to allow the rescuer to use the Inchworm Technique. We decided to try a few different packs (because we are all gear geeks at heart) and used both the Conterra LS Response Pack and the Maxpedition Falcon II. On a side note, these packs were used in some very damaging conditions (sliding on concrete and dirt floors, entering through small spaces) and both packs exceeded all expectations. We still have both packs in service 4 years later. For the inchworm we constructed two different jiggers. One was the Rock Exotica Aztek System and the other was a home-built mechanical advantage system using CMC Protech double sheaved pulleys. Both mechanical advantage systems were rigged with 8mm cordage with a 5mm capture prussic.

While we never had to put the inchworm technique into practice on an actual rescue, during this project we did do some scenario-based training with it. Since the rescue system was not “seeing” a fully suspended load, the anchoring options became easy. We could use the wood framing – a bar spanning some of the entrances we had to breech through cement blocks – the rescuer, and stakes in the dirt floors as anchors. We found the Aztek with its swivel pulleys was slightly more cumbersome to deploy, but pulled the load in a nice fashion. The non-swivel pulleys deployed quicker from the bag, however, some thought was required to ensure you did not rig the system in such a way as to cross the lines. Both systems were extremely effective in removing a patient from the spaces we were in.

Inchworm Setup on a Rope Anchor

Click here to view or download the .pdf version

inchworm rigging technique
inchworm rigging technique
Inchworm MA Setup: step by step


The Role of Today’s SAR Medic

the role of today's SAR medic

The role of today’s SAR Medic is a challenging one.

Today’s rescue environment demands the highest levels of prehospital care be delivered to patient side despite the technical environment that might present itself.

Whether it be reducing a shoulder on a multi pitch climb, pulling a lifeless body from a snowy hole and bringing her to a complete recovery with ECMO, giving pain meds to the multi trauma on a Combat SAR (CSAR) mission, or resuscitating a cardiac arrest on a HETS mission, today’s SAR Medic must deliver good medicine, in bad places.

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GRIMP 2015

Metro Vancouver Grimp Team

News Release

June 3, 2015 09:00

Metro Vancouver Fire GRIMP Team on Podium With World’s Best

NAMUR, BELGIUM – The Metro Vancouver Fire GRIMP (GRIMP is French for Groupe de reconnaissance et d’intervention en milieu périlleux) Team placed fifth in this years GRIMP Day Competition held in Namur, Belgium.

The team conducted nine technical rope rescue scenarios over two days in both mountain and urban terrain. The scenarios included rope high lines, 300’ lowers, a horse rescue and slack line rescues. Metro Vancouver Fire competed against some of the best rescue teams in world at the event, and is the only Canadian and North American Team to compete in GRIMP Day.

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On SAR Training in Nunavut

Ronin Safety and Rescue has been providing ground search and rescue training to local rescue teams in Nunavut since 2009.

During this time we have flown into every hamlet across the territory, including Grise Fjord, the most northern civilian settlement in Canada.

The course we provide is 6 days long and consist of 4 classroom days and 2 days on the land conducting a practical exercises. We teach the process of search and rescue specifically for Nunavut in terms of who is responsible and the collaborations during any search.

The course has a strong navigation segment that involves map and compass and navigation by GPS.

We teach survival, methods of search and lost person behavior. A half day is also dedicated to bringing in an elder from the local community to teach the students the ways of past in terms of navigating and surviving on the land and even how to deter a polar bear! This has been a great addition as it has help reconnect some of the youth with their elders.

Terrestrial Search and Rescue

Our instructors come from a diverse background, including Canadian Armed Forces, Search and Rescue Technicians, Special Forces, Army and Fire Fighters trained on Ground Search Rescue.

Our Ronin instructors thoroughly enjoy the experience of being in Nunavut. From eating Caribou or drinking from a ten thousand year old ice berg. – We take pride the service we provide and strive for excellence.

Check out our Terrestrial Search and Rescue page for more info on this service

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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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.

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

GRIMP 2013

GRIMP Day 2013: International Rope Rescue Competition

Group de Recconnaissance Interventione Millieux Perilleux (GRIMP Day) international rope rescue competition.

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