Advancing Vertical Rescue in Australia: A Worldwide Fact Finding Report

In 2014 Scott Young received The David Balfour Churchill Fellowship to “advance fire fighter safety by studying overseas developments in the vertical rescue industry”

Essentially, he was given the funding and support to travel the world and study the best elements of vertical rescue around the globe. He spent time in the US, Belgium, Japan, UK and France learning from the best practitioners.

He was kind enough to provide to us his complete report which is available to download and read:

Advancing Vertical Rescue in Australia: PDF

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NIMS ICS for Technical Rescue Incidents


Is everyone on the same page? This article is to see if the NIMS 100 and 200 level classes are followed or just blown over because we all had to do them. Most of us across the country were required to do these classes and , don’t lie, most of us copied from our fellow firefighters. But were we just cheating ourselves. NIMS , in my opinion is a great way for all of us to be on the same page at incidents. It is used by all First Responders including Police, Public Works and now Schools, especially since those mass shootings. Communication has been one of the biggest problems on small and large incidents. Read some of the NIOSH reports, you will see in some incidents a lack of communication and control. So with that said lets look at why we should all be following the NIMS terminology.

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The Split 4 to 1 M.A.

Rigging the 4:1 MA

Often during a confined space rescue there is limited room. Hence the name – Confined Space Rescue!

In an industrial setting this is not only the case inside of the space but outside as well.

We tie our knots as small and as tight as possible, avoid using beckets on pulleys, and try not to use that swivel or extra carabineer. We use every trick we have learned to gain an inch here or foot there. Inevitably, there will be a scenario where we will have limited height and have to use a full length spinal packaging device, like a SKED stretcher.

Quickly, our options become limited in regards to rigging.

Two solutions that can be used are to rig for a low point edge transition with a pike (or pick) and pivot or rig a Split 4:1 Mechanical Advantage system, the focus of this discussion.

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Lessons Learned at GRIMP Day: Dual Team Command

GRIMP Day lessons

Each year, I get the evaluation sheets from the teams who took part in the Grimpday. After reading it , I have noticed that there is often a correlation between the time taken by the team to execute a rescue operation and the points awarded to the work of the team leader.

Out of a total of 100 points , 25 are potentially allocated to the team leader, 10 are allocated to the controllers “appreciation” and 30 to the timing. The remainder are for the rigging and rescue.

GRIMP Scenario Evaluation Sheets

If the team leader’s job wasn’t good , the appreciation of the controller won’t be good either. And finally the timing used for the rescue will not be extraordinary.

I have read and seen a lot of publications about the technical part of the job of rope rescuer, but I’ve never found anything on the way to command a rescue team.

While remaining humble, to put his finger on a problem or failure is still very easy but to propose a solution is always more delicate…

What I propose is not my own idea. I’m just using knowledge of military operations. The following is a basic infantry technique:

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Tailboard Talks

Tailboard Talks: Safety meeting pre-entry

An industrial confined space rescue team has a distinct advantage over a public services one, such as a fire department. They have the ability to know when and where an entry is going to occur as well as the tasks to be completed within it. To ensure they can utilize this information, the rescue resources should be involved in the pre-entry preparation process.

An essential part of this preparation is the toolbox/tailboard talk. During confined space entries the rescue plan is often not considered until it is required, which is often too late. Either those that are part of the entry work do not discuss their assigned rescue duties or the designated rescue team is seated on the sidelines waiting to be called into action. There is critical information that can be shared to contribute to a successful response.

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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