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I would like opinions on teaching a ground ladders class.

The subject concerns ascending, and descending ground ladders only. No tool carrying is involved and this is not a rescue scenario, it involves merely climbing the ladder.

1) Would you teach only one technique, or multiple techniques?
2) As an instructor would you teach your firefighters to climb ladders solely using the rungs only?
3) As an instructor would you teach your firefighters to climb ladders solely using the rails only?
4) Or would you opt to teach them both techniques and allow them the option to choose what works best for the individual or circumstance?
5) Would your opinion change if it was a class you are teaching for your department on duty vs a fire conference?
6) Do you believe one technique is safer than the other, if so why?

Your professional opinion would be greatly appreciated.

R. Jorge
PBCFR

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Teach every way that you can safely carry and set up all your ladders with two to four firefighters. Climb the rails, lock in during a tactic and never leave a ladder without someone to foot it.

http://flashovertv.firerescue1.com/Clip.aspx?key=78BFDB1F50B82156

Follow this link from Flashover TV (FR1 video) for a VERY graphic example of what not to do.

Practice does not make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect. Practice and be safe.
Larry
I have always thought that rungs are safer than rails because you can overlap your fingers and thumb on a rung, but not a rail. If you were to slip and only had grasp of the ladder with one hand, which would you rather have a hold of, the rung or the rail? I teach my firefighters to keep their hands on the rungs. If they are carrying a tool I teach them to keep one hand on the rung and the hand carrying the tool to slide behind the rail. Most importantly always have 2 points of contact at all times.
I was taught at the Fire Service Training School at Great Falls, MT and, believe me when I say, I didn't have time to ask why. If I remember, it's because your hands are never uncurled from the rail, so you never loose a two hand hold. The reason it sticks is because; if you climbed the rungs, you failed the tactic; after you had done the thing.

Of course, if you are bringing up a tool, it's going to be in an occupied hand and you are going to slide it up the outside of the rail.

Whichever way you teach them to do it, it's all good as long as you are teaching the other safety stuff.
Larry
Nate Brown said:
I have always thought that rungs are safer than rails because you can overlap your fingers and thumb on a rung, but not a rail. If you were to slip and only had grasp of the ladder with one hand, which would you rather have a hold of, the rung or the rail? I teach my firefighters to keep their hands on the rungs. If they are carrying a tool I teach them to keep one hand on the rung and the hand carrying the tool to slide behind the rail. Most importantly always have 2 points of contact at all times.
I teach both methods, because what is more comfortable for one person, may be very uncomfortable for another, and working on a ladder is no place for "shakey legs". Obviously, the rail method is neccessary for carrying tools, however, it can also be used when not carrying a tool. The others have all hit on the two points of contact, this is the most important piece of the puzzle. Safety is always number one. I also make sure to pound into the students head about properly footing the ladder. Make sure that they put their weight into it, and not just standing there looking cool. Another tip for getting onto a roof from a ladder. Climb to a rung above the roof line, and step down onto the roof. This lowers the risk of catching your foot on the roof line and possibly tripping or losing your balance.

As far as whether its the guys on my dept. or a class full of recruits, the teaching is the same. Basics don't change just because you have experience in the fire service. I believe that sometimes the basics tend to get forgotten or overlooked, and this is what contributes to fireground injuries or worse.

Thanks, Be Safe...

Nate B.
This is a great discussion. I would like to ask everyones opinion on the rail method:

Do you think 2 hands on the rails is considered acceptable for your 2 points of contact? If so would you feel comfortable if both of your feet slipped and you were on the 3rd section of a 35' extension ladder? When I talk about 2 points of contact, I mean one hand and one foot. I think the rail method allows firefighters to climb the ladder faster than they can climb safely. It invites foot slippage in my opinion.
The answers to each depend on where the class is taking place and who the students are. In Illinois, it is acceptable to teach either the rung or the rail method of climbing. I prefer using the rails as I usually had a tool. I don't think one method is any less safe than the other. What ever makes the firefighter feel safer is the one he/she should use.
The reason that the rails is safer is that you will always have 3 points of contact on the ladder. Especially when climbing with tools. You should NEVER have a tool in a truck belt or waist strap of your SCBA when climbing a ladder. The reason for this is that some tools are heavier at the head (axes) and when climbing I have seen the climbing firefighter kick the end of the handle with their heel and the weight of the tool slide out of the belt and fall to the ground.
Plus, if you or the ladder falls, the tool will be right next to you, instead of you being able to throw it away.
The exception to this might be having something heavy, like a K-12, on a strap when you go up the ladder.
I teach both methods for climbing, but I personally prefer the rails because you never lose that point of contact and when they do have to carry a tool, it is not a new climbing style for them. The safest method is the one that makes the FF feel the most comfortable. I would advise to train how to carry and set up the ladders with the amount of people that would actually do it on scene. Do it safely but realistically. Please advise them of the different methods to foot a ladder and really drive that point home. You seem to be heading in the right direction and please keep us posted as to your success and the feedback of your class.
Ric,
This is a very good topic. I don't really think that ladders is the whole issue here though. Anytime an instructor gives a student only one way to complete a task, no matter what it is, they are limiting the student's chances for success. There are many different ways to accomplish just about everything we do, why limit climbing a ladder to only one way?
As far as your question about one way being safer than the other, for me holding on to the rungs with no tools feels better. If I'm carrying a tool I like the rails. While that feels right for me, it does not make it right for everybody else.
I hope this helps you with your research.

Be safe,
Bruce
PBCFR 33
Ric,

We teach hands underneath the beams to pull you into the ladder. Also to lock in your heels to the rungs. We have had alot snow this winter and that action of locking in your heels prevents many falls. Fraternally Yours, Don Kaderabek
Hey Don good point.
Probably more important than where to hold the ladder is how to place your feet. You have more of a chance of falling when you don't slide your heel all the way against the rung.

Be safe,
Bruce Clark
PBCFR 33

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