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The halyard is one of the most ignored pieces of the extension ladder system in use, exposure and maintenance. A ground ladder is a rescue device first, both for our neighbors and our firefighters, untying a halyard to raise a ladder should be framed in these terms.

Very few people are great at untying a knot while wearing gloves, let alone untying a knot which they did not tie themselves as it was most likely stowed by another crew. Now attempt untying an unfamiliar knot in the dark, with full gear and the added stress of a pending rescue.

Let's not put  ourselves in that situation and set up the ladder with a tight and terminal or continuous halyard. In doing so your ladder can be extended immediately when raised. The benefit of this set up is not guaranteed for life and it takes maintenance. Your rope will stretch with exercise and use over time. Before long your "combat ready" halyard becomes a "lazy halyard" which will cost you time and energy in more than one way.

We have all seen and recognize the "lazy halyard". It  is a mess and should be easy to identify, yet we look past it on a daily basis. The "lazy halyard" is an overly slack halyard The cost of this is the first pull in our raise in just taking up that slack. It also becomes an issue in storage when it starts to get hung up on other equipment or bracketing.

A lazy halyard pre-raise about to waste your energy as the slack must be taken up prior to any extension

Above is an example of a lazy halyard on the rack about to hang up on brackets and slow you down

Clean it up

The larger the ladder the greater the potential effects. When we placed my current truck in to service we changed out the manilla rope (static) halyard for a nylon rope (dynamic) on our 45' and 35' extensions in hopes that it would last longer and be less prone to failure. What we have realized over the last 3 years is that the stretch in the nylon rope costs us exponentially with larger ladders. To the point that the full body pull of a single firefighter on the 45' with the nylon rope halyard just barely gets us from one locked position to another. When you are dealing with a 270 pound ladder this is a serious issue. We are now going back to a manilla halyard as a lower stretch material and we have committed to being more diligent in our inspections or halyard replacements.

Don't be lazy, get out and prepare your equipment for use not storage. Attention to detail can save steps, improving overall operational efficiency.

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