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Mechanical Advantage for Limited Manpower

           These days, both the career and volunteer sides of the fire service are seeing dramatic decreases in retention, manpower, and are constantly battling staffing constraints. While the number of initial responders is significantly less, the hazards are continuing to grow. With a lot of education and training focusing and emphasizing on building construction, transitional attacks, and firefighter health and wellness, we are still reading week after week about one of our own becoming ill, injured, or unfortunately deceased as a result of their efforts in providing a service to the community.

            As a company Training Officer, you must make every effort to promote firefighter safety and survival and inject these concepts into the weekly company drills and lesson plans you develop for use within your organization. Adapting to the changes in manpower and staffing while focusing on creating a safer fireground should often bring you back to the basics.
In this article, I’ll discuss a training approach that can help you apply basic ropes and rigging to the element of our jobs that is geared towards rescuing our own.

Simple Mechanical Advantage

            Packaging and utilizing a simple 2:1 mechanical advantage to swiftly haul a downed firefighter through a hallway and out of an IDLH environment is a great trick to keep up your sleeves when responding as RIT/FAST or even when assisting to help one of your own. Using a simple 2:1 mechanical advantage is cost effective, easy to add to a tool cache, and more importantly can ease the labor intensive efforts of horizontally dragging a weighted down firefighter in their full ensemble of personal protective equipment (PPE).


            In order to package the basic 2:1 mechanical advantage system for easy deployment, you'll need the following equipment:

Canvas Rope Bag

100’ of ½” Kernmantle Rope

1 -  Single Pulley

2 –  Carabiners

Small Prusik Cord

Putting Theory to Practice

            Once the downed firefighter located, start by silencing their PASS device, and make their air supply the utmost priority.  The next step is to create a 3-point harness that the firefighter can be dragged in while maintaining their air supply and creating an attachment point for the 2:1 system.

            With many organizations, a lot of firefighters are now equipped with a traditional Gemtor Harness or some form of integrated system. By utilizing the components of the SCBA harness and the attached Gemtor, a 3-point dragging device can be created rather quickly and prove to be quite effective.


Start by unbuckling the waist strap of the SCBA harness

Feed each end up through the front leg straps of the harness

Reconnect the buckle mechanism

Join the SCBA shoulder straps with the oversized Gemtor carabiner

Connecting the 2:1 Mechanical Advantage

Utilizing the prusik cord, create a capture or attachment point through the top of the SCBA where the shoulder straps meet behind the neck.

 Connect the single pulley to the attachment point via the large carabiner.

Connect the end carabiner (Figure 8 on a bite) to the harness of the hauling firefighter.

Hauling to Safety

            With the system now in place, the pulling/hauling firefighter can now brace themselves in a doorframe or to a wall in a seated position and utilize the 2:1 mechanical advantage to swiftly drag the downed firefighter to the egress point. If other firefighters are available and part of the team performing this rescue, they can also assist with removing the downed firefighter by helping to managing their air supply and clearing any and all debris that might interfere with the removal.


AB Turenne is a 22-year veteran of the fire service in Eastern Connecticut. As a Certified Level II Fire Service Instructor, AB's training curriculum has proven to be conducive with the operational needs of those he teaches and in turn has improved the human capital knowledge of many. A graduate from the Master of Public Administration program at Anna Maria College, AB has continued his efforts in training and education by contributing to the Fire Engineering Training Community.


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