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With the plethora of tools and equipment available in the fire service, it’s safe to say that there is a tool for every need. Unfortunately, with most fire departments, (both career and volunteer), tight budgets can hinder the purchase of the latest and greatest tools and force departments to “do more with less”.  As fire departments always have, we adapt to overcome these obstacles in an effort to continue to provide the greatest level of service we can to our communities.

By utilizing tools and equipment to their fullest potential, firefighters have been able to use single pieces of equipment for multiple purposes and are finding a wide array of unique uses in order to “do more with less”   I recently wrote about some of the many non-traditional uses of the Halligan bar and the thermal imaging camera.  In this article, I’ll take a look at the oversized carabiners provided with Gemtor Harnesses after the devices themselves have been removed from service and discarded. 

As these harnesses are subjected to wear and tear, eventually causing us to take them out of service, the large carabiners still have a use, specifically in assisting with the rapid removal of a downed firefighter.

Once taken out of service, cut the oversized carabiner free from the harness and remove the lanyard pin from the device.  Keep a cache of these leftover capturing devices on hand, and you can put them into action in high stress and limited visibility situations, even with the restricted dexterity of your gloved hand. In this short training article, I will illustrate five (5) uses for these oversized carabiners during the rescue of a downed firefighter.

  1. Securing the RIT Pack: A disadvantage to the shape and size of some RIT Paks is that they can become quite cumbersome during the removal of the downed firefighter.  By locating  two (2) capture points on the RIT Pak (Scott RIT Pak III has solid rings attached on both sides of the housing unit, for example) and connecting the oversized carabiners in advance, the pre-staged carabiners can now be easily manipulated by a gloved hand to secure the Pak to the torso of the downed firefighter. Simply capture the shoulder straps of their SCBA harness on each side. This will now secure the RIT Pak in place and free up a firefighter to help clear debris or move the downed firefighter to safety.

Making a Harness:  In a previous training article, I briefly discussed the benefit of using a downed firefighter’s Gemtor Harness to convert their harness and SCBA into a 3-point harness for lifting and hauling the downed firefighter.  The oversized carabiner can easily be stored in your turnout gear and used on firefighters not equipped with a harness. By simply capturing both shoulder straps in the front of the downed firefighter with the carabiner, the SCBA harness will less likely pull free from the body of the downed firefighter while lifting or hauling them.

  1. Create a Handle to Hold:  Many firefighters have been taught a method of carrying a downed firefighter up a flight of stairs and to safety (more than likely from a basement or below grade) by using two (2) firefighters. But, trying to grab under the SCBA straps themselves can inadvertently cause the downed firefighter to free themselves from the SCBA harness, causing this lift and move to be more difficult to perform.  By synching down the shoulder straps of the SCBA and capturing the harness at the back of the neck where both shoulder straps meet, the oversized carabiner will act as a handle that is easier to grab and lift.

Mechanical Advantage:  The added weight from water and gear can make even the smallest of the firefighters difficult to drag and maneuver.  Adding a quick mechanical advantage to the equation may help ease the efforts of removing the downed firefighter. Connect the oversized carabiner to the SCBA harness at the back of the neck as described above and run a short piece of kernmantle rope through the carabiner. Secure the terminal end to yourself (preferably your Gemtor Harness if available) and use the other end as the working end to haul the firefighter out, one pull at a time.

Ladder Carry:  Part of the tool cache that many RIT groups assemble consists of a basket (stokes) or backboard to help in the removal of a downed or injured firefighter.  I like to use a folding/attic ladder equipped with two (2) oversized carabiners connected three (3) rungs down from the top.  By placing the downed firefighter face down with their regulator and face piece through the rungs, you can secure them to the ladder by connecting their shoulder straps to the ladder with the carabiners. The ladder acts as a solid carrying surface and makes for an easy lift when moving up and over debris or down long corridors and hallways without jeopardizing their SCBA mask regulator.

Firefighters must be able to adapt and overcome.  Being resourceful with our equipment can prove to be a great way of extending its life, and if needed, help to extend the life of one of our own.



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.


(Special thanks to Gary A. Slater for capturing the still photos needed to illustrate this short training article and to the Electric Boat Fire Department - 1 Shift Firefighters for participating.)


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