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Pre-Rigged Systems for Hauling/Lowering a Downed Firefighter

Pre-Rigged Systems for Hauling/Lowering a Downed Firefighter

When dispersing equipment and tools amongst your apparatus and response units, a lot of time and thought is used to determine what the best fit for the best function is. Pre-staging roof hooks and a vent saw on an aerial device is an effective and efficient way to better prepare for ventilation efforts. What does your department pre-stage on their apparatus that is readily available for a safe and swift removal of a downed firefighter from a second or third floor window?

In this short training article, I am going to introduce the idea and concept of utilizing a pre-rigged mechanical advantage along with a thrown extension ladder or aerial piece as an overhead anchor point. Combining minimal hardware and ½” kernmantle life safety rope, a system can be implemented into the rescue of a downed firefighter by hauling him/her down a hallway to a window and lowered to the ground in a controlled manner.

Option #1

(photo credit: Electric Boat Fire - Shift 1, Gary Slater)

  • 100’ of ½” Kernmantle Life Safety Rope

  • Three (3) Oversized Carabiners

  • Two (2) Single Pulleys

  • Extension Ladder

Throw the appropriate sized extension ladder to the window designated for rescue egress and make sure it extends up and over the top of the window with the system attached to a rung that is higher than the top of the window.

Using the center pulley and oversized carabineer, attach it to the SCBA harness of the downed firefighter (for variations of converting an SCBA harness into a drag or haul device, click ) and use this system to lift the downed firefighter up and over the windowsill then in a controlled manner lower to the ground where he/she can be attended to further.

In some circumstances, the downed firefighter may be rather difficult to drag or push down a hallway to the window due to their physical size, the added weight of the their gear, or minimal staffing on scene. With the ladder and system in place, the downed firefighter can be hauled to the window with the system as long as the crew performing the rescue has the ability to grab the center pulley and oversized carabiner from the window opening after the ladder has been put into place.

Option #2

(photo courtesy: Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department - A Shift, Local 2704)

The second option not only provides a greater mechanical advantage, but it is also a commonly pre-rigged and staged system found on apparatus with most departments. The 4:1 is frequently used as an instrumental piece of equipment with confined space rescue efforts but can easily be implemented into the rescue of a downed firefighter in the same manner as the system previously shown.

Working off of an overhead anchor point provided from either an extension ladder or the tip/bucket from an aerial truck, the 4:1 will provide the optimal amount of assistance in hauling and lowering in an orderly method because of the breakdown of the load being hauled and lowered. 

Option #3

(photo credit: Electric Boat Fire - Shift 1, Gary Slater)

The last option can easily be bagged and stored together and has a quick and easy set-up that can be performed while the downed firefighter is still being packed and moved to the window opening.

  • 100’ of ½” Kernmantle Life Safety Rope

  • Two (2) Oversized Carabiners

  • One (1) Single Pulley

  • Extension Ladder

(The carabiners used in the photo above, I chose to use are carabiners from an Out Of Service Gemtor Harness.)

(photo credit: Electric Boat Fire - Shift 1, Gary Slater)

With the ladder thrown, ascend the ladder and start weaving the end through the rungs, as you would a breaker bar descent device. This will in turn create needed friction in order to lower the downed firefighter in a controlled manner.

The three (3) options and variations are just a few methods amongst many that are utilized in the fire service daily to perform effective and efficient rescues and removals of downed firefighters. No matter your training or equipment budget, each system is cost effective and comprised of gear that should currently exist within your compliment of equipment. Simply re-purposing or pre-staging it for this specific function could help save the life of one 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.



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