Ropes and Knots

 

 

ATTENTION:                 Ever heard the expression “hanging by a thread”? This expression could be related to firefighting in reality. How about hanging on the side of a building rescuing a victim while hanging by a rope. This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you think. Ropes are an everyday tool in the life of the firefighter. It is imperative you understand how and when to use them in the course of your job.

 

MOTIVATION:               The more you know and understand the mechanics of ropes and knots the better firefighters you will become. The life you save just may be your own.

 

OVERVIEW:                  This chapter will discuss the types of ropes, care, record keeping, knots used and give you the opportunity to experience them first hand.

 

TRANSITION:               Let us begin learning about the use of Ropes and Knots.

 

 

 

PRESENTATION:

 

    ROPES AND KNOTS

 

a.      Without reference, identify basic concepts about ropes and knots, the construction, care, record keeping, and maintenance with a minimum of 70% accuracy.

 

(1)     Rope is one of the oldest tools used by the fire service

 

(2)     Very valuable for applications such as:

 

(a)     Hauling tools

 

(b)     Accomplishing rescues from areas of different locations

 

(c)     Stabilizing vehicles

 

(d)     Cordoning off areas

 

(3)     Firefighters must be knowledgeable of the different types of rope

 

(4)     NFPA 1001, Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications requires

 

(a)     The firefighters know the basic knots discussed in this chapter

 

(b)     Understand the basic knots and methods required by local standard operating procedures of your department

 

(5)     Types of Rope and Their Usage

 

(a)     Fire service rope falls into two classifications

 

1         Life Safety Rope – is used to support rescuers and/or victims during actual incidents or training

 

2         Utility Rope – is used in any instance, excluding life safety applications where the use of rope is required

 

(b)     All life safety rope must conform to NFPA 1983, Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and System Components, which defines life safety rope as:

 

1         “Rope dedicated solely for the purpose of supporting people during rescue, firefighting, other emergency operations, or during training evolutions.”

 

(c)     According to NFPA 1983, inspections procedures, maintenance procedures, and criteria for retiring life safety rope procedures must be supplied by the manufacture

 

(d)     Included are the following conditions to be met:

 

1         Rope has not been visibly damaged

 

2         Rope has not been exposed to heat, direct flame impingement, or abrasion

 

3         Rope has not been subjected to any impact load (a force suddenly applied to a rope from a falling load)

 

4         Rope has not been exposed to liquids, solids, gases, mists, or vapors of any chemical or other material that can deteriorate rope

 

5         Rope passes inspection when inspected by a qualified person following the manufacturer’s inspection both before and after each use

 

(e)     Any life safety rope that fails to pass inspection or has been impact loaded should be destroyed immediately

 

1         Destroy means that it is altered in such a manner that it cannot be mistakenly used as a life safety rope

 

(f)       A rope that has been subjected to impact loading must have an entry made into its logbook

 

(g)     Utility rope can be used to:

 

1         Hoist equipment

 

2         Secure unstable objects

 

3         Cordon off an area

 

(h)     Regularly inspect utility rope to see if it is damaged

 

(6)     Rope Materials

 

(a)     For many years natural fiber ropes was the primary type of rope used for rescue

 

(b)     Natural fiber ropes are made of:

 

1         Manila

 

2         Sisal

 

3         Cotton

 

(c)     After extensive testing and evaluation, natural fiber rope is no longer accepted for use in life safety applications

 

(d)     Use natural fiber rope for utility purposes

 

(e)     Synthetic fiber rope has excellent resistance to mildew and rotting

 

(f)       Synthetic rope has excellent strength and easy to maintain

 

(7)     Rope Construction

 

(a)     Two types of rope are used in life safety situations:

 

1         Dynamic (high-stretch) rope

 

a.       Used when long falls are a possibility

 

b.       Reduces the shock impact on both the climbers and their anchor systems in falls

 

c.       Designed for high stretch without breaking

 

d.       This elasticity is a disadvantage when raising or lowering heavy loads

 

e.       Not considered practical for hauling applications

 

2         Static (low-stretch) rope

 

a.       Choice of most rescue incidents

 

b.       Designed for low stretch without breaking

 

c.       Better suited for raising and lowering heavy loads

 

d.       Used for hauling, rescue rappelling, and where no long falls are anticipated

 

(b)     Most common types of rope construction are:

 

1         Laid

 

2         Braided

 

3         Braid on braid

 

4         Kernmantle

 

(c)     Laid (twisted) Natural or Synthetic Rope

 

1         Constructed by twisting yarns together to form stands

 

2         Three strands are twisted together to make the final rope

 


3         Susceptible to abrasion and other types of physical damage

 

(d)     Braided Rope

 

1         Constructed uniformly intertwining strands of rope together

 

2         Reduces or eliminates the twisting common to laid ropes

 

3         Load-bearing fibers are subject to direct abrasion and damage

 

(e)     Braid on Braid (double braided) Rope

 

1         Jacketed rope

 

2         Often confused with Kernmantle rope

 

3         Braid on braid is just what the name implies

 

a.       Constructed with both a braided core and braided sheath

 

b.       The sheath has a herring-bone pattern appearance

 

4         Very strong

 

5         Half its strength is in the sheath and the other half is in the core

 

6         Disadvantage is the sheath may slide along the inner core of the rope

 

(f)       Kernmantle Rope

 

1         A jacketed rope

 

2         Composed of a braided covering or sheath (mantel) over the load bearing stands (kern)

 

3         The core runs parallel with the covering

 

4         Increases the ropes stretch resistance and load characteristics

 

5         The core fibers account for most of the total strength of the rope

 

6         The sheath absorbs most of the abrasion, and protects the load bearing core

 

7         Kernmantle comes in both dynamic and static types

 

8         Dynamic is most commonly used as a sport rope for rock or ice climbing

 

9         Static is most commonly used as rescue rope

 

(8)     Rope Maintenance

 

(a)     Rope must be properly maintained

 

(b)     Inspecting rope

 

1         Inspect all types of rope after each use

 

2         Inspect it visually and tactilely (by touch)

 

3         Inspect for the following:

 

a.       Shards of glass

 

b.       Metal shavings

 

c.       Wood splinters

 

d.       Foreign objects

 

(c)     Laid Rope

 

1         Inspect synthetic laid ropes for:

 

a.       Soft, crusty, stiff, or brittle spots

 

b.       Areas of excessive stretch

 

c.       Cuts

 

d.       Nicks

 

e.       Abrasions

 

f.         Chemical damage

 

g.       Dirt

 

h.       Other obvious flaws

 

2         Ropes should be untwisted and checked internally for these flaws

 

3         Presence of a mildew smell does not necessarily indicate a problem

 

4         A foul smell may indicate rotting or mildew in manila rope

 

(d)     Braided Rope

 

1         Visually inspect for

 

a.       Exterior damage

 

b.       Heat sears

 

c.       Nicks

 

d.       Cuts

 

e.       Excessive unusual fuzziness

 

2         Tactilely inspect for

 

a.       Permanent mushy spots

 

b.       Other deformities

 

(e)     Braid on Braid Rope

 

1         Inspect for:

 

a.       Heat sears

 

b.       Nicks

 

c.       Cuts    

 

d.       Sheath sliding on the core

 

2         If sliding is found, cut the end of the rope and pull off the excess material then sear the end

 

3         Inspect for lumps that indicate core damage

 

4         A reduction in the ropes diameter may indicate the core has broken

 

(f)       Kernmantle Rope

 


1         Inspecting Kernmantle rope for damage is somewhat difficult

 

2         Damage may not be obvious

 

3         Can be performed by putting slight tension on the rope while feeling for lumps, depressions, or soft spots

 

4         Temporary soft spot resulting from hard knots or sharp bends may be felt; however, the fibers within the core may realign themselves over time

 

5         Any damage to the outer sheath indicates probable damage to the core

 

6         The core can be damaged without visible evidence to the outer sheath

 

7         When in doubt, downgrade it to utility service

 

8         Inspect for:

 

a.       Irregularities in shape

 

b.       Foul smells

 

c.       Discoloration

 

d.       Roughness

 

e.       Abrasions

 

f.         Fuzziness

 

(g)     Maintaining a Rope Logbook

 

1         When rope is purchased, it should be permanently identified by a logbook which is kept throughout its entire working life

 

2         The date of each use and the inspection/maintenance records should be kept

 

3         Helps when the rope should be retired

 

(h)     Cleaning Rope

 

1         Methods of washing and drying rope vary with each manufacturer

 


2         Natural fibers

 

a.       Can not be cleaned effectively because water can not be used in the cleaning process

 

b.       Initially water strengthens, after continual exposure to wetting and drying, water weakens and damages the fibers

 

c.       Wipe or gently brush the rope to remove as much of the dirt as possible

 

3         Synthetic fibers

 

a.       Cool water and mild soap are least likely to damage

 

b.       Bleaches or strong cleaners should not be sued

 

c.       Three principle ways to clean synthetic rope:

 

1         Hand washing

 

2         Special rope-washing device

 

3         Clothes-washing machine

 

4         Once it has been washed, it should be dried. It can be:

 

a.       Spread out on a hose rack out of direct sunlight

 

b.       Suspended in a hose tower

 

c.       Loosely coiled in a hose dryer

 

(i)       Storage of Life Safety Ropes

 

1         Can be stored in various coils

 

2         Stored in spaces or compartments which are dry and well ventilated

 

3         Should not be exposed to chemical contaminants

 

4         Should not be stored in same compartment where gasoline-powered rescue tools or spare fuel is present

 

(j)       Bagging the rope

 


1         Best method for storing Kernmantle and other life safety rope is to place it in a storage bag

 

2         Keeps dirt and grime off the rope

 

3         Easy to carry

 

(k)     Coiling the rope

 

1         An improperly coiled rope may result in the failure of the evolution

 

2         Ensure you place it in the bag correctly where it comes out efficiently

 

(9)     Knots

 

(a)     Knots are used to join or connect objects or to form loops

 

(b)     The ability to tie knots is a vital part of fire and rescue operations

 

(c)     Improperly tied knots can be extremely hazardous to both rescuers and victims

 

(d)     Terms to know:

 

1         Running end – part used for hoisting, pulling, or belaying

 

2         Working end – part used in forming the knot

 

3         Standing part – part between the working and running end

 

(e)     All knots should be dressed after they are tied

 

(f)       To prevent slipping, a safety knot should be applied to the tail of the working end

 

(g)     Safety knots are usually single and double overhand knots

 

(h)     Elements of a knot

 

1         A knot must be easy to tie and untie, be secure under load and reduce the ropes strength as little as possible

 

2         The tighter the bend, the more strength is lose

 

3         Bight, loop, and round turns are names for bends in a rope that form a knot or hitch


 

4         Each of these formations are described below:

 

a.       The bight is formed simply by bending the rope back on itself while keeping the sides parallel

 

b.       The loop is made by crossing the side of a bight over the standing part

 

c.       The round turn consists of further bending of one side of a loop

 

5         Single/double Overhand Safety Knots

 

a.       Added measure of safety, use a overhand safety knot whenever tying any type of knot

 

b.       Overhand safety knot eliminates the danger of the rope slipping back through the knot

 

6         Bowline

 

a.       Important knot in the fire service

 

b.       Easily untied and a good knot for forming a single loop

 

c.       Firefighters should be able to tie the bowline in the open as well as around an object

 

7         Half Hitch

 

a.       Particularly useful in stabilizing tall objects that are being hoisted

 

b.       Always used in conjunction with another knot or hitch

 

8         Clove Hitch

 

a.       Formed by several methods

 

b.       Consists essentially of two half hitches

 

c.       Principle use is to attach a rope to an object such as a pole, post, or hoseline

 

d.       Not regarded as suitable for anchoring a life safety rope

 


e.       When properly applied, withstands a pull in either direction without slipping

 

9         Figure-Eight Family of Knots

 

a.       Figure-eight follow through

 

1         Used to tie ropes of equal diameters together

 

2         Tie a rope around an object when an end of the rope is not available

 

b.       Figure-eight on a bight

 

1         A good way to tie a loop in either the middle or end of a rope

 

10     Becket Bend (sheep bend)

 

a.       Used for joining two ropes of unequal diameters or joining a rope and a chain

 

b.       Unlikely to slip when the rope is wet

 

(10) Hoisting Tools and Equipment

 

(a)     Almost any piece of equipment can be hauled with a rope

 

(b)     Proper knots and securing procedures will prevent dropping the equipment

 

(c)     A separate tag line may be tied to equipment being hoisted

 

(d)     The tag line is guided by firefighters on the ground who prevent the equipment from coming in contact with the structure

 

(e)     Keep safety in mind first, then select the method of hoisting

 

(f)       Hoisting Safety considerations

 

1         Have solid footing and make necessary preparations before starting a hoisting operation

 

2         Use the hand over hand method to maintain control of the rope during a hoisting operation

 


3         Protect rope from physical damage when rope must be pulled over sharp edges such as cornices or parapet walls. Edge rollers can be used for this purpose

 

4         Work in teams to ensure firefighter safety when working from heights

 

5         Look to ensure all personnel are clear of the hoisting area

 

6         Avoid hoisting operations near electrical hazards if possible. If this is not possible, use extreme caution

 

7         Ensure a charged hoselines nozzle handle is secure to prevent accidental discharge when hoisting charged hoselines

 

(g)     Axe

 

1         Procedure for attaching and hoisting an axe is the same for either a pick head or flat head axe

 

(h)     Pike pole

 

1         Raise the pike pole with the head up, place a clove hitch toward the end of the handle followed by a half hitch in the middle and another around the head

 

(i)       Ladder

 

1         Use a bowline or figure-eight on a bight and slip it through two rungs of the ladder about one third of the way down from the top. After pulling that loop through, slip it over the top of the ladder

 

(j)       Hoseline

 

1         Hoisting hose is possible the safest way of getting hoselines to upper levels

 

2         Easier and safer to hoist a dry hoseline

 

3         Charged lines may be hoisted

 

4         Most desirable to bleed the pressure before hoisting

 

(k)     Portable fans

 

1         Tie a bowline or figure-eight on a bight around two of the connecting rods between the front and back plates


2         A tag line should be attached to the bottom of the unit

 

(11) Rope Rescue

 

(a)     Sometimes only means of reaching them and getting them to ground level is by use of ropes, knots, and rope systems

 

(b)     Rope rescue is a technical skill that requires special training

 

(c)     For more information, refer to IFSTA’s Fire Service Rescue manual

 

b.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to coil a rope correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Measure off and reserve a length of rope (about 3 times the distance between the standards, the structures used as a support) at the front of the rope to secure the coil when accomplished

 

(a)     Note: a compact, finished coil can also be prepared by using the beams of a ladder as standards

 

(2)     Drape this length of rope over one of the standards

 

(3)     Wrap the remaining rope around these standards until sufficient width is developed. It may be necessary to make two layers to coil all the rope

 

(a)     Note: avoid making the coils too tight, which would make removal of the finished coil difficult

 

(4)     Wrap the last portion of the rope around the loops

 

(5)     Fasten the end securely by tucking the end of the rope under the last wrap

 

(6)     Form a bight with the length measured in step 1

 

(7)     Insert the bight through the end of the coil as shown

 

(8)     Place the end of the rope through the opposite end of the coil

 

(9)     Insert the end of the rope through the bight

 

(10) Finish the coil by tucking the end of the rope next to the end in step 5

 

(11) Remove the coil from the standards

 


c.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to uncoil a rope correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Release the tie

 

(2)     Grasp the inside of the coil

 

(3)     Pull out two or three loops to loosen the coil

 

(4)     Look below for other people or potentially hazardous situations or obstructions

 

(5)     Drop the coil. If the coil is not carefully prepared, it may not pay out to the ground

 

(a)     Note: another method of uncoiling the rope is to uncoil by hand and lower it hand over hand

 

d.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie the single overhand knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Form a loop in the rope

 

(2)     Insert the end of the rope though the loop

 

(3)     Dress the knot by pulling on both ends of the rope at the same time

 

e.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a bowline correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Select enough rope to form the size of the knot desired

 

(2)     Form an overhand loop in the standing part

 

(3)     Pass the working end upward and through the loop

 

(4)     Pass the working end over the top of the loop under the standing part

 

(5)     Bring the working end completely around the standing part and down through the loop

 

(6)     Pull the knot snugly into place, forming an inside bowline with the working end on the inside of the loop

 

f.         Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a clove hitch correctly with no more than one instructor assist.


 

(1)     Form a loop in your left hand with the working end to the right crossing under the standing part

 

(2)     Form another loop in your right hand with the working end crossing under the standing part

 

(3)     Slide the right-hand loop on top of the left-hand loop

 

(a)     Note: this is the important step in forming the clove hitch knot

 

(4)     Hold the two loops together at the rope forming the clove hitch

 

(5)     Slide the knot over the object

 

(6)     Pull the ends in opposite directions to tighten

 

g.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a clove hitch around an object correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Make one complete loop around the object, crossing the working end over the standing part

 

(2)     Complete the round turn about the object just above the first loop shown

 

(3)     Pass the working end under the upper wrap, just above the cross

 

(4)     Set the hitch by pulling

 

h.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure eight knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Make a loop in the rope

 

(2)     Pass the working end completely around the standing part

 

(3)     Insert the end of the rope back through the loop

 

(4)     Dress the knot by pulling on both the working end and the standing part of the rope at the same time

 

i.         Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure-eight follow through knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 


(1)     Tie a figure-eight knot on one end of the rope

 

(2)     Feed the end of the other rope through the figure-eight knot in reverse. It should follow (hence the name) the exact path of the original knot

 

(3)     Use a safety knot, such as the overhand, with this knot

 

(a)     Note: the figure-eight follow though can be tied in the middle of the rope by placing the figure eight at a point far enough along the rope to allow sufficient rope to go around the object

 

j.         Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure eight on a bight knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Form a bight in the working end of the rope

 

(2)     Pass it over the standing part to form a loop

 

(3)     Pass the bight under the standing part and then over the loop and down through it; this forms the figure eight

 

(4)     Extend the bight through the knot to whatever size working loop is needed

 

(5)     Dress the knot

 

k.       Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a Becket Bend knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Form a bight in one of the ends to be tied (if two ropes of unequal diameter are being tied, the bight always goes in the larger of the two)

 

(2)     Pass the end of the second rope through the bight

 

(3)     Bring the loose end around both parts of the bight

 

(4)     Tuck this end under its own standing part and over the bight

 

(5)     Pull the knot snug

 

l.         Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist an axe correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Tie a clove hitch using the method shown in objective f

 

(2)     Slide the clove hitch down the axe handle to the axe head

 


(a)     Note: the excess running end of the rope becomes the tag line

 

(3)     Loop the working end of the rope around the head of the axe and back up the handle

 

(4)     Tie a half hitch on the handle a few inches above the clove hitch

 

(5)     Tie another half hitch at the butt end of the handle

 

m.     Given a section of rope, section(s) of hose and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist a dry hose line to upper floors of a structure correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Lower a rope of appropriate length from the intended destination of the hoseline

 

(2)     Fold the nozzle end of the hoseline back over the hose so that an overlap of 4 to 5 feet is formed

 

(3)     Tie a clove hitch, with an overhand safety knot, around the tip of the nozzle and the hose it is folded against so that they are lashed together

 

(4)     Place a half hitch on the doubled hose about 12 inches from the loop end

 

(a)     Note: with the ties properly placed, the hose will turn on the hose roller so that the coupling and nozzle will be on top as the hose passes over the roller

 

n.       Given a section of rope, section(s) of hose and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist a charged hose line to upper floors of a structure correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

(1)     Lower a rope of appropriate size from the intended destination of the hoseline

 

(2)     Tie a clove hitch, with an overhand safety knot around the hose about 1 foot below the coupling and nozzle

 

(3)     Tie a half hitch through the nozzle itself in a manner that allows the rope to hold the nozzle shut while it is being hoisted

 

APPLICATION:

 

b.   Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to coil a rope correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 


c.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to uncoil a rope correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

d.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie the single overhand knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

e.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a bowline correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

f.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a clove hitch correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

g.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a clove hitch around an object correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

h.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure eight knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

I.     Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure-eight follow through knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

j.     Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a figure eight on a bight knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

k.    Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to tie a Becket Bend knot correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

l.     Given a section of rope and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist an axe correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

m.   Given a section of rope, section(s) of hose and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist a dry hose line to upper floors of a structure correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

n.   Given a section of rope, section(s) of hose and full protective equipment, demonstrate the ability to hoist a charged hose line to upper floors of a structure correctly with no more than one instructor assist.

 

EVALUATION:        Interspersed throughout the presentation of the lesson with oral questions and performance evaluations.

 

 

 

 


 

 

CONCLUSION                                                   TIME: 5 MIN

  

 

SUMMARY:                         We have just discussed aspects associated with ropes and knots.

 

REMOTVATION:                 The use of ropes and knots should become second nature to all firefighters. They are vital in search and rescue operations as well as other important functions on the scene of the emergency. Become familiar with all methods in use in your department.

 

ASSIGNMENT:                    N/A  Continue with next lesson.

 

CLOSURE:                          This concludes our instruction on Ropes and Knots.