Have a Little FUN During Rescue Training

While rescue training is serious business, as it should be, it can also be fun, as well as allowing skills to be tested and used in personal and team building capacities. While I do subscribe to “training by the book” to get basic and advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), there is no reason training cannot be exercised in different, fun ways. 


Pictured: Fore, aft guy line ropes. Can add two side guy lines for added lateral stability.

This diversity in training is, of course, delegated to the unit’s training officer, but you know, the training officer doesn’t always need to wear starched underwear all the time! Experiment some and find new ways to test your members’ rescue skills in unique ways.

Some years ago, after training my department in BRT, ART, ERT and RT curricula, I decided to challenge our members’ skills in unique ways. One of the most fun, but challenging exercises, was to test their knots, lashing and ladder rigging skills by performing the “vertical ladder” exercise.

This skill set involved using a certified 24-foot extension aluminum rescue ladder, extended to 18 feet. First, it required members to remember how to carry and deploy a rescue ladder — by the book — as we were taught in NCDOI Rescue College. The ladder was extended to the proper height while on sawhorses — or laid on wooden cribbing blocks on the ground. The lanyard was properly “tied off” on the rungs of the ladder, securing the fly to the bed. Then, the ladder fly and bed were further secured by the clove hitch-round turns-clove hitch method, like you would use in the standard ladder-as-a-derrick procedure. This again tested their memory and technical skill. Then, as if doing relative ladder-derrick procedures, four guy ropes were properly attached to the beams at the tip of the ladder, thus creating aft, fore and side guy ropes. This tested those practical skills.

Ladder beams secured to pickets

We also attached a rescuer safety line over the top rung and secured the running end to a low rung near the base of the ladder. Then, when we decided where the feet of the ladder would be placed once the ladder was raised up vertical, they were tested on where the anchor pickets should be placed relative to ladder position, as well as how far to place the pickets away from the ladder on all four sides.

Remember, pickets are placed one and one-half to two times the extended length of the ladder, thus 27 to 36 feet from the base of the ladder. For simplicity’s sake, I train rescuers to two times anything is easier to calculate than one and one-half times anything, if site conditions allow. So, picket placement skills are tested, including the angle placement of the pickets and proper depth into the ground in order to obtain the proven anchor strengths.

Suspended ladder used for rope lashing, knot and climbing skills.

Then came time to properly raise the ladder without it falling over in any direction. This required a member at all four guy line pickets, maintaining proper tensioning of the guy lines during the raise. Two rescuers “heeled” the ladder during the raise to keep the butt of the ladder from “kicking out” during the raise. Once vertical, all guy lines were secured to the pickets with a round turn and clove hitch. Again, testing these skills to adequately secure a ladder.

So now we had a ladder standing vertically. But, as with the ladder derrick procedure, two pickets had to be driven into the ground very close to the beams of the ladder for securing the base of the ladder from any movement once loaded. Again, clove hitch, round turns, finished off with a clove hitch around the beams of the ladder and the pickets. So now we have a secured vertical ladder 18 feet tall.

The stabilized vertical ladder ready for climbing.

At this point, a rescuer ties into the safety rope via a sit harness, or, if you want more training review, have the rescuer tie a class three rescue harness. The rescuer climbed the ladder, seeing how a vertical climb is much different than a standard angle climb. Some rescuers went to the top and back down, others climbed around a ladder beam and descended down the other side. Lessons taught? Yes. Trust the rope, the knots, the pickets, the ladder’s strength, the climber’s abilities to adapt and most importantly, to trust your fellow rescuers.

There are other technical but fun exercises you can do. You can secure a timber or a ground ladder to a stable elevated tower or beam that can be used for ascending a rope exercise with prusik knots or your mechanical ascenders. Likewise, rig two ropes, have the rescuer ascend one rope, switch off to the other rope, then descend back to the ground. Rope skills are greatly tested here along with enhancing personal endurance and technical skill levels. This exercise is also a great confidence builder for the rescuer. What’s tested here? More lashing skills, rope handling and knots and vertical high-level skills.

These are just a few examples of the many creative training scenarios a training officer can come up with. Be creative, and yes, be safe and don’t mis-rig or overload your equipment.

Bob Twomey has been in the volunteer rescue service for 46 years, having served on five Rescue Squads from the coast to the mountains. He is currently a member of Transylvania County Rescue Squad, past Chief and Training Chief, an EMT for 45 years, and is an IFSAC and OSFM certified Rescue Instructor. Bob has been active in SAR, Mountain Rescue, and teaches high-level rescue. He is the chief pilot of Wolf Tree Aviation, and flies helicopter searches and rescue support locally. He is a Crew Chief for the NC Forest Service. He can be reached at 828-884-7174 or at btwomey@comporium.net.

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