Tips for SAR Team Rope Training Sessions

Every rescue scene requires its own unique procedures and require regular practice of personal and team skills for fast, safe and effective rescues. Organizing practice sessions can be a daunting task, so here are a few tips to get your rope team training:

Tip 1 – Organize practice sessions into manageable chunks.  It is not realistic to think you can review everything covered in a 7 day rope class in a 2 hour practice. 

Tip 2 – Never assume everyone is at the same level.  Start with foundation skills and progress from there. 

Tip 3 – Set goals and objectives for your training.  Your goal is like your master plan and may be to review and refresh all of the skills taught during a certified training session.  Your objectives are the measurable steps you set out to accomplish this.  For example, for one particular session your goals may be to have everyone demonstrate their ability to tie 10 basic knots, and efficiently and effectively package a patient in a litter for a low angle raise.

Practicing Patient Packaging Photo byChristin Trofimenkoff

And here’s a list of some key skills that we feel should be reviewed on a regular basis:

Knots are the building blocks for technical rope systems.  Knots should be practiced with gloves on (NFPA compliant) and tied as they would be during an actual rescue.  Key knots to review are the figure 8 bend, the retraced figure 8, figure 8 on a bight, directional figure 8, double overhand bend and the alpine butterfly.  Key hitches to review would be the clove hitch, prusik hitch and italian (munter) hitch.  Some groups use more specialized knots for particular rigging applications such as interlocking bowlines or interlocking long-tail bowlines.  As these knots are not used as frequently, they require constant practice if you hope to remain efficient in tying them.

Patient Packaging
We also recommend you devote some time to reviewing, refining and practicing your patient packaging systems.  Being able to complete a packaging system within a certain time frame helps increase rigging proficiency. 

Mechanical Advantage
Use caution not to overdo or overcomplicate mechanical advantage practice.  Focus on the simple systems your team needs on a regular basis. 

Belay Skills
It is critical to review this fundamental skill to ensure people remain proficient in operating the systems and equipment you utilize.  Setting up a drop test not only helps to practice the skills in a practical setting but it also adds confidence in your ability and the system. 

Litter Rigging
It is also a good idea to ensure that everyone has the ability to quickly and effectively rig your litter for low, steep and high angle operations. 

Multipod/Tripod Setup
If you use a tri-pod or multi-pod it is also recommended that everyone gets some hands on practice putting it together and setting it up. 

Tripod Setup Photo by Jason Wolsky

Depending on what your team’s skill level and needs are it may also be a good idea to practice ascending and descending a fixed line. 

Once you are confident you have all the fundamentals down we would recommend you implement some scenario based training.  Start with one of the more commons scenarios you may deal with.  For example this may be an over-the-bank, road side, low angle rescue.  Have your team work through it from start to finish and then follow it up with a focused debrief. 

Interested in a bit more guidance? We can help you run rope training for your SAR team. Contact us to learn more.