Has Your Rescue Equipment Cache Exceeded Your Team’s Training Level?

Written By: Jason Ilowite

Correct MPD

Has Your Rescue Equipment Cache Exceeded Your Team’s Training Level? “Go do a safety check on that MPD”, this was the direction of my team leader recently during a high angle pick-off drill, immediately prior to sending someone over the edge.  At a very quick first glance, the MPD was reeved properly, until I conducted a “tug test” to make sure the load side did in fact lock when a sudden force was applied to it. To my surprise, the side that was to be attached to the rescuer was running through the free moving side of the MPD’s high efficiency pulley. Had this not been discovered and fixed, as soon as the rescuer put weight on the system everyone would have been in for an unexpected and unacceptable surprise. So how do we prevent this from happening again? Let’s examine this situation, and offer suggestions to ensure this doesn’t happen to your team.

It seems as though recently more than ever, Fire Department teams are getting on board the modern technology train. MPDs, AZTEK kits, Arizona Vortexs’, Omni pulleys, and other great pieces of equipment are popping up in equipment caches all over the country.  There is an easy explanation for this. The addition of these tools can undoubtedly lead to more efficient rigging, ultimately translating to a smoother rescue operation.  Some teams are so eager, that they are purchasing these items, and immediately placing them on the rig. Here in lies the issue. While the benefits of having the newest equipment are indisputable, it requires trained hands as the operator. As stated in my previous example, the MPD while seemingly self-explanatory can be dangerously rigged incorrectly not to mention operated incorrectly (see below). Aztek kits have well over 100 documented uses and have been a complete game changer in rope rescue. Believe it or not, a major technical rescue team that neighbors mine added Aztek kits to their cache, but only offered 3 uses of it to their team members. Without formalized training, it is not possible for the instructors to pass on all the necessary information to reap the full benefits of this great tool. Without instruction on its uses, and safety functions how can one expect to pick it up out of the packaging and put it to use? The Arizona Vortex is one of the best things my team carries, however also comes with a stipulation. It is well known that without a solid understanding of rigging physics, and guying systems Artificial high directions can be very dangerous. It took quite some time and training on my own accord to get every member of my team to operate the vortex using the recommended configurations and guying systems set forth by the very people that developed it. As you can see it can be too easy to allow your equipment cache to escalate past how your team is trained.


The two pictures below show very simple reeving of the MPDs. Without reading the explanation as to which one is correct and incorrect, you can see how it might be easy for the untrained eye to overlook a potentially major issue. In order to prevent a safety mishap at your next training or incident, here are three suggestions to follow:

Incorrect MPD




This picture show the INCORRECT way to rigging an MPD.  This is apparent because the working end of the rope exits the high efficiency pulley side.  If loaded, there will be no braking function to stop the descent.






 Correct MPD


This picture show the CORRECT rigging of the MPD.  We can tell because the working end of the rope exits through the braking side of the MPD.  To ensure correctness, a firm tug can be given to the working end and it will lock appropriately.







  1. If you get a new piece of equipment, its basic functions need to be well understood before a live load is even considered. Seek out professional training. “Figuring it out as we go” shouldn’t be an acceptable mindset.
  2. Always, always conduct a thorough safety check before loading a system. This should ideally be done by somebody who was not directly involved in the rigging being inspected. In my case, it prevented an imminent injury.
  3. If you don’t know ask. If you are aware that the tool you’ve been asked to use is beyond your knowledge base, don’t let ego dictate your decisions. Speak up and ask someone who is proficient to help.

So a potential problem has been identified, what is the solution? Formalized training from subject matter experts is the answer.  From a Fire Department rope rescue perspective, most of us have been trained by state fire organizations. These often lack recency and seem to teach the practices of the past; and from an extremely basic standpoint. When your team added some of newest rope rescue equipment talked about above, they elected to escalate past the bare bones of rope rescue and need to be trained as such. This requires members to seek out the experts which often reside in privately owned training companies that specialize in teaching with the newer tools.  The freshly trained members then take their acquired knowledge to the rest of the team, and just like that the team is brought up to speed and more capable of using the tools provided to them.  Have fun learning!


Jason Ilowite

Email- jasonilowite@yahoo.com

Cell- (301)-775-7812



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