Rigging For Effect - Get Your Ropes Off the Ground Using A "Rigging Workstation"

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Rigging For Effect - Get Your Ropes Off the Ground Using A Rigging Workstation.

  1. Construction of a Rigging Workstation
  2. Focused locations for a multiple systems
  3. Better body position when operating systems
  4. Improves the angle of ropes when using a high directional

If you’re technical rope rescue experience has been anything like mine, there has been many a time where you were running a lowering system, or a belay with both of your knees in the dirt as your system was tied in the lowest possible location on your anchor, and your ropes themselves have the opportunity to bond with mother nature as they too run through the dirt as they approach the edge. It is during these times I have thought to myself, “There has to be a better way to do this”. Why would anyone find it advantageous to have their system running on the ground, and furthermore how do we fix it? As we progress with our rope rescue training we should learn more about the principles of tension and compression, anchoring, and rigging physics. When we combine several of these principles one should arrive at the conclusion that a floating anchor is a fantastic and highly effective way to improve the quality of your system. As with every aspect of technical rope rescue there are a plethora of ways to construct a floating anchor and as we know they serve very well in locations where in-line natural anchors to not exist. One form of a floating anchor that I feel is worth exploring is commonly referred to as a “rigging workstation”. Simply, a rigging workstation utilizes some form of a multi-attachment rigging plate that is set upon a compression member; often times a component of a high directional system. In order to understand the benefits of imparting this in to our systems let’s break down the components, and the advantages.

How is it constructed?

The rigging Workstation is congruent in principle with a standard floating anchor. As is evident in this picture the rigging Workstation is secured with a series of tensioned back ties, and an oppositional front tie. There are many configuration possibilities for you rigging plate at the top, but the rigging principles remain the same. Here, the orange cordage in the front of the picture is serving as the oppositional front tie. The simple purpose of this is to allow the back ties to be fully tensioned prior to applying a load to the system. The white, and black ropes to the rear of the picture are the tensioned back ties in this case constructed from three non-working 3:1 systems. One leg of the Arizona Vortex Multi-Pod system is being utilized as the compression member.

Now that there is a basic understanding of what a rigging Workstation looks like and some of the construction principles behind it, we can discuss the advantages to using one in your rigging.

  • Provides a single, focused location for multiple systems

Take a look at the picture previously used. You should notice that both a pulley system being used for hauling, and a MPD being used for the belay are both secured to the rigging Workstation. Rather than having multiple different locations for system components on the scene of a rescue, we can impart a rigging pod perfectly inline with our edge, and secure it with multiple tensioned back ties. Generally speaking when we include three or more tensioned back ties, a comfort level should exist to allow us to run both a main and belay system from this rigging pod. Yes, we would consider it to be a “bombproof” anchor at that point. When you go out with your team to build one of these, you will see what I’m talking about after you tension three back ties. Simply put, it’s not going anywhere.

  • Allows For a better body position when operating systems.

Ok, I realize this sounds like a luxury type of item and is seemingly ancillary. However I would disagree as I consider it to be a substantial improvement in the quality operation of our rope systems. Check out the picture. If you are able to notice, a tandem prusik belay system is being operated from this rigging workstation. You can see that the systems would reach about waist level with an average height adult. This means that the belay operator (possibly the most important on the rescue), is able to comfortably operate his system hence allowing more concentration and diligence. When we have distractors like being hunched over on our knees on rocky terrain for a long period of time, the possibility exists that the belay operator is not going to be doing the quality job that they should. This is not a guarantee, but it is a distinct possibility, and one that I would prefer to eliminate if possible. In short, standing is better!

  • Improves the angle of ropes when using a high directional

This, in my humble opinion is one of the most substantial benefits of a rigging Workstation. Many teams utilize some form of a high directional at the edge during a rope rescue. As knowledgeable rope technicians we understand that the angle of the rope running through your directional pulley on your HD greatly impacts the force we are applying to our high directional. While many systems such as the Arizona Vortex have a 900 lbf safe working load, it is always beneficial to minimize applied force in our system where ever possible. So let's ponder the anchor tied close to the ground. When the ropes start so close to the ground, and must travel up through a high directional at the edge, a more severe angle is created at the head of the high directional. By elevating our anchoring system via a rigging Workstation, a more gradual angle is applied to the directional pulley thus your high directional experiences less force. In this picture, notice the kootenay pulley hanging from the Sideways A frame. You can see that the tensioned rope running through it has a nice wide angle and like likely close to 120 degrees in which the pulley and the head of the vortex is experiencing exactly what the load is, nothing more.

There are many who might argue that a rigging Workstation is a time consuming component of a system and that it is not necessary. As with any advanced skill, you must be proficient in your basics for success. A well trained team can easily construct a rigging workstation with two people in ten minutes. Just a small amount of time can lead to noticeable benefits for the entire rescue operation. As far as necessity is concerned, how can we as technical rescuers truly make a conclusive statement on this? The nature of our business requires us to impart skills based on a given situation. That however is what exemplifies the importance of knowing skills like the ones discussed in this article. We never know what the situation will be so the biggest favor we can do for the citizens we serve, our team, and ourselves is to have a tremendous toolbox of skills. As always, enjoy!

Jason Ilowite is a Firefighter with the Loudoun County, VA Fire Rescue department  where he serves on the county's Heavy Rescue Squad, and Technical Rescue team. Jason specializes in technical rope rescue.  He can be reached at [email protected]


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About The Author:

Jason is an avid rope rescue enthusiast. He took a specific interest in the technical rescue aspect of the fire department, got assigned to the county’s heavy rescue squad, and developed a passion for rope rescue. He’s been lucky enough to participate in classes with people from all across the rope spectrum. As such, he sort of adopted the rope rescue program in his department as his own, and he’s in the process of writing manuals and developing training. He has big visions of changing the “old school fire department rigging culture” from antiquated tactics that are no longer accepted in the rescue world, to more modern and efficient rigging.

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