Hey all,

It has been interesting hearing from many of you with respect to the use of “rigging or rescuers winch systems”.  We’ve been discussing both the Harken LokHead Winch and Harken Riggers Winch.

There seems to be 3 camps…

  1. Departments who swear by the 15:1 SSSF and 1/2″ rope only.
  2. More adventure-based riggers who lead very conservative teams in the hopes of “single person vectoring” them into “the light”.
  3. Teams that have made the transition from heavier gear to lighter weight gear and who understand ratios and physics enough to invest into smaller team functionality… inclusive of the winch rescue systems.


This is from a customer of ours… This is awesome!!!  He states the situation, the problem and sees a fix, but the “call to action” needed to make this happen is a tough one.

“Cool, seems really sweet but unfortunately I am held or more accurately stuck with a pretty fixed standard.  To give you some background,  I am also one of our trainers for our Technical Rescue Team.  I see a lot of cool potential for us with this tool but while I do not agree with our safety standards our hands are always tied to our ridiculously high safety standards per NFPA.  It appears in the video  on that link that 7/16″ rope is being used and due to the nature of our job we don’t use less than 1/2” rope (I am pushing for us to start doing mountain rescue and this would allow the use of smaller rope once adopted).  I did not see a G rating for this equipment either, and until we start doing mountain rescue I am very doubtful I can convince our team leaders to purchase equipment with less than a G rating.  I would like to use the whole assembly to include the drill instead of the winch, it sure seems like there is a ton of potential in this rig.  Do you have any thoughts or info that I could use to help sell the need of this equipment even if it is not in the proper safety rating for us, or some applications that would still fit into our current area of work that would allow me to convince my team leaders to purchase this equipment?  I am sure you know how much us fire rope rescue guys love having the newest coolest equipment, and sometimes its hard to find a way to sell it to our superiors.  I also wonder do you know if this set up has been sold to any fire departments and I could reach out to them to try and get a recommendation from them”.  

I hear your plight, but don’t get hung up on the minor details.  12.5 or 11mm… makes no difference in the sense that the techniques are identical.  You can’t change certain thoughts overnight, but weening people into a new paradigm can be done.. and with this… very secure. So, while moving from the 15:1 (12.5mm) frame of reference to the 10:1 (11mm) reference point is a no brainer for many.. the understand why this works is a tough sell for many. First, achieving a 15:1 is impossible… there are just way to many points in a system that preclude this from happening and people can not continue rolling the wheelbarrow up to the scene with 8-10 people.  

With respect to the drill, if you are looking for (say) a cert that say a winch and drill system is NFPA G or even NFPA T… you won’t find it.  What you will find though is gearing ratios on the winch (13:1 or 40:1).. and a winch system with a crank (with the same ratio) that with physics understanding.. will give you the exact numbers you need.  Let me explain a bit. 

The old NFPA was a great attempt at controlling things.  It has good stuff, but like anything else, it became an albatross  and the purpose got lost in scaling the intent.  Manufacturing kept building better gear but had to corrupt the attempt for old school and literally, dangerous logic. You can’t build better rope and maintain a diameter of 12.5mm simply because the “Code” says you need it.  Do you see the problem.  Faulty logic created the 15:1, which created the assumed diameter of rope, which corrupted a design option that now has to include matching cam sizes with rope diameter.  MPD and I’d as an example have 2 sizes because of the this logic. 

Harken Riggers & LokHead Winch Mini-Course - Rigging Lab Academy

If for example, the capstan theory was understood and the winch… which is a capstan… is in use, then it would assume that full strength tie-off is now employed.  Full strength 11mm (say)… Compare this with 12.5mm with the use of prusiks.  Which has the higher strength rating?  The 11mm!  So why is this in question?   

Ultimately, you are actually in violation of your own rules in trying to stay with 12.5mm methods in order to keep NFPA G because you can’t do it.  10:1 is achieved through 11mm and it forces you into better techniques and methods. If you stay with what you have, your team can’t grow.. literally.  Mainly because it is being phased out now anyway.  

Sorry for the diatribe.  I care about you guys and want you to succeed and to be creative.  Have fun with this stuff!!

Peace on your days….