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Chapter 15 . Ropes and Knots. Introduction. Rope is one of the most important and routinely used tools in the fire service In this chapter, you will learn: How to select the proper rope The proper uses of rope in fire service The essential skill of knot tying

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chapter 15

Chapter 15

Ropes and Knots

  • Rope is one of the most important and routinely used tools in the fire service
  • In this chapter, you will learn:
    • How to select the proper rope
    • The proper uses of rope in fire service
    • The essential skill of knot tying
    • How to properly inspect, maintain, and store rope
rope materials and their characteristics
Rope Materials andTheir Characteristics
  • Constructed of a wide variety of materials
  • Each material has different characteristics
  • Earliest ropes were made of natural materials
  • The fire service has re-examined the type of rope materials being utilized as life safety lines
natural materials
Natural Materials
  • Materials that fall into this category
    • Manila, sisal, and cotton
  • Share same poor characteristics with regard to:
    • Rot
    • Mildew
    • Abrasion resistance
    • Natural deterioration
    • Low shock load absorption capability
synthetic materials
Synthetic Materials
  • Primary synthetic materials utilized:
    • Nylon
    • Polypropylene
    • Polyethylene
    • Polyester
  • Today, ropes made of these are the rule rather than the exception
  • High strength-to-weight ratio
construction methods and their characteristics
Construction Methods andTheir Characteristics
  • Natural fiber ropes dominating fire service were constructed using laid method
  • Modern ropes utilize a number of different construction techniques
  • Two broad categories:
    • Static
    • Dynamic
laid twisted
Laid (Twisted)
  • Most common type of construction for natural fiber ropes
  • Formed by twisting individual fibers together to form strands or bundles
  • Tends to accentuate spinning and twisting
  • Advantage is that all fibers are exposed
    • Easy to inspect
    • Exposed fibers also susceptible to damage
  • Utilized predominantly with synthetic fibers
  • Formed by weaving small bundles of fibers together, much the same as braided hair
  • Smooth to touch, high flexibility
  • Does not accentuate spinning
  • Every fiber exposed to abrasion, sunlight, and physical damage
braid on braid
  • Formed by braiding a sheath over a smaller braided core
  • Ropes of this kind are quite dynamic
  • Soft sheath more susceptible to damage from abrasion

Figure 15-9 Example of braid-on-braid construction method.

  • Kern is a derivative of the term kernel
  • Mantle is defined as “anything that cloaks, envelops, covers, or conceals”
  • Kern carries vast majority of load
  • Can be dynamic or static depending on configuration of fibers of kern
  • Quite resistant to abrasion

Figure 15-10 Example of kernmantle construction method with the outer kern cut and pulled back at the end, showing the inner mantle section.

primary uses
Primary Uses
  • Fire service utilizes ropes on a regular basis
  • Operations divided into two classifications:
    • Utility
    • Safety
  • Firefighter should be familiar with department standard rope use
  • Rope used for utility purposes has no governing standards
  • Firefighters must take extra precautions when using utility rope
  • Firefighters should become familiar with common uses within their own department
firefighting and rescue uses
Firefighting and Rescue Uses
  • Ropes for structural search and rescue guide ropes do not fall into category of life safety ropes
  • Ropes, harnesses, and hardware utilized anywhere there will be life supported must comply with NFPA 1983
  • NFPA 1983 categorizes life safety ropes as:
    • Light-use
    • General-use
  • NFPA 1983 also sets tensile strength requirements for each
fire service knots
Fire Service Knots
  • Each service will have preferred methods and knots
  • Consult local protocol, policies or SOPs to find which knots expected for various situations
  • Some knots introduced with switch to synthetic fibers
terms used for rope and knots
Terms Used for Ropeand Knots
  • Three separate and distinct parts of a rope:
    • Working end
    • Standing part
    • Running end
  • Firefighters need to know terms used to describe elements combined to form knots

Figure 15-13 Left to right: a round turn, a bight, and a loop. Take the loose end of the working end after tying the primary knot, and secure it by making a round turn around the standing knot and bringing the loose end through. Make a round turn in the standing portion of the rope, and slide the round turn down over the object being hoisted.

  • Dressing: make sure parts of the knot are lying in the proper orientation to other parts
  • Setting: make sure knot is snug in all directions
  • Most commonly used:
    • Half hitch and overhand (safety) knot
    • Clove hitch
    • Becket bend and double becket bend
    • Bowline knot and figure eight knots
    • Rescue knot and water knot



Figure 15-14 (A) A loose and sloppy knot. (B) A knot properly dressed and set.

  • All ropes must be inspected and properly maintained
  • Inspections should be a matter of department policy
  • Life safety rope found damaged must be removed from service
  • Ropes should be inspected along their entire length
laid twisted26
Laid (Twisted)
  • Firefighters should look and feel for:
    • Foreign matter
    • Slippery spots
    • Voids in center fibers
    • Stiff or hard spots and soft spots
  • Laid ropes should be untwisted at random intervals to inspect between strands
  • Should be visually and tactilely inspected as well
  • Inspecting inside is not possible
  • All strands appear on the surface somewhere along the rope
braid on braid29
  • When inspecting braid-on-braid rope, there is no way to see the inside braided rope
  • Pay attention to tactile inspection
    • Watch and feel for damage
  • Outside braid will sometimes slip over the inner braid causing the rope to invert
    • Immediately remove from service
  • Outside braid represents 50 percent of strength
  • Cannot see kern portion
    • Represents 75 percent of total strength of rope
  • Tactile inspection is best and only way to discover damage to kern
  • Key is to search for a different feel
    • Flat spots, voids, bunches, stiffness, and limpness
  • Maintenance of ropes is not difficult
  • Firefighter may be called on to assist with placing new rope into service
  • Carefully adhere to manufacturer's instructions
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions
  • Brush dirt off natural materials; do not use water
    • Lose 50 percent of strength when wet
    • Do not regain strength when dry
  • Ropes manufactured from synthetic materials can be cleaned in a number of ways
    • Hand wash
    • Rope washer
    • Clothes washing machine

Figure 15-24 A kernmantle rope can also be “chained” and washed in a front-loading washing machine.

  • Rope must be completely dried prior to storage
  • Different drying methods:
    • Lay flat to dry
    • Hang to dry
  • Use clothing dryer with extreme caution
    • Even a low temperature setting could surpass manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Quick identification is important
    • Type
    • Length
  • Different material types, sizes, or colors of bags or tags can be used to differentiate
  • Each department needs to establish policy
  • Standard coiling
  • Utilization of special bags
rigging for hoisting
Rigging for Hoisting
  • One of the primary uses of rope on emergency scene
  • Much smaller rope can be utilized
  • Can be stored bagged or coiled
  • Some departments have policies governing the use of tag/guide lines
specific tools and equipment
Specific Tools and Equipment
  • Small figure eight on a bight with half hitch up handle is easiest and quickest way to hoist an ax
  • Pike poles should be hoisted point up
  • Hoselines can be hoisted charged or uncharged
  • Power tools have closed handles or support pieces
  • Ladders are hoisted on regular basis
securing a rope between two object s
Securing a Rope betweenTwo Objects
  • Need to secure a rope between two objects may arise at any emergency scene
  • Rope may be used as a barrier using one of two methods
  • Figure eight on a bight may be used to secure an anchor point
lessons learned
Lessons Learned
  • Ropes have many uses
  • Fire service uses ropes on a regular basis
  • Experience is the most effective teacher
  • Firefighters are encouraged to practice the basics learned
  • Maintenance of rope is not difficult or complicated