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      Understanding the IRATA L1 Syllabus: Rescuing a casualty in descent mode

      Rescue operations fall into two broad categories: rig-for-rescue (where the rope system has been rigged to either allow a third party to lower an immobilized tech to the ground or ascend them to the top of the structure) and intervention rescues, which can be used if a rig-for-rescue system isn’t an option. For example: if a re-anchor was used in the casualty’s rope system. We encourage rigging for rescue whenever possible, this will ensure that we don't have to send a second technician into a potentially dangerous situation, everything can be managed from the anchor system.

      The majority of intervention rescues are carried out by IRATA L2 and L3 techs, with the exception of this one: rescuing a casualty suspended by a descending device. That’s because most of the work you’ll be doing as a rope tech will happen in descent mode. Since some contracts may employ a limited number of rope techs, IRATA wants everyone working on a given contract to be capable of carrying out this very basic and potentially crucial rescue operation.

      During your IRATA Assessment, all levels will be asked to demonstrate competence rescuing a casualty in descent mode using a separate, and close by, set of ropes. You may be asked to approach the casualty from above or below, depending on the scenario presented by your assessor.

      L2 and L3 certifying techs will be asked to demonstrate competence rescuing a casualty in descent mode using the same rope system as them.

      With intervention rescues, all the equipment (ropes, anchors, gear) you need for the pre-planned rescue would be detailed in the risk assessment, and set aside so that if the need arises the system can be deployed as quickly as possible. On assessment day, you’ll be working with existing ropes and rigging for simplicity’s sake, but you should be aware that this wouldn’t normally be the case.

      Quick deployment is especially important because of something called suspension intolerance. If the tech passes out while in suspension, their harness could act like a tourniquet cutting off blood flow to their legs. Although there are some techniques for positioning the casualty which will buy you some extra time (we’ll review these during training) suspension intolerance could have potentially lethal side effects if the tech isn’t rescued quickly (ie. under 15 minutes).

      How will you practice rescues?

      During your training week, you’ll be helping each other to practice this rescue maneuver. This means that one of your colleagues will be acting as a casualty and feigning immobility. This acting role has its hazards. If you’re playing this role, you’ll need to move your legs frequently to prevent the onset of the symptoms associated with suspension intolerance – symptoms which, although easy to prevent ,could be dangerous, and actually cause you to pass out!

      On assessment day, your IRATA assessor will be watching to make sure that you:

      • Correctly maintain your back-up devices by keeping them in a high position, or low fall factor.
      • Maintain sufficient safety attachments for yourself and your casualty.
      • Minimize/prevent tangles in the rope systems.
      • Minimize/prevent rope-against-rope abrasion.
      • Avoid excess slack from building up in the safety line.
      • Control the descent of yourself and your casualty.

      There is one additional thing your assessor will be watching for:

      Since you’ll be loading an above average amount of equipment onto your harness for an intervention rescue, you may end of exceeding the safety factors on equipment strength. You’ll need to take some extra precautions to reduce the potential of losing control and having an uncontrolled descent.

      In addition to the above, we’ll also be covering how to assess the risk before engaging with an intervention rescue (your own safety comes first), casualty management and first aid, and the importance of asking for help during your training week.

      Additional resources to check out:

      TACS 6.8.1 and 6.8.2 for the source material for this blog.

      TACS 9.6.3-9.6.4 for a complete list of minor and major discrepancies

      ICOP Part 3, Annex G for more information on suspension intolerance.

      This is part of an ongoing series, where we’re breaking down IRATA’s syllabus and clarifying exactly what ‘demonstrating competence’ and ‘demonstrating awareness’ means, and what will be expected of you on assessment day. To learn more about the rest of the IRATA L1 Syllabus, click below:

      Succeed your IRATA L1