PPE for the Technical Rescue Victim

Recently, I have seen a couple of fairly risky technical rescues being performed where the patient/victim was not provided any personal protection equipment (PPE). Without identifying the agencies involved or when exactly they occurred, I will just say that the two rescue scenarios involved a swiftwater rescue and a rope rescue. In both scenarios, the victims appeared relatively uninjured.

Swiftwater Rescue

When gaining access to a victim in the swiftwater rescue environment, the initial rescuer should always take, at a minimum, a personal flotation device (PFD) for the victim. A swiftwater rescue helmet is also highly recommended. Even if the victim is uninjured, they could easily be swept away downstream or struck in the head by an object during the rescue. Swiftwater victims may also be hypothermic and/or physically exhausted from hanging on to an object for dear life. We must protect them to the best of our abilities during the rescue.

Rope Rescue

During a rope rescue, it is standard operating procedure for any rescuers going on rope to be wearing a helmet. If the victim is going to be brought up (or down) on the rope, they should also be provided with a helmet. Safety glasses and gloves may also be appropriate. Even something as simple as a rescuer accidentally dropping a carabiner from above could result in the victim suffering a significant head injury if they are not wearing a helmet.

Remember, life safety is our number one concern at these incidents. OUR life safety, but also THEIR life safety! Stay safe out there.

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

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