As firefighters, we often feel invincible and believe that we will always be able to perform whatever duty we are called to perform without negative consequences. At the same time, we are continually reminded every couple of days that we are not invincible with the announcement of another line of duty death. Take a look at the video. Would you be able to escape if ladders had not been in place? How about on an upper floor out of reach of a portable or aerial ladder?
Many people discount the need to be ready to bale because a lack of hi-rise buildings in their district. According to NFPA & OSHA statistics, 90% of all falls from a distance of over 10' are fatal when free falling a distance of 10' or greater. If you operate in a two story or taller building, it would be smart to be prepared.
Although every major turnout manufacturer that I know of is offering a firefighter bailout kit or escape harness, many fire departments are not purchasing them due to the added cost and trying to operate on already thin budgets. As firefighters, this leaves us on our own to do what is necessary to be prepared in terms of training and equipment should we have to make an emergency escape. What follows is a ridiculously easy and relatively inexpensive option to be prepared.
Many turnout manufacturers are now offering turnouts with nylon belts and plastic quick connect buckles instead of suspenders. These pants already have loops, Velcro tabs, or both to keep the belt attached to the pants. If you are currently wearing this style pant, remove that belt. All it is good for is holding your pants up. Replace it with whatever truck style belt you already have or can afford.
These are the same pants, but the supplied belt is removed and replaced with a “Gut Belt” that I had hanging in my locker. In addition to holding my pants up, this belt:
- Is manufactured to NFPA 1983 requirements for ladder/escape belts.
- Can increase visibility if equipped with reflective and/or fluorescent trim.
- Has hardware that exceeds NFPA load specifications.
- Has multiple points of attachment.
- Can be utilized with existing factory loops and tabs.
- In conjunction with other equipment for personal escape and firefighter rescue, would be far more effective than a nylon belt and plastic buckle. Also useful with, ladder work, carrying other tools or accessories, tags lines, etc.
What if you’re using turnout pants equipped with suspender tabs and no loops or tabs to hold a belt? No problem with these inexpensive velcro loops that hang on your suspender tabs. These are not holding any weight. They just provide a means to keep an escape/ladder style belt on your pants so it can easily be utilized. These are manufactured by Extreme Rescue. I picked them up at FDIC. You can visit their website at xtremerescue.com.
For me, this is a good option to provide a balance between purchasing and dealing with the bind of a complete escape or rappelling type system with leg loops and being completely unprepared.
Lastly, keep in mind this is part of a system. A belt alone will not do you any good without at least a carabiner, a section of rope (how much is up to you), and practice, practice, practice.
If you have ideas, questions, concerns, or comments; please post them below or on our Facebook page.
*I am not associated with, nor profit from anything affiliated with Xtreme Rescue.