Fire Department, Ladder Company, Turnout Gear

Personal Escape Systems Growing in Popularity, Sophistication

Issue 6 and Volume 17.

(1) Honeywell Safety Products exhibited its Class II Spider Harness System at FDIC, an integral system custom fitted with its bunker pants by waist size.
(1) Honeywell Safety Products exhibited its Class II Spider Harness System at FDIC, an integral system custom fitted with its bunker pants by waist size. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell Safety Products.)
(2) Globe Manufacturing displayed its Series I Internal Harness at FDIC 2012, which incorporates a Class II seat harness with Kevlar® leg loops integrated with Globe's turnout pants.
(2) Globe Manufacturing displayed its Series I Internal Harness at FDIC 2012, which incorporates a Class II seat harness with Kevlar® leg loops integrated with Globe’s turnout pants. (Photo courtesy of Globe Manufacturing.)
(3) Lion's personal rescue system comprises a Class II harness in bunker pants, a tether, a descent control device, a hook or carabiner anchor, and 50 feet of rope.
(3) Lion’s personal rescue system comprises a Class II harness in bunker pants, a tether, a descent control device, a hook or carabiner anchor, and 50 feet of rope. (Photo courtesy of Lion.)

Alan M. Petrillo

Personal escape systems for firefighters, often called bailout kits, continue to gain popularity, and manufacturers are building in features to make them simpler to use and easier to incorporate into turnout gear. Major personal protection equipment (PPE) manufacturers have made great strides in completely integrating personal escape belts, harnesses, and other needed escape equipment into bunker pants yet have made those systems as easy to use as pulling on and buckling up bunker pants.

Flexibility in Escape

Globe Manufacturing displayed four different personal escape belts and harnesses built into its Cairns bunker pants at the 2012 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC)-an integrated escape belt, an integrated rappelling harness, and Series I and II internal harnesses. The escape belt and rappelling harness provide basic bailout capability, says Globe’s John Plofkin Jr., but it is the Series 1 and II internal harnesses that give firefighters the most flexibility in personal escape.

The Series I internal harness incorporates a hidden Class II seat harness that meets National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1983, Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Service (2006 ed.), Plofkin notes. The harness has lightweight Kevlar® leg loops between the shell and liner and is sized to the pants, depending on waist and inseam dimensions. “Putting the pants on and buckling the flat metal waist buckle are all a firefighter has to do,” he says. “Rope and hardware of the firefighter’s choice can be attached and stashed in the leg pocket, ready for use.”

The Series II internal harness uses a similar construction for the harness, says Globe’s George Krause II, but includes an adjustable hook and D waist buckle, a sliding D-ring, and a large locking D carabiner. All of Globe’s integral harnesses can be used with any rope and descent device currently available, he adds.

Ready to Use

Honeywell Safety Products displayed its Class II Spider Harness System, which is certified to NFPA 1983, and its components are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certified to NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (2007 ed.). The harness waist belt is Kevlar and external on the bunker pants for easy access, while the leg loops are placed between the shell and liner to make the system snag free. The system closes the pants with a D ring on the fly and a snap hook on the left front pants panel.

Putting on the harness is as simple as donning the bunker pants, says Tony Wyman, Honeywell’s vice president of marketing. He notes that the Spider belts and harnesses are custom-fitted by pants waist size and that the internal leg loops can be adjusted while being worn by using an external strap.

Honeywell also displayed a Patriot Class II harness designed to allow adjustment of the belt and leg loops while being worn. The Patriot can be used with an optional tether and also has the option of interior or exterior leg loops.

Honeywell’s harness systems employ a sliding D ring on the belt, which serves as the permanent location to attach the escape system hardware, so as soon as the pants are pulled on, the personal escape system is ready if needed.

Housing the System

Lion displayed a Class II harness integrated with its bunker pants at FDIC, and Karen Lehtonen, Lion’s director of products, says the harness meets NFPA harness and structural standards.

The harness is made of Kevlar webbing that is integrated between the outer shell and the lining of the pants, completely enclosing the waist belt and leg loops except at a front opening for the closure system and anchor point. The system uses a hook and D style closure for the pants and harness. Lehtonen says, “It’s the easiest method of closure and the surest way for a firefighter to know it’s engaged properly.”

Lion also offers a personal rescue system comprising its Class II harness in the bunker pants, a tether, a descent control device, a hook or carabiner anchor, and 50 feet of rope. Its bunker pants have specifically designed pockets to house the system and make it easier to access and carry, meaning there is no extra bag to hang on the belt.

Escape Rope

Sterling Rope Company introduced a new escape rope at FDIC-SafeTech, an eight-mm Technora® sheathed rope with a high-performance nylon core.

Matt Hunt, Sterling’s rescue safety market manager, says the rope’s sheath is resistant to high heat, chemicals, and cutting, while the core provides strength, gear compatibility, and better elongation to reduce anchor loads. “SafeTech provides an easy payout and a smooth, controlled descent, and it packs well into bags,” he says.

In addition, Sterling debuted a new F4 Fire Tech Escape System that facilitates fast exits from elevated structures. The system includes a Sterling F4 descent control device, one of its certified fire escape ropes attached to a Crosby hook, and a SafeD aluminum carabiner. All components are individually certified to NFPA 1983, Hunt says.

Sterling also introduced a Tech Extension Lanyard to extend its F4 device from the D-ring on the harness to a pocket or bag. The Tech Extension Lanyard is available in lengths of seven and nine inches and is certified by UL for use with the F4 Fire Tech or SafeTech Escape Systems, Hunt notes.

System’s Multipurpose Anchor Hook

Petzl displayed its EXO personal escape system at FDIC, along with an assortment of harnesses, descent devices, and ropes. The EXO personal escape system’s multi-purpose anchor hook allows the user to pass the hook end of the rope around a solid, stationary anchor and secure the connection by threading a loop of rope through the hitching slot and wrapping the hook. A black anodized locking D carabiner, 7.5-mm static Technora rope, EXO self-braking descender, and Nomex® transport bag make up the rest of the EXO system.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief

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