Equipment, Rescue Company

The Amkus ARRS1 Rope Rescue System

Issue 2 and Volume 19.

By Raul A. Angulo

Technical rescue incidents that require rope systems can occur in your jurisdiction whether you have a technical rescue team or not.

They don’t only happen on mountains or cliffs. Take a good look around-a technical rope rescue potential exists in every city. Are you ready? How can you perform a technical rope rescue when you don’t have a technical rope rescue team and you only have two or three rescuers at your disposal? One way is to use the Amkus ARRS1 Rope Rescue System.


The ARRS1 slides onto an extension hitch, which
slides into a 10,000-pound-rated, Class IV trailer
hitch, which is attached to the apparatus. The
apparatus serves as the bombproof anchor for
the system. The motorized capstan runs off a
power unit from the rig or from a portable
generator. It requires 115 to 120 VAC/20 amps.
This system can be set up in less than two
minutes. Four wraps around the capstan increase
the friction on the mainline for a controlled lower.
(Photos by author.)

One Scenario

Whenever I’m looking for a challenging drill for me and my crew, I look at areas within my district and ask myself, “If this were to happen here, what would I do?” In this case, I have a bridge in my district that crosses a deep ravine. From the top of the bridge deck to the bottom of the ravine is 80 feet. The ravine has steep slopes and is wooded with thick thorny vegetation. Access to the bottom is not a walk in the park. The ravine is a great hideout for teens who don’t want to be discovered. For younger kids who want to explore and play Indiana Jones or Army, it is irresistible. The end game for Ladder 6 was to see how fast we could get an injured patient at the bottom of the ravine up and onto the bridge deck for emergency transport using an aerial stokes/negative stokes evolution. For realism, I lowered a 150-pound training dummy, which would require the rescue firefighters to go down and actually package a patient into the Stokes basket.

Note that a standard aerial Stokes evolution is used to rescue a victim from a roof or elevated position down to street level. A negative Stokes evolution is used to reach a patient below grade in areas such as a large building excavation. The range is limited to a depth of approximately 50 feet, depending on how close the aerial apparatus can safely position to the edge.


The anchor plate swivels in the direction of the load so it’s always
aligned. The ARRS1 has a 1,000-pound work capacity and can
pull 40 feet of rope per minute. The capstan is designed for ½- to
5⁄8-inch rope, and knots easily pass around the capstan. Two
wraps provide less friction for a quicker descent.


Since this evolution would require me to lower two firefighters over the edge of the bridge, I invited our technical rescue team to coach us through the evolution. And since the department gets nervous anytime we have firefighters dangling from heights, I also invited the battalion chief. For training purposes, I wanted one firefighter to rappel down off the bridge and the other firefighter to be lowered on a rope from the aerial ladder. The evolution was a success. After that, we wanted to repeat the drill using a ladder gin or a gin pole in case the edge could not support the weight of a ladder truck. These cantilevered tools allow for a high-point anchor to be set up, out and away from the solid decking over the below-grade objective. These systems require ropes, pulleys, and all the other equipment to set up a 3:1 rope system, including a change-of-direction setup so the haulers can use the length of the bridge to their advantage.

In a 3:1 rope system, the load becomes lighter for the haulers, but for every 30 feet of rope that is pulled, the patient (or the load) is only raised 10 feet. This bridge rescue evolution requires the haulers to reset the pulley numerous times before the patient reaches the bridge deck. Also, the raise is stopped while the reset is taking place, so this is not a fast operation. The Rescue 1 lieutenant suggested that this was the perfect scenario to try out the new Amkus ARRS1 Rope Rescue System. The Seattle Fire Department acquired one of these units during a tunnel dig for the new light rail system. The elevator shaft for the tunnel workers was 200 feet below ground. For any potential tunnel rescue, we needed a rope system that was fast and would eliminate repetitive pulley resets to capture the load. The ARRS1 is a motorized capstan with a 1,000-pound working capacity and an engineered 10:1 safety margin. Best of all, the lift ratio is 1:1. That means for every foot of rope that is pulled, the load is lifted the same number of feet. That makes for a smooth, fast, and uninterrupted raising operation.


Sometimes the apparatus cannot be spotted near
the work area, or the incident is in a remote area.
These situations render the hitch useless and
require firefighters to assemble a floating anchor,
using a “Y” or “X” configuration of ropes tied
back to a solid bombproof object.


Simplifying the Process

The ARRS1 dramatically reduces the complexity of any rope rescue system because it eliminates the need for multiple pulleys used in “Z” patterns to gain a mechanical advantage for lifting heavy loads. It also reduces the number of rescuers needed topside. One firefighter can do the work of eight firefighters because the ARRS1 is doing all the lifting. This eliminates the need to assign personnel as haulers. There isn’t a need for load-releasing hitches, and knots are passed around the capstan with ease in case ropes need to be lengthened. The ARRS1 comes with a 10,000-pound-rated-capacity trailer hitch with a steel extension bar that attaches to the apparatus for a bombproof anchor. The unit slides onto the hitch extension and locks in place with a heavy-duty steel pin. The entire system can be set up in less than two minutes, which makes this all-in-one system very attractive to any fire department, particularly fire departments with limited resources and personnel.

The ARRS1 has an aluminum anchor plate at the base of the capstan for attaching carabiners and prusiks for capturing the load in case the capstan does fail. The anchor plate also swivels and moves with the direction of the load so tension is always in line.


The hoist unit weighs 66 pounds, so the floating anchor needs to
be set up correctly. The tiebacks suspend the motorized capstan
between the ropes. It is amazingly stable. You need to drill on this
to become proficient. You will also need to provide a portable
generator to power the unit in remote places


There may be situations where you need the ARRS1 in a remote location where apparatus placement is impossible. Or, perhaps you need it on the roof of a high-rise building to bring victims up to the roof. Now what are you going to do without the trailer hitch to anchor to? This unit by itself weighs 66 pounds. There’s another aluminum anchor plate that can be used as a “floating anchor.” I’ve never heard of a floating anchor before, but those rescue guys think of everything! A floating anchor is used in a situation where a bombproof, solid structure is away from the immediate work area. With this tool, ropes can be secured to the larger aluminum anchor plate with carabiners in a “Y” or “X” configuration. Then the ropes are tied back and secured to solid structures, which may be several feet away. Obviously, this evolution will take longer than two minutes to set up. You’re also going to need a portable generator providing 115-120 VAC at 20 amps. Full load draw is 14 amps.


What you gain in saving resources and personnel, you pay for in weight. The hoist assembly isn’t light at 66 pounds. It comes in a carrying case with the foot switch and hitch extension. The case measures 24 by 19.5 by 14 inches. And fully packed, it weighs 100 pounds. The apparatus receiver hitch (not included) needs to be at minimum a Class IV hitch with a minimum carrying capacity of 10,000 pounds. That’s worth its weight in gold!

Lowering Operations

For lowering operations, the capstan or drum acts like a brake rack for the mainline. It’s designed for ½- to 5/8-inch rope. The more wraps you take around the drum, the more friction is created-similar to adding bars on the brake rack. To reduce the friction during a lower, remove a wrap from the drum. Usually three wraps are sufficient for any lowering operation. The rope simply slides around the capstan for a smooth lower. If you need to stop, the operator leans back to tension the mainline. Throw a few extra wraps around the capstan, and the mainline won’t go anywhere. However, the mainline needs to be constantly tended until it is tied off to an anchor point.

A gin pole is used to create a high-point anchor over the edge of the bridge.

A gin pole is used to create a high-point anchor over the edge of
the bridge. You can also use a ground ladder for this evolution.
The apparatus is used to anchor the gin pole at the proper angle.
The main line is the yellow rope.


Raising Operations

When it’s time to raise the load, there is no need to change from a lowering system to a raising system. The operator simply depresses the foot switch to activate the strong motorized capstan. Think of the complicated rope system you would need to create to lift 1,000 pounds using 20 pounds of effort. That mechanical advantage would be over 50:1, yet that’s what you get automatically with the 1:1 ARRS1. With the motorized capstan, the speed of the drum is steady and consistent, so the mainline is never jerked around or shock-loaded. It allows for precision, nonstop lifting. The unit has a maximum pull rope speed of 40 feet per minute at full load. To stop the raise, the operator simply takes his foot off the power switch pedal and leans back on the mainline.

The ARRS1 is attached to the apparatus by the hitch extension.
Only one firefighter is required to operate the yellow mainline. He
can raise or lower the load without changing the system. The
operator depresses the foot pedal to initiate a raise. The smooth
revolutions of the capstan allow for precision raising and
lowering without shock-loading the mainline. The firefighter is
operating the pedal power switch with his right foot.


Technical rope rescue is a high-risk, low-frequency event. If you’re out of practice with building rope systems, you’ll be uncomfortable running this evolution. The ARRS1 is fast, easy, and safe to operate without error. OK, the floating anchor is not easy to set up without practice. That’s going to require repetitive drills to build it quickly and reliably. But other than that, the ARRS1 allows your firefighters to perform with greater efficiency and confidence with less technical training. When speed is the key to life and death, this tool can make the difference, especially when responding resources are limited.

RAUL A. ANGULO, a veteran of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department and captain of Ladder Company 6, has more than 30 years in the fire service. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He lectures on fire service leadership, company officer development, and fireground strategy and accountability throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.