The HERODrag Rescue Device
Being retired is great. It seems I have a lot more time for movies these days. I like westerns and war movies, and it seems in either category, someone is always getting shot and has to be carried back to safety. At least in the westerns, there was a horse close by, but in the war movies, the soldier had to be carried out.
Carrying a down firefighter in soaking wet full bunker gear is no easy task. Many firefighters can weigh as much as 300 pounds. I know with all my gear, I was easily more than 300 pounds and pitied the guy who would ever have to pull me out. Search and rescue is our number one job in the fire department. We have to be good at this task. If it is hard—and it usually is—you have to figure out techniques that will work for you in making this task easier. This is one reason I always carried a seven-foot pike pole. I discovered that dragging a down firefighter with a D-handle pike pole makes a challenging job extremely easy for one firefighter. And after you drill on this technique, you’ll be amazed how easy and simple it is. It’s a personal technique to work smarter, not harder.
This is a quick drag-and-go technique. Set the hook into the frame of the self-contained breathing apparatus backpack assembly and pull—just like you’re pulling a wagon. The rigidity of the pole transfers all your kinetic energy directly to the load. No energy is lost in the flexibility of rope or webbing. Try it (photo 1). Another option is to use a roof ladder as a sled to carry a down firefighter. A longer roof ladder distributes the load better than a baby ladder, and it makes it very easy to drag an unconscious firefighter out of a burning building. The roof ladder also allows you to easily lift the firefighter over large obstructions—something that would be nearly impossible without a solid object supporting the firefighter’s weight.
Civilian rescue drags and carries are just as challenging. Trying to grab hold of an unconscious adult wearing thin pajamas or who’s unclothed will end in failure or further injuring the patient if you don’t have a rescue-carry plan or rescue device to help you out. We still need to make the rescue, regardless, but it would be best if we didn’t cause further injury in the process. Obviously, the pike pole isn’t going to work in this scenario. My personal favorite was the Sling-Link™, a series of five interlocking rings of one-inch webbing (See “Firefighter-Invented Rescue Tool: The Sling-Link™,” Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, May 2015). The Sling-Link is an excellent firefighter and civilian rescue harness that easily fits into any pocket of your bunker gear and can quickly be applied to an unconscious patient without tying any knots or connecting fasteners. But with any tool, there are some drawbacks with room for improvements. The major drawback to the Sling-Link™ is that the webbing doesn’t completely cradle the head and leaves the victim’s entire backside and arms exposed, so the torso (and possibly the head) could be dragged over sharp objects and burning debris, like carpet, and cause further injury during the rescue (photo 2).
The HERODrag (Handy Extreme Rescue Occupant Drag) solves that problem. In addition to being another excellent tool for rapid firefighter intervention and civilian rescue in structure fires, it can also be used to rescue victims during a mass-casualty incident or an active-shooter situation. The HERODrag is the brainchild of Battalion Chief Michael Wielgat of the Chicago (IL) Fire Department, Engine Company 18. If his name sounds familiar, Wielgat is also the inventor of the HEROPipe (Highrise Emergency Response Offensive Pipe) high-rise nozzle.
The HERODrag is a foldable, compact, self-contained drag rescue device that can be carried with the shoulder bag or inside the coat or cargo pocket of a firefighter’s personal protective equipment. It can be stored in every fire apparatus, or multiple devices could be part of the inventory for a mass-casualty response unit (photo 3). The compact design allows for hands-free transport to the scene so the rescuer can immediately perform triage or airway and hemorrhage control to treat and stabilize the patient.
FIRE, RESCUE, AND EMS
The fire and rescue model is made of bright, highly visible, reflective materials that illuminate in dark or smoky conditions, reflecting search and rescue light beams (photo 4). This compact folding design contains a series of rigid internal plates allowing for unique, compact storage and transport. When deployed, it provides rigid patient protection to the head, neck, arms, and torso. This rigid back panel allows for fast victim removal over hot surfaces, up or down stairways, or over debris-contaminated terrain. The “Raptor” is a single-click, five-point-contact quick-connect buckle that secures the patient’s entire torso. Two shoulder adjustment straps secure the upper torso and arms. When the shoulder straps are tightened, the head section folds up and cradles the head, providing a certain degree of cervical stabilization while keeping the airway aligned. The other three straps secure the lower torso while protecting the pelvis and crotch area (photo 5). When it is time to package and remove the patient, the HERODrag can be removed from its pouch and be quickly applied by a single firefighter for patient removal in less than 30 seconds (photo 6).
Berry-compliant,1 the “Tactical” low-visibility model of gray and black is suitable for military, law enforcement, SWAT, and tactical fast-moving teams. In fact, the Chicago (IL) Police Department was one of the first police agencies to equip its tactical teams with the HERODrag. The folding design provides a safe and effective way to remove their own personnel from a hot zone or an active shooter incident when the area is not secure for fire or emergency medical service (EMS) personnel to enter. The torso protective design allows for the patient to bend at the hips for placement into police vehicles for removal from a hot zone to a designated EMS treatment area.
The HERODrag’s ultra-lightweight construction is durable, and the device weighs 2.5 pounds. When folded, the dimensions are nine by 9½ inches, and it is about 2½ inches thick (photo 7). The cost is less than $300 per unit, and it is made in the USA. For more information, visit https://www.rbfab.com.
It’s too late for me to personally try the HERODrag out in the field but not for you. Anything that seems logical and practical to work smarter and not harder when making a fast rescue while protecting the patient is definitely worth taking a look at. Cities that combine police and fire under a single public safety agency will also appreciate purchasing a product that could be used in both departments.
1. Berry-compliant refers to the Berry Amendment (USC, Title 10, Section 2533, a.), which requires the Department of Defense to give preference in procurement to domestically manufactured and produced products, most notably food, clothing, fabric, and specialty metals.
RAUL A. ANGULO is a captain (ret.) of Seattle (WA) Fire Department Ladder Co. 6 with more than 37 years of service. He is an international author and instructor and has been teaching at FDIC International since 1996. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.