BY GARY CANDELA
Howard County (MD) Fire and Rescue (HCFR) has a proud history of innovation. HCFR’s mission is to educate, protect, and serve its citizens, members, and guests. HCFR firefighters are constantly staying up on education and training to practice the basics as well as learn new strategies, tactics, and technologies.
When practicing down firefighter rescue techniques last year using a drag rescue device (DRD), we noticed that almost all members in turnout gear with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) on lost their face piece when being dragged to safety. Additionally, DRD drags were disrupting members’ airways and causing neck pain. As a metal fabricator, I had experience creating solutions to all kinds of problems, and I asked the command and safety staff during the DRD training for a chance to provide a solution to our problem.
1 The author set off to make a tool that would allow for a safe and easy rescue of a down firefighter while maintaining the integrity of the face piece. The outcome of that effort is the JackStrap. (Photos by author.)
With the support and encouragement of the HCFR, I set off to make a tool that would allow for a safe and easy rescue of a down firefighter while maintaining the integrity of the face piece. The outcome of that effort is the JackStrap (photo 1), which was designed with MSA products in mind because that is what HCFR uses. The JackStrap is designed to clip into the brackets on the side of the SCBA (photo 2). The SCBA shoulder and waist straps tend to loosen when a firefighter is being dragged during rescue whether the firefighter is being dragged by the SCBA straps or the DRD. The goal was to keep the backplate of the SCBA and the firefighter closer together so the face piece would stay in place.
What eventually came out of a year of trial, error, and testing is the JackStrap, which was tested and built by BA Products (www.baprod.com). It is a tool that replaces a useless shoulder strap on a rapid intervention team (RIT) bag (photo 3). The JackStrap uses heavy-duty carabiners to clip into the SCBA plate brackets (photo 4). After cinching the strap tight using a cam buckle (photo 5), the backplate of the SCBA now acts as a mini backboard. There are handles for one or two firefighters to grasp, making dragging easier (photo 6). The JackStrap brings innovation, simplification, and diversification to RIT deployments and rescues.
INNOVATION—A NEW TOOL FOR THE TOOLBOX
When responding to a box alarm, HCFR firefighters must deploy a RIT bag in case of a Mayday. The JackStrap is a tool that transforms the RIT bag into a rescue system. It replaces a strap on the RIT bag with a useful rescue tool for firefighters. By switching out straps, the RIT bag gains an effective, simple, and heavy-duty firefighter rescue tool without increasing the size of the bag. Operationalizing every part of a fire engine is what makes it an apparatus, not just a vehicle. The same can be done to other equipment and systems as well, and this is what the JackStrap accomplishes.
EASE OF APPLICATION
In the HCFR, we try our hardest to standardize response tactics as well as equipment across the entire department. When this is done effectively, it increases the likelihood of success for response to fire and emergency medical service calls. However, nothing could be more critical to a rescue event for one of our own. During a Mayday event, time management is critical. Anything we can do as firefighters to simplify and minimize training requirements improves the chances of success and minimizes failure.
| JackStrap System Specs |
Two-inch web-polyester with woven protective edge.
One-inch web-polyester (for lift handles).
Kong Tango carabiners.
Two-inch cam buckle.
Slip-resist lift handles.
Reflective stitching and tape.
Self-explanatory functioning is a critical component of the JackStrap. The entire device consists of only four components. Two carabiners for clipping into the backpiece, a cam buckle to keep the strap tight, two handles, and the webbing. Although there are many training videos on how to use personal webbing or rope to effect a rescue drag of a down firefighter, those techniques often require constant refresher training because the skills are perishable. The JackStrap reduces the cognitive load of the rescuer because the system is self-explanatory. The need for weaving with rope or webbing is eliminated. This gives the rescuer more time and more mental bandwidth to focus on other issues such as transfilling, buddy breathing, escape, breaching, radio communication, and more.
2 The JackStrap is designed to clip into the brackets on the side of the SCBA.
3 The JackStrap is a tool that replaces a shoulder strap on a rapid intervention team (RIT) bag.
4 The JackStrap uses heavy-duty carabiners to clip into the SCBA plate brackets.
5 After cinching the strap tight using a cam buckle, the backplate of the SCBA acts as a mini backboard.
6 There are handles for one or two firefighters to grasp, making dragging easier.
7 The rescuer does not have to use the handles on the JackStrap but can connect webbing or rope to one of the heavy-duty D-rings, giving the rescuer the ability to wrap the webbing or rope around his own chest and pull with his entire body weight.
The JackStrap was designed for rescuing a firefighter with full turnout gear and SCBA. However, the JackStrap can be used without SCBA or even without turnout gear as a lift assist or drag assist system. The JackStrap would simply clip to its own carabiners after being wrapped around a firefighter or patient’s torso under the arms, and the grips would then be used by rescuers to carry or drag the firefighter or patient. Furthermore, the rescuer does not have to use the handles on the JackStrap but can connect webbing or rope to one of the heavy-duty D-rings (photo 7), giving the rescuer the ability to wrap the webbing or rope around his own chest and pull with his entire body weight. If nothing else, when trying to innovate in the middle of a rescue scenario, would you rather have a RIT bag strap or a heavy-duty strap with carabiners?
Minimum breaking strength: 12,000 pounds (two-inch webbing).
Minimum breaking strength: 5,010 pounds (one-inch webbing).
With Direct Contact to Hot Knife for 60 Seconds:
400°F: No damage.
450°F: Burn marks only, no damage.
500°F: Two-inch webbing begins to compromise.
The JackStrap is not meant to replace personal webbing or rope. The JackStrap is meant to operationalize a piece of gear that was effectively useless as a tool. Like having cargo pockets on our turnout gear pants, the JackStrap took undeveloped real estate and made it useful. Every RIT bag in HCFR now has a JackStrap. In the event of a Mayday, HCFR firefighters have a simple and reliable way to drag firefighters to safety without their face pieces coming off, their airways being compromised, or their necks being hurt unintentionally. Firefighters in Howard County are already exploring ways to use the JackStrap for additional applications. For more information on the JackStrap, visit www.rescuestrap.com.
GARY CANDELA is a career firefighter for Howard County (MD) Fire and Rescue with 12 years on the job. He works out of Station 1 in Elkridge and rides both Engine 1 and Rescue Squad 1. He is the creator of the JackStrap, which has a patent pending, and the owner of NLC Rescue.