Personal Escape Systems Offer Simplified Use and Designs

Alan M. Petrillo

When a firefighter has to use his personal escape system, there’s no time for fiddling around with its component parts, so manufacturers of such systems have refined their products to make them intuitive for firefighters and simple to use.


Matt Hunt, rescue safety market manager for Sterling Rope Company Inc., says his company has developed two new escape system hooks-the Lightning and the Lightning GT-that allow firefighters to bail out of a tenuous situation as fast as possible.

The hooks are precision-machined of aerospace grade 7075-T6 aluminum and heat-treated for maximum strength, Hunt says. “The Lightning and Lightning GT combine a hook device with a hitching slot that can attach onto a windowsill or can quickly be fastened around an anchor in a room,” he says. “The GT model has a wire gate for easily connecting to a remote anchor, eliminating the challenge of threading the rope through a hitching slot in a low-visibility situation.”

Lightning GT
(1) Sterling Rope Company introduced two new escape system hooks-
the Lighting and the Lightning GT (shown here). The Lightning GT
has a wire gate over a hitching slot that allows the hook to be quickly
fastened around an anchor in a room.
(Photo courtesy of Sterling Rope Co.)

Hunt notes that the new hooks can be paired with any approved harness and used with Sterling’s escape kit, consisting of an F4 descent device, a choice of three escape customized ropes (FireTech, SafeTech, and EscapeTech) in a variety of lengths, and either a lumbar or hip-mounted bag to hold the equipment.

Petzl USA also has developed a new hook for use in personal escape systems-a forged aluminum model that incorporates a slot in the spine so a rescue rope can be hitched off. “Our new hook is designed to be tied off with a simple clove hitch,” says John Evans, Petzl’s marketing director. “If a firefighter has a suitable anchor in a room, say a radiator or a pipe like you’d find in an industrial setting, then he could tie off to that instead of using the hook on a windowsill or other location.”

Evans says the new hook is designed to be used in conjunction with Petzl’s EXO personal rescue system that includes the EXO descent device and a length of 7.5-millimeter Technora® aramid fiber rope.

Petzl's EXO personal rescue system
(2) A firefighter uses Petzl’s EXO personal
rescue system to bail out of a building. The
system includes an EXO descent device,
Technora® aramid fiber rope, and a forged
aluminum hook with a slotted spine.
(Photo courtesy of Petzl USA.)


RIT Safety Solutions makes the Pre-Rigged Escape Safety System (PRESS) for firefighters in need of personal rescue, says Omar Jordan, RIT’s owner. “Every egress system should be 100 percent prerigged, integrated, fire-resistant, and lightweight,” Jordan says. “We’re the only manufacturer that makes the complete system itself-all the equipment in the system and the life safety harness.”

The PRESS includes a fully rigged Class II harness; an escape line of either 3/8-inch tubular webbing or eight-millimeter Kevlar® rope; and RIT’s AL2 or AL descender device and an anchor, where RIT offers a choice of its autolocking carabiner or a Crosby, Flash, or NARS hook.

Lion's Personal Rescue System
(3) Lion’s Personal Rescue System uses a Class II harness integrated
with its turnout pants, a CMC descent control device, carabiners and
rope, and a stainless steel quick link and tether.
(Photo courtesy of Lion.)

Turnout Gear Integrated

Mark Mordecai, director of business development for Globe Manufacturing Co., says his firm’s IH Ready Pants that incorporate a seat harness as part of the turnout gear have proven very successful as an integral part of a firefighter’s personal escape system. “We’ve found that many fire departments want to or will eventually incorporate seat harnesses into their gear, and many of them are buying IH-ready pants where they can add an internal harness when they need to without rebuying turnout pants,” Mordecai says.

The key to incorporating seat harnesses into turnout pants is wearability, Mordecai believes. “The harness has to be in the right place when you need it and not restrict the firefighter’s movement,” he says. The IH harness has been successful in taking care of issues like restriction of movement and snagging because it’s lightweight and uses a patented floating leg loop system, he adds.

“The leg loops are secured to the waist belt but are free to move up or down,” Mordecai says. “When you load the harness, the leg loops pull up and equalize the load between the two loops and the waist belt, which is all due to the fact they are floating leg loops and not in a fixed position.”

Mordecai notes the IH harness rides between the liner and the shell of the turnout pants but is free to slide in between those two layers. “It’s all Kevlar webbing and has no hardware to dig into the body or compromise the moisture barrier,” he says. “And the IH harness and Ready Pants will work with all the descender systems that are being offered on the market.”

Globe Manufacturing's IH Ready Pants
(4) Firefighters use Globe Manufacturing’s IH Ready Pants during
training with personal escape systems. The Globe IH Ready Pants
have a Class II harness integrated into the pants with a patented
floating leg loop system.
(Photo courtesy of Globe Manufacturing.)

Karen Lehtonen, director of products for Lion, says her company’s Personal Rescue System includes a Class II rescue harness integrated into its turnout pants, a stainless steel quick link and tether, two CMC Pro Tech carabiners, a CMC Escape Artist descent control device, and 50 feet of CMC ProSeries escape line constructed of aramid FR fiber.

Lehtonen notes that the system can be used with any manufacturer’s harness, instead of Lion’s integrated harness system, if desired. “There also are departments that purchase our integrated harness turnout pants and attach their own personal escape system,” she adds.

Lion is researching lighter weight components for its personal escape system, Lehtonen points out, specifically the anchor hook. The company also is evaluating whether or not to offer a webbing based system to replace the rope. “Webbing packs more compactly than rope, but there still are many unknowns about its performance,” she says. “We could make it available soon, but that depends on the amount of interest from the end users.”

Steve Bonamer, director of sales and marketing for Fire-Dex, says his company makes a Class II harness that can be integrated inside its bunker pants, as well as a certified escape belt that can be used as an exterior attachment through the gear’s belt loops.

“We offer a variety of options in our turnout pants so it can incorporate any harness in the industry that fastens as external to the bunker gear,” Bonamer says.

Bonamer says Fire-Dex created a variety of pockets for its turnout pants to contain the various types of descending devices and ropes that fire departments might pair with its Class II harness. “Our harness pocket designs leave the cargo pocket on the pants and store the rope and equipment behind it in an external tunnel pouch,” he says. “We also offer specialized pouches and pockets to hold descending devices from specific manufacturers.”

the Class II Patriot
(5) Honeywell First Responder Products makes three personal
rescue harnesses for firefighters: the Class II Patriot (shown
being used here), the Class II Spider, and the Life Grip. (Photo
courtesy of Honeywell First Responder Products.)


Honeywell First Responder Products makes three personal rescue harnesses for firefighters, says Alan Schierenbeck, senior product specialist-the Class II Patriot and Spider harnesses and the Life Grip escape belt.

The Patriot and Spider can be either integrated into or attached to Honeywell’s turnout pants, with the Patriot offering the choice of either internal or external leg loops. It uses a sliding D-ring as a preconnect to the bailout system, an optional tether, and all-Kevlar construction. The Spider is an A-frame harness with adjustable external leg loops, while the Life Grip is the Spider harness without the leg loops.

“We’re working now on revamping the escape pockets on the pants,” Schierenbeck says. “Currently we have four models-compact, small, regular, and 75-foot. With our new pocket system, the four sizes will be applied into a single pocket with a descent device retaining flap on the inside that can hold both large and small descent devices and prevent them from flopping around and damaging the rope or the pants.”

Fire-Dex offers a Class II harness integrated inside its bunker pants
(6) Fire-Dex offers a Class II harness
integrated inside its bunker pants that
forms the base of a personal escape
(Photo courtesy of Fire-Dex.)

SCBA Integration

Honeywell also offers an escape belt and rappelling system on its Warrior SCBA Plus. Likewise, MSA Safety makes the FireHawk Rescue Belt II with a single-handed-opening pouch for deployment of a hook and descender, while Avon Protection Systems Inc. offers a personal rescue belt as an option on its new Deltair SCBA. The Avon system attaches to the SCBA’s lumbar pad and has an attached pouch to hold a descender, hook, carabiner, and rope. RIT also makes a prerigged emergency egress system that can be integrated onto a Scott Safety SCBA harness.

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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