Safety ropes: Are they right for every department?

The State of New York Department of Labor is now issuing citations to fire departments that are in violation of the state’s 2008 “Rope Law”.  The statute: 12 NYCRR Section 800.7 requires all interior firefighters serving populations of less than one million in the state of New York working on a building’s second story or higher to be trained and furnished with self-rescue equipment (specifically rope and components). The intent of the law is to provide safe emergency egress in the event that a firefighter must escape from the upper stories of a building through an opening that is not designated as an exit. Equipment must meet NFPA 1983, Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services, 2006 edition.

The Rope Law came about after situations where firefighters were forced with a life-or-death decision to jump or risk severe injury in an above-grade scenario. The most notable is the 2005 “Black Sunday” incident where two Bronx firefighters were killed and four were critically injured when they leaped from a fourth-story window to escape from being severely burned.

However, many jurisdictions in New York either do not have multi-story buildings in their coverage area, or they have mutual aid agreements with neighboring departments that have emergency egress capability. While firefighters should prepare for every contingency, it has been questioned whether the Rope Law (as written) is the right above-grade evacuation SOP for every fire department in every community. 

After unsuccessful challenges in the state court system, Senate Bill 6045 (Sen. C. Johnson) and Assembly Bill 9000 (Assemblyman Marc Alessi) were introduced to allow departments more latitude with their emergency egress solutions. Click here to read the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) write-up about the bills, and links through which New York state fire fighters can send a petition letter to their district representatives.

What do you think of New York’s Rope Law? Would you like to see one in your state as it is currently written? What would you change about the law, if you could?