What’s your personal rescue system’s greatest strength?

By Assistant Chief/President Walter Schneider

Logan Fire Station of the Bellefonte Fire Department

Strengths and Weaknesses

Here’s my take on the strengths and weaknesses of the different types of personal escape systems.

Type Strengths Weaknesses
Independent System
stowed in bag
  • Attaches to a seat harness or escape belt to provide maximum security
  • Bag shields rope and hardware from fireground elements
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Coat hem can get caught on bag and not fully drape, compromising the overlap between the coat and pants
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Coat hem can get caught on bag and not fully drape, compromising the overlap between the coat and pants
Independent System
stowed in detachable cargo pocket on pants leg
  • Always with the fire fighter
  • Attaches to a seat harness or escape belt to provide maximum security
  • Pocket shields rope and hardware from fireground elements
  • Personal system so you know where it has been and who has used it
  • Detachable cargo pocket must be retrofit on existing gear
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Coat hem can get caught on bag and not fully drape, compromising the overlap between the coat and pants
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Coat hem can get caught on bag and not fully drape, compromising the overlap between the coat and pants
Independent System stowed in a drop bag
  • Attaches to a seat harness or escape belt to provide maximum security
  • Bag shields rope and hardware from fireground elements
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Bags can bang against you during firefighting activity
  • Bags can be left on the apparatus
  • Bags can get snagged during normal firefighting activity
  • Bags can bang against you during firefighting activity
  • Bags can be left on the apparatus
Integrated System using SCBA waist belt
for escape harness
  • Bag shields rope and hardware from fireground elements
  • Lightweight
  • Always with the SCBA in a hostile environment
  • System is shared by several fire fighters
  • Not very comfortable for use
  • Waist belt needs to be very tight for optimum performance
  • System is shared by several fire fighters
  • Not very comfortable for use
  • Waist belt needs to be very tight for optimum performance

As you can see, personal escape systems come in a variety of configurations with differing accessories. The prices for them also vary, but any personal escape system is better than not having one at all. The important thing is to make sure the personal escape system you chose is the one in which you have the most confidence.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final in a series written by Assistant Chief/President Walter Schneider, Logan Fire Station of the Bellefonte Fire Department, focusing on personal escape systems.