rescue work on cliff

U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer training in cliff rescue operations using the LSC Quick Strop

Some customers   have expressed concern, and even confusion,  over the term “uninjured”  in our owner’s manuals.  For example, “The Quick Strop shall be used to hoist uninjured persons only,” is stated in the Quick Strop manual  and one rescue swimmer argued that anyone who is even mildly hypothermic has an “environmental injury” and that we are making the strop useless in colder climates because we state “uninjured” in the owners manuals.    Another asked, “So if a guy has a broken hand I can’t use the quick strop to retrieve him?”  So I thought it was time to clear up the term and provide some clarity for all who use any of our devices with the warning.

The point of the language is to warn operators to make sure they assess the medical condition of those they rescue and to remind them to chose the correct device for the job.  We never intended anyone to draw the conclusion that when pulling someone off a cliff and you notice he has a broken finger, that you call off the hoist and make him climb into a basket, a move that has ended in significant injury. (Video below: Cliffs and baskets do not mix)

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You can use the quick strop on persons with certain injuries, but we cannot give you a list of which ones. There are simply too many variables.  If you work as a professional rescuer, you need to decide what is best for your patient at all times.

Suspected C-Spine injuries, obviously, would be exacerbated by using a quick strop. So too injuries such as cracked or broken ribs, abdominal evisceration, lacerations in the area of strop contact, and myriad other (undefinable) injuries that make use of a strop hazardous to victims. Because defining each injury type would be impractical, we simply state “uninjured” and left the use of the device to the informed judgment of the rescuer. An adult male with a broken thumb (for example) is not “uninjured,” but using the quick strop would not likely further his injury so the risk should be acceptable.

Other factors can make the quick strop the wrong choice during rescue. Victims who are extremely overweight or frail are often injured under the load of their own body weight, yet they are otherwise “uninjured” prior to rescue. A rescue basket is a safer choice in those cases. In the end, rescuers must use training and judgment and decide which gear to use and when to use it. We are working on language that implies this responsibility while maintaining our responsibility to warn operators of the hazards that may be associated with the gear we manufacture.  For now, when you see the words “for use on uninjured persons only,” you need to asses possible risks to your patient and make the best decisions you can.  Then again that’s always true, isn’t it?

Stay safe out there.

Note:

EURORSA Vice President Sami Ollila of the Finnish Border Guard has some excellent advice on assessing the risks of varying rescue devices in the field in this article.   It is an excellent read and I recommend that all professional helicopter rescue operators add the article to their reading list.