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Escape Systems used for Training

So we often get the question, “can I use my escape system for training” and “how many bailouts can we do on our escape system before the ropes need to be replaced”.

The first answer is to always follow the manufacturer recommendations.  This information can be found in the literature that is included with the escape system.  It can also be found on most manufacturers websites or by calling the manufacturer.

Most (if not all) manufacturers recognize that departments are using their “in service” escape systems for training.  However, it is incredibly important that the agency have a standard and guideline for escape system use, inspection, care and maintenance .  This protocol should include a thorough inspection of the escape system and its components after use, including but not be limited to an inspection of the anchor hook, descender, rope, carabiner and harness.

Here is an inspection procedure outline from Sterling Rope:

Components must be visually and hand inspected by a qualified person, following these inspection procedures, before use and periodically throughout the lifetime of the product.  The inspector must inspect for dents, cracks, sharp edges, deformations, gouges, corrosion or excessive wear, or any other signs of damage that may have resulted from use or storage. Ensure smooth and full range of movement and function of the control handle.

The inspector should ask the user the following questions:

  • Has the device been visually damaged?
  • Has the device been impact loaded or dropped?
  • Has the device been exposed to heat or direct flame impingement?
  • Has the device been exposed to liquids, solids, gases, mists or vapors of any chemical or other material that can deteriorate the components of the device?

If the user answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then refer to “Retirement Criteria” below.  It is recommended that all use and inspection information be kept in an equipment log and stored in a safe place. If you have questions or concerns, you may send the device to Sterling for evaluation.

Retirement Criteria:
This device is to be removed from service immediately if any of the inspection questions above cannot be answered or are answered “yes”, if the device does not pass visual inspection, if it has been used in an actual emergency egress or if there is any doubt about the safety or serviceability of the device.

The auxiliary device must be kept away from acids, alkalis, and strong chemicals at all times. Do not
expose the device to flame or high temperatures. Store in a cool dry location. Do not store where the
device may be exposed to moist air, particularly where dissimilar metals are stored together. If the
device needs to be cleaned, hand wash with warm water and a mild detergent while working the handle.
Dry immediately. Do not use corrosive substances such as acetone or petroleum based solvents for

Any modification or repair of the device other than that authorized in writing by Sterling is prohibited due to the risk of impairing the function of the equipment. Any repair work or modification performed elsewhere shall release Sterling from all liability and responsibility as the manufacturer.

Regarding how many jumps a rope can take, a good reference is the FDNY.  They are seeing 400+ jumps on a single rope before excessive wear is observed, outside of unexpected damage.  (Source: Petzl)

Also a reference is NFPA 1858.

NFPA 1858

A.  Rope used for emergency egress is defined as a single-purpose rope. During actual use, the integrity of the rope can be assumed to be compromised, and the rope should be taken out of service and destroyed. Such rope generally is left behind at the scene of the incident, and the degree of exposure to heat and flame is unknown and probably will have substantial damage.

When used in a training context, escape rope should be inspected in the same manner as life safety rope.

Ultra high modulus fiber rope can lose a significant percentage of their original strength after many fewer cycles than ropes of nylon and polyester fibers. Special care should be taken for more frequent inspections in training with escape ropes made of ultra high modulus fibers.



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