Ground Ladder Efficiency - Stowing the Halyard
Ground ladders play a critical role on the fireground; from rapid access for rescue operations to ventilation and at times, even fire suppression. In this month’s training article, we spotlight a seemingly minor yet influential aspect that can substantially impact the deployment time of two-section extension ladders: the halyard.
When shipped from the factory the halyard of two-section extension ladders are tied in a clove hitch around both rungs of the fly and bed sections (picture #1). This is a secure way of stowing the ladder. However, from a fireground perspective, stowing the halyard in this manner wastes valuable time when deploying the ladder in an emergency situation because the knot would have to be untied before raising the ladder to its intended target. Let’s discuss two alternative ways of stowing the halyard.
Method #1 - Working end tied to the base
For this method, secure the working end of the halyard to the bottom rung of the bed section (picture #2). With this set-up, there is no knot to untie before raising the ladder, therefore once the butt of the ladder is placed the ladder can immediately be raised. This is advantageous for overall fireground efficiency, but particularly during rescue operations when seconds do matter.
Now that the halyard is tied at both ends, some may be wondering how the halyard could be tied-off after raising it. It is quickest to tie the halyard using the method shown in this YouTube video: tinyurl.com/yznf3dwe
Method #2 – Working end tied to the fly
For this method, run the working end of the halyard below the bottom rung of the base, and secure it to the bottom rung of the fly (picture #3). This is commonly referred to as a “continuous halyard.” This method allows for a quick deployment, without having any slack in the halyard once it is raised. If using a continuous halyard, the halyard does not get tied off once the ladder is extended. This raises the question, must the halyard be tied once the extension ladder is deployed? To answer this, let’s look at the NFPA Standards.
NFPA 1932 5.2.3 states: “Tying off or securing the halyard provides a secondary method of securing the fly section in the event of pawl disengagement. When a continuous halyard prevents tying off, a camlock, as is used for securing a sailboat halyard, might be used.”
Clearly the continuous halyard technique (without a camlock) is not NFPA compliant. So why is it a method still used by some? It's essential to recognize that while NFPA 1931 requires the halyard to have a minimum breaking strength of 825 pounds, it is still not rated for life safety. Since the halyard is not maintained to the standard of life safety rope, over time it may lose its integrity. It is for this reason that some believe that tying off the halyard is not necessary, and using a continuous halyard keeps it taut and out of the way after deployment.
Regardless of your chosen method, the ability for a firefighter to extend a two-section extension ladder without having to untie a knot greatly enhances efficiency in emergency situations where every second counts. This month’s training drill will focus on carrying and deploying extension ladders to various targets. Preferably, the targets would be actual windows if you have them, but if you’d don’t simply place tape on the side of the fire house at differing heights as targets. Encourage participants to climb the ladder every time they throw it – comfortability on ladders comes from climbing them.
Upon completion the firefighter should be able to….
• Safely and efficiently throw an extension ladder to targets at varying heights.
• Efficiently tie off the halyard [if applicable].
• Be comfortable climbing a two-section extension ladder.
Cole Kleinwolterink is a member of the Waukee Fire Department, Granger Fire Department, and a Fire Science instructor at Des Moines Area Community College. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.