Fire and Rescue Magazine
November 2011 Edition
Over-bank lifting operations can take an hour to complete, with as many as eight responders — Until now.
Traditions that prevent technical advancement in the field of fire and rescue can prove to be deadly and expensive. The volunteers at Little Lake Fire Department (LLFD) in Willis (CA) recognized that, and by incorporating rope rescue training and skills with advanced high-angle, mobile design and mechanical assistance, they have created an “evolution” in the over-bank rescue.
The SwiftLift Victim Retrieval System was designed to reduce time and man-power while increasing the safety of victim rescues. It makes several major advances in victim retrieval and compared to the most current methods, is an evolutionary, safer way to retrieve victims in over-bank rescue operations. The SwiftLift system requires approximately 30% of the man-power currently needed with the Z-Pulley system. The average rescue with the SwiftLift System is completed in 10-15 minutes versus current over-bank rescue/retrieval using current ropes and pulleys, which can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and usually requires up to eight first responders just at the top of the embankment to haul the victims up. There may be as many as six others lifting and guiding the basket.
The patent-pending SwiftLift VRS (victim retrieval system) consists of only a few parts that assemble within four minutes and it is easy to store on most engines. Maintenance of the SwiftLift system is minimal due to its rugged design. “What makes this a really great piece of equipment is not only do you get the high angle of the rope in an over-bank rescue, we use it to send down heavy tools for extrication and then to retrieve both victims and rescuers back to the top, delivering the victims in a fraction of the time to an ambulance. We have all seen it make the difference between life and death,” stated Battalion Chief, Chris Wilkes of LLFD.
Deputy Chief John Thomen added: “When we roll up to the location of the incident, we can park the engine parallel to the roadway and perform the rescue. No matter what position that boom is in, it works with the same efficiency. This adds great dimensions of safety for us, the victim and for the others on the road.”
The SwiftLift system allows the engine to be oriented in any direction without moving the vehicle once it has been parked because of the articulating motion in the head of the unit. It can be outfitted with an assortment of other custom features depending on the needs of the individual departments. Chief Carl Magann of LLFD added: “This was designed by firefighters and it is very durable. With very little training, any firefighter can become familiar with the assembly and operation of the unit. I know it saves lives.”
The manufacturer of the SwiftLift VRS is the Flaresun Fire Group, which comprises a mixture of firefighters and entrepreneurs that have served in – or been involved in – the fire service for many years. “What used to be a monumental task became a fast and efficient rescue. I am very proud of the fact that our engine is called for mutual aid as far as 35 or more miles away by other departments because they know by the time they gather their volunteers and set up the Z-rig, we can be there and already have the victim out,” concluded Chief Wiles.