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FDNY Suspends Training and Distribution of Personal Safety Ropes

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today announced the temporary suspension of training and distribution of the Personal Safety System (ropes) to all firefighters and fire officers. The Commissioner made the decision after a training session in which the rope became compromised during use by a firefighter performing a slide with the system at the Department’s Training Academy. The rope became seriously frayed - although did not break - when it jammed inside the mechanical lowering device used to control descent of the firefighter.

(At the training exercise, the firefighter was attached to another rope - called a safety line - and at no time during the training was his safety endangered.)

The FDNY has contacted the manufacturer of the mechanical lowering device as well as the consultant on the project to examine the equipment and the incident in order to determine whether additional testing or adjustments must be made to the rope system.

About 250 firefighters have been issued the equipment. The Department today ordered those rope systems be taken out of service until further notice.

“A great deal of research and evaluation has gone into developing this system and we want to be certain that the equipment we provide our firefighters is fail-safe,” said Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. “The system we provide to our members must allow for a number of variables so that we are confident it is the best piece of equipment available to protect our firefighters.”

The Fire Department began training and issuing the Personal Safety System last week after more than eight months of rigorous testing and evaluation. More than 7,500 tests were performed with this system - which includes a personal harness, lightweight Kevlar rope, descent control device, hook and harness bag.

“By suspending the training and distribution of the Personal Safety System we’re taking precautionary measures to ensure that the Department has a full understanding of why this equipment failed to perform in this particular instance,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “During this period of suspension our team of firefighters and fire officers will continue to troubleshoot this equipment to further determine the effects of improper use by working with both the manufacturer and consultant. In the more than 7,500 tests that were performed, not once did this system respond in this manner. It warrants further investigation and research and that will be done in the coming days and weeks.”