Being safe starts with having the right tools and knowledge to respond to a situation gone wrong. Below we’ll describe a few items that we think are essential to the well prepared kit bag along with the pros and cons of each choice.
Some of the described items can be found for sale in the STORE Amazon Shop which helps to fund educational events.
You should always assume that your first choice cutter may fail! Have a secondary choice as a back-up in case you need it.
Safety Shears and Line cutters
Before you consider tying someone up, or getting tied up yourself, you should give serious thought to how you will remove the rope in an emergency. What kind of emergencies? Rope may be cutting off circulation to a limb, causing excessive pain or have slipped to a dangerous position. The person being tied may suddenly take unwell. The person doing the tying could become incapacitated also. There could be a fire or another sudden event requiring quick release. Basically you will need a quick, effective and safe method for removing rope.
EMT Shears are basic, simple, heavy duty scissors. Paramedics and other healthcare professionals have been using these for years. They can cut through most materials including ropes (both loose and under tension) but pose very little risk to the user or person within the ropes. At under £2 a pair they can almost be considered disposable. No tears would be shed if you lost your shears rather than your expensive rescue knife and you can push the boat out and buy several pairs and leave them in multiple places. Take care to only buy recognised brands such as Steroplast’s TufKuts. Saving 50p by buying a cheap knock off that doesn’t actually do the job is not a saving at all.
Pros: Cheap, legal to carry in UK, will cut any diameter rope
Cons: Take longer to cut through rope bundles than hooks, become blunted with repeated use
These dedicated tools are designed to be quickly deployed and used with one hand while posing minimal risk to oneself or other people. Some care is needed not to catch your fingers in the line of cutting. Like all tools with a specific function they are fairly specialised and so do not necessarily replace the need for shears but can be used in addition. As with safety shears there are no issues with carrying a rescue hook in public places.The Gerber Hook pictured costs £20 and takes standard Stanley blades.It is also the tool of choice for many paramedics and armed forces personnel. Unfortunately they are becoming harder to obtain as Gerber will be ceasing EU production shortly.
Gerber also do a dedicated strap cutter which should handle most diameters of rope and has a curved blade which can either be re-sharpened or replace the whole unit. If you are not sure how to sharpen it yourself it is worth sending it off to a specialist service for maintenance. This one varies in price between £20 and £30.
If you can’t get hold of the Gerber Hook then this Line Cutter also comes highly recommended and will handle cutting through just about any thickness of rope with ease due to the shape of the blade. The blade can be re-sharpened and it comes in at around £18. We would not however recommend this hook is used on natural fibre ropes >8mm diameter as the rope may not fit into the aperture.
The only truly evidence based cutters are those recommended by NHS services in the UK for the removal of ligatures in the context of self strangulation and self harm. These hooks are the Res-Q hook and the Barrington LC1 which are named as approved devices in multiple NHS Trust’s policies. They are however more expensive (around £60) and they are required to cut much tougher materials than rope in order to be considered effective. Whilst they would be extremely effective on rope they are probably not any more effective than smaller hooks.
In summary for rescue hooks:
Pros: extremely quick, safe to carry in the uk, replaceable blade version can be carried in hand luggage for air travel
Cons: care needs to be taken regarding the aperture size, resharpening is a specialist skill,
A good halfway house between shears and a rescue hook and as the name suggests are originally designed to cut seatbelts in an emergency. It is almost impossible to cut yourself by accident (please don’t try prove us wrong!) and they will cut through *most* ropes in a flash. We wouldn’t however be confident in using them as a first line for natural ropes >6mm diameter as bundles of rope may get stuck in the aperture. Synthetic fibre ropes and woven cotton ropes will flatten out and it through the space with ease. They make a great kit bag addition as a backup cutter.
Pros: Cheap to replace, Can be kept in your car for their intended use, easy and quick to use.
The blades are non-replaceable and non-sharpening. Each cutter costs about £3.
In short, we don’t recommend using these for rope work. They are of course very effective, but many are not legal to be carried in the UK due to weapons laws and they are very easy to use in a way that causes injury, especially if someone is in a panic.
First Aid Kits & Aftercare
A general First Aid Kit is always useful. The injuries likely to be sustained during rope practice are similar in many ways to general sports injuries, so a sports kit is probably a very useful thing to have. We’ve also found this kit online described as a motorist’s kit which has everything you need. If you ask in advance there are STORE first aid kits available for £10 also. In addition to the standard items we would recommend that all kits have instant ice packs and compression bandages to treat potential joint or nerve injuries, a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate which work wonders for “feeling a bit odd” and a little tub of Sudocream in case of rope burns.