Setting up a safe rope environment

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Checking your equipment

This should be obvious, but the most important thing you can do to increase the safety of your equipment is to check it over before you plan to use it.

  • Locate your cutting device and check that it is sharp
  • Locate your backup cutting device and check that it is sharp
  • Check over the rope you plan to use for damage and replace if necessary
  • Check your accessory equipment for damage (rings, carabiners, straps etc)

 

Setting the room

Obviously tying in a well set up room is better than just starting to tie without checking

  • Is the floor clear of trip & fall hazards such as hard corners of furniture?
  • Is the room warm/cool enough?
  • Have you checked for things that may catch on a moving rope?
  • Is your equipment in an easy to access place?
  • Are observers far enough back from your tieing space?
  • If you are using someone else’s suspension point have you satisfied yourself that it is safe and fit for purpose? It is YOUR responsibility to check this.

 

It is often the case that people forget about good etiquette when watching someone tie. They’ll try to catch your attention, ask questions or even possibly come into your space while you are working. Politely but firmly tell them to wait until later. Have a think about what you will say beforehand.

 

Safe Words, Safe Signs & Checking In

It can be very useful to develop a language with your partner for how to communicate when problems are arising. Within STORE we aim to develop a common language for everyone to use. Make sure if you are setting up signs and words that both of you know exactly what they mean.

Safe words

We prefer the classic RED, AMBER and GREEN

  • RED means stop immediately and release all bindings.
  • AMBER means a problem is developing which needs discussed
  • GREEN means all is ok

 

It can be incredibly useful if safe words are used along with extra information to guide how the person in control of the rope should react. For example:

  • “RED OUT NOW”means the rope needs to come off immediately (if no qualifier is given then this is the standard meaning of RED used alone)
  • “RED 5 mins” means “I need to be untied but I think you have 5 mins to do so” which is helpful for situations that are becoming intolerable but are not yet an emergency. People with experience in being tied are often very good judges of their abilities.
  • “AMBER left arm numb” means “my left arm has gone numb so something needs fixed”
  • “AMBER leg rope slipping” points out a rope that has moved

 

Always beware of the person who goes silent when they relax into their rope headspace. Many people describe losing the ability to talk in this state.

 

Safe signs

Lots of people prefer non-verbal communication where possible with rope. To do this safely you need ways of checking that everything is ok. We suggest the following:

  • Tapping a hand against the floor or body means whatever is happening right now is too difficult or painful and must stop immediately
  • Shaking the head means stop and check what is wrong
  • If the rigger squeezes the hand of the person being tied they are asking for a return squeeze to confirm all is ok
  • If the rigger places their hand firmly on the shoulder they are asking for a nod or shake of the head to confirm all is ok

If working in an environment that is dimly lit (as many clubs and venues are) it may be best to agree to use verbal signs in preference. We’ve also seen people use bells attached to the tied partner’s wrist or having them hold an object that they will drop if there is a problem.

 

No matter which method is used the person being tied has the last say.

Stop means stop.

 

Checking in

Aside from the above it is important for the person doing the tying to check regularly for common problems such as pressure, circulation and nerve issues. Some may not even be noticed by the person being tied unless checked. A good routine would be:

  • Check the temperature of the extremities (hands and feet) for changes. Remember you’ll need to know if your partner naturally has cold hands or feet for this to be useful!
  • Check the skin for discolouration. Reduced circulation makes skin appear red, blue, purple or even white. This is really easy to check on caucasian skin but harder on darker skin tones. Check the capillary return by pressing hard against a bony area and count how long it takes for the skin to return to normal colour. If this takes longer than 3 seconds there is restricted circulation which needs attention
  • Hand squeezes can be used to assess potential nerve issues due to ropes on the upper arm but are not comprehensive. If there is any reduced strength noted the ropes need to come off immediately.
  • A better test for nerve issues in the upper limb is to ask the subject to flex and extend their wrist. This is much better assessment of the radial nerve. If the subject is unable to do this motion the rope needs to come off immediately.
  • Hand squeezes or verbal questioning can assess the conscious level of a partner. Some people seem quieter or less responsive when being tied so it’s good practice to check things are ok. If you are in doubt about the ability of the person to communicate with you stop and assess the situation

Aftercare & Tidying up

After a rope session both the person being tied and the one doing the tying need a bit of time and space to ground themselves. Plan for this in advance.

  • Keep a bottle of water or two on hand. It’s amazing how much of a sweat and thirst you can build up doing rope.
  • Body temperature often drops at the end of any physical activity. Have a warm blanket, jumper or other clothing on hand.
  • Some people benefit from having a quick snack after doing rope. Good things to have on hand are cereal bars and chocolate.
  • Agree beforehand what you both need. Some people like to be alone for a while, or go to a quiet place to sit. Knowing exactly what you need to do makes the whole process go smoothly. It is likely that people will want to come up to you to say something about your tie and forget to wait until you are ready. Have a plan in mind for how to deal with this.
  • When tying in a public venue it is good manners to gather up your rope and vacate the tying space for others to use as soon as you can.
  • Due to the nature of tying and the physical activity it entails there may be ropes that will need washed afterwards. A good idea is to coil these ropes differently from the others so you can identify them later.
  • Aim to leave the space as you found it. Obviously in your own home you set your own rules!
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