If you spend time on the second to fourth floor of a building, you have to ask yourself how you will get out of that spot in an emergency. Enter the bailout kit. I carried one clipped to my gear when I was a firefighter, and I’m telling you that this a great to use in an emergency if you need to get out of a tall building in a hurry. Some of you have asked for more firefighter on the job tricks, so this post is one of those.

When my son was 14 years old or so, the two of us got in a bit of hot water with the apartment complex manager when I was teaching him how to use this system. What we were doing was climbing the stairs to the third floor, and then using it to rappel down to the ground. Over and over. She saw this and came over to yell at us for it. Killjoy.

It’s an easy concept. All you need is a bag with 40 feet of 8mm climbing rope and a pair of locking carabiners. There is a kit here that has the rope and one carabiner. You can get more carabiners here. Make sure that whatever you get is certified for climbing. Buying the cheap stuff will ensure that it fails when you need it.

Store the bag with the rope in it, and one carabiner attached to the near end with a bowline knot. The other carabiners (one for each person who will be escaping) just need to be clipped to the handle on the outside of the bag. When it’s time to bail out, hand each escapee a carabiner, clip the one that is tied to the end of the rope to something sturdy (we will get to that in a minute) and toss the bag out of the window. At this point, you should have a carabiner in your hand and be looking at a rope that is attached to something sturdy at one end, and is trailing out of the window all the way to the ground.

Now you need to clip that carabiner to yourself. If you are wearing a sturdy gunbelt (you DO wear a 1 inch or larger leather belt for EDC, don’t you?) that will do. Whatever you wear for a belt needs to be able to support your weight. Now tie the rope in a munter hitch and attach it to the carabiner that is clipped around your belt.

Now you can simply bail out of the window by using the munter hitch to control your descent. Each person who has a carabiner can do this. Please note that this is for emergency escape where remaining in the building will be fatal. I do not recommend using a belt as a climbing or rappelling device under normal conditions.

If you are going to practice this technique, please use a safety line with someone on belay. If you don’t know how to do this, please take a climbing or rappelling course.

Parting thought… Why do they have female firefighters?

Well, who else is going to make the sandwiches?

Categories: Training


Some doofus · December 15, 2023 at 7:26 am

Very practical. Looking forward to your thoughts on that something sturdy to attach to

nick flandrey · December 15, 2023 at 12:37 pm

The munter hitch works a whole lot better with a bigger, vaguely triangular carabiner. Back when I was trained and using it for climbing, we all bought the right carabiner as the oval ones didn’t really work. The vid embedded has one in the style I’m talking about. IIRC the wide end of the biner makes it easy for the knot to reverse thru it smoothly. Honestly though, a rappel/belay plate doesn’t take much room and the rigging is harder to get wrong. When we were first starting out, we used a single link from a big chain as the rappel plate, so you can do it very cheaply. For everyday use as rappel and belay, I did use the munter hitch every day, but I carried a plate, and that original chain link too.

When I commuted for hours in LA on the freeway system, I kept a rope and harness in the truck. If you get stuck on one of the elevated sections you might be miles from where you could get off the road unless you can rappel to the ground.

Rather than counting on your belt (unless you wear a real ‘riggers belt’ with a rated buckle) two sewn loops of climbing webbing take up almost no space and make a secure harness. One loop goes around your waist, one gets a half twist to make a figure eight, and you step thru that. Clip your ‘biner thru both ends of your waist loop, and the center cross over of the leg loop, and you end up with a decent emergency harness. ( you don’t step thru the waist loop, you double it over and put it around you like a belt. You could step thru, but by doubling it, you can scootch one part lower under your butt to help support your weight. Size them to fit at purchase time, or get them long and shorten by tying a loop to take up the excess.

Thanks for the reminder Divemedic.

Papa · December 15, 2023 at 1:03 pm

Thanks for the info, and bringing up good memories.
I did similar stuff while a member of a rural fire department.
Great, fun times!
In my car, Ihave my kit which I used to carry in my bunker gear pockets.
Never know when you might come up to a vehicle wreck, or some other situation where helping hands are needed.

grumpy51 · December 15, 2023 at 1:21 pm

You’d REALLY like to see the bag lying on its side on the ground…..that’s how you KNOW you have enough rope. In general, each story = 10′ though new buildings might have high lobby, so count as 20′.

Our bailout kits (1980s) involved 20′ of 1″ tubular webbing (make a Swiss seat with) and 50′ of lifeline. You could literally come down a 15-story building with balconies by leap-frogging down.

in SWAT, that bailout bag was tied to our harness to prevent the end of the rope from slipping through and introducing you to freefall…..

Rick T · December 15, 2023 at 4:10 pm

Our office used to be on the 4th floor of a high rise tower, now it is on the 10th. I’m SOOOO glad I work from home now.

Aesop · December 15, 2023 at 6:57 pm

FWIW, and having climbed and rappelled recreationally and militarily, if you’re going to spend the buck$ on that much, spend a couple of more, get a basic rappel seat (or make a good custom-size Swiss seat “diaper” from a few yards of climbing-rated webbing), and a figure 8 to clip into the ‘biner. K2/Everest-quality hardware is cheap; the seat and the rope are actually the spendy parts.

Put the purposed rappel seat on in about 20 seconds and snug it up/tie it off, pull a short loop of rope through the 8 and over it, clip your ‘biner into it, and you have a bombproof rappel that any foole can use with minimal training, given 60 seconds per person to unass the building, max.

Which training you should get, at least once, if not regularly refresh, from actual pros.
I’d venture you can pick it up from YouToob in about 5 minutes (provided you do so long before the building is on fire, sil vous plait.)

BTW, most climbing/rappel ropes run about 150′, which halves when doubled with a midpoint overhand or bowline-on-a-bight, giving you 75′ of reach, or over 5 stories for most buildings, and doubled line gives you an added safety factor and much smoother rappel.

For skyscrapers over 500′, have a map to roof access, and good base jump parachute.

Anywhere in between, you’ve got a problem.
Most big-city FD ladder companies can’t extend above the 7th floor.
(That’s in the U.S.; it’s less in the Turd World.)
Something to keep in mind for business or vacation room selection in vertical locations.

I once lived in a 4th-floor apt with distant stairs, a sketchy elevator, and sketchier neighbors.
In a place like that, two 4″x4″s and a section of 1″ blackpipe can be permanently bolted or screwed to a bedroom wall around a bedroom window, and provide a wicked strong and simple emergency rappel tie-off, and it disappears when you move out with about 5 minutes work with spackle, a putty knife, and some paint. In a pinch, a single stripper-pole style 1″-2″ metal pipe ceiling height up against the window will suffice for an instant anchor, and you can flange it just to the floor. The upper wall will keep it from going anywhere, even under the weight of descents. If you want to put a wooden bracket on the upper wall to hold the top part, so much the better, and it only takes a few seconds to screw the bottom end into place, and hides under a bed , in the back of a closet, or behind a door, until the day you hope you’ll never need it.

It’s never a bad plan to have more ways out of someplace than you have into it. 😉

D · December 16, 2023 at 11:08 am

I loved doing rope rescue–either live training, or actually working a call.

…except I *hated* running all the damn ropes through the rope washer and hanging them to dry for a day or two and then having to stuff 47 miles of rope back into various rope bags.

I had a lot of fun teaching my kids a few things around the farm. We set up a ~15 foot tree stand in a large oak, and there’s a very solid branch above it. I’ve had them rappel down it a few times.

But now I’m so old and the skills so atrophied, I’ve forgotten most of it.

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