Lowangle Evacuation

Cliffs and ridges, which must be surmounted, are often encountered along the evacuation path. Raising operations place a greater load on all elements of the system than do lowering operations. Since all means of raising a victim (pulley systems, hand winches, and power winches) depend on mechanical advantage, it becomes easy to overstress and break anchors and hand ropes. Using mechanical raising systems tends to reduce the soldier's sensitivity to the size of the load. It becomes important to monitor the system and to understand the forces involved.

a. Raising Systems, Belays, and Backup Safeties. Raising systems, belays, and backup safeties are of special importance in any raising operation. The primary raising system used is the Z-pulley system, which theoretically gives three pounds of lift for each pound of force expended. In practice, these numbers decrease due to rope-pulley friction, rope-edge friction, and other variables. A separate belay rope is attached to the litter and belayed from a separate anchor. Backup Prusik safeties should be installed in case any part of the pulley system fails.

(1) Raising System. When considering a raising system for evacuations, the Z-pulley system is the most adaptable. It can be rigged with the equipment on hand, and can be modified and augmented to handle heavier loads. Although the vertical or horizontal hauling lines can also be used, the Z-pulley system offers a mechanical advantage that requires less exertion by the transport team.

(2) Belays. Whenever ropes are used for an evacuation operation, the overriding safety concern is damage to the ropes. This is the main reason for two-rope raising systems (raising rope and belay rope).

(3) Backup Safeties. Because the stresses generated by the Z-pulley system can cause anchors to fail, backup safety Prusiks are used to safeguard the system. These should be attached to alternate anchor points, if possible.

b. Raising the Litter. The litter is prepared as already described.

(1) The raising ropes and belay ropes are secured to top anchors and are thrown down to the litter crew.

(2) Padding is placed at the cliff edge and over any protrusions to protect the ropes from abrasion.

(3) The litter attendants secure the ropes to the litter.

(4) The raising crew sets up the Z-pulley system.

(5) One member of the crew secures himself to an anchor and moves to the edge of the cliff to transmit signals and directions. (This is the signalman or relay man.)

Note: If the load is too heavy at this time, another pulley is added to the system to increase the mechanical advantage.

(6) Attendants guide the litter around obstacles while the crew continues to raise the system.

(7) As the litter nears the cliff edge, the signalman assists the attendant in moving the litter over the edge and onto the loading platform, taking care not to jar the casualty.

c. Descending Slopes. When descending a moderately steep slope that can be down-climbed, the litter and victim are prepared as described earlier (Figure 11-4, page 11-12).

(1) One man serves as the belay man and another takes his position on the rope in front of the belay man, assisting him in lowering the litter. The litter bearers take their positions and move the litter down with the speed of descent controlled by the belay man.

Figure 11-4. Low-angle evacuation—descending.

(2) The extra man may assist with the litter or precede the team to select a trail, clearing away shrubs and vines. He reconnoiters so that the team need not retrace its steps if a cliff is encountered.

(3) The most direct, practical passage should be taken utilizing available natural anchors as belay positions.

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