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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Shelby shows us the ropes... literally!

I taught the science party how to make rope stretchers for "on-land" fieldwork emergencies!

By Shelby Brandt
A successful stretcher creation for our volunteered "victim" Tanner.

Like me, you’ve probably used some makeshift first aid gear at some point in your life. A cotton ball and tape instead of a band aid, or perhaps some contact solution to clean a wound. However, when living and working in a remote setting, the resources available can demand some creativity from the person providing first aid.

Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. What happens if you're injured out here?!

Picture this; you’re beginning your first field season as a geologist in the beautiful Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. It’s a fly-in fly-out camp only accessible by float plane or helicopter and you’re psyched to spend a summer off grid. One day, you and your assistant are mapping 4km from shore when suddenly, your assistant falls down a shear face. You run to their side and find they are knocked out. After several unresponsive minutes you call an emergency heli to come pick them up. There is no way you can carry them 4km to shore, and the bush is too thick for the helicopter to land where you are, but you don’t worry; you have 100ft of rope in your backpack! 

I worked in Northern Saskatchewan last summer as a senior assistant for the Saskatchewan Geological Survey. My job was to lead a junior assistant through the rocky terrain in order to map the rocks in this virtually unmapped region. In order to prepare us for the potential risks and challenges associated with working in these conditions, we were trained in Wilderness First aid by the Red Cross. During this 3-day course we learned how to make splints out of branches and scrap fabric, how to start fire with a flint stick, and many other unique skills like how to make a stretcher out of rope. 

The recipe for avoiding disaster:

To make your own rope stretcher, first you need 100 ft of rope. Lay the rope zig zag across the floor with each length about 2-3ft. At each corner you tie a knot to make a loop. You continue to zig zag your way down until the pattern is approximately the same length as the injured human, continually making knots with loops at each corner. Then you lay the human on top of your zig zag so the loops stick out by their sides with the loose end of the rope near their feet. You should put some sort of support (like a Sam Splint or board) under their head and cross their arms across their chest. Wrap the rope once around their legs then put the end through the last loop. Continue to zig zag your way back up the body by putting the rope back through the loops on alternating sides of the body.

Once all loops are accounted for, tie a secure knot. At this point, the patient should be rather secure in the net-type stretcher you have just made, however there is no way to lift it. To create a midpoint to lift from, you need to tie the rope near the left shoulder, let out about 4ft of slack, then tie a secure knot at the right shoulder. At the midpoint of the slack, tie another knot with a loop. Repeat this near the knees so you have two triangles with a loop at the top of each. Put the loose end of the rope through these loops and tie a very secure knot. You may also want to put a beaner through the loops for extra support. Now, you have a secure rope stretcher. When the helicopter comes to evacuate the patient, you can throw or pass the loose end of the rope up to the helicopter and they will be able to lift the patient up using your device.

I hope you are never, ever, in this situation where you need this skill. But the next time you need a team bonding activity or cool party trick, I’m sure a homemade rope stretcher will be a big hit.

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