General rescue principles - Petzl Canada

General rescue principles

Inert suspension in a harness, even for a short time, can cause serious physiological harm. In case of an accident, it is important to intervene quickly with the appropriate technique.


  • Carefully read the Instructions for Use used in this technical advice before consulting the advice itself. You must have already read and understood the information in the Instructions for Use to be able to understand this supplementary information.
  • Mastering these techniques requires specific training. Work with a professional to confirm your ability to perform these techniques safely and independently before attempting them unsupervised.
  • We provide examples of techniques related to your activity. There may be others that we do not describe here.


On sites where the main access could be cut off by fire, people must be ready to evacuate the building quickly. They have evacuation kits. These kits are either portable or installed permanently on the structure. Where there is no identified anchor possibility, these people can use a hook-based system. In both cases, teams must be regularly trained so as not to panic in case of a fire.

On-site rescue

When a worksite is being set up, the company must establish a risk prevention plan (inventory of risk situations):

1. It must protect the personnel from falls from height. The solutions chosen, whether collective or individual, must protect the team members while they work.

2. In the case of an incident, the company must be prepared with rescue systems for accessing, releasing and evacuating the victim.

These solutions are established with:

- ready-to-use rescue kits, adaptable to many situations and simple to use

- personal equipment for the worker at height (solution requiring experienced and well-trained teams)

In both cases, the teams undergo regular training so they can respond quickly in case of an accident.

Technical rescue

Technical rescue teams must be able to respond quickly in any situation. They must choose the quickest, most effective way to access the victim.

- When access is easy or possible by motorized means, they can easily transport the rescue equipment

- In more difficult access situations, they may use rope access techniques, from above or below. They thus have lightweight, versatile equipment

- Finally, the helicopter can be a means that is used when victim access is complicated and/or remote, for example in the mountains

Ski lift evacuation

Ski lift evacuation operations follow an evacuation plan. Rescue kits are put together to meet the specific needs of each ski center.

1. Accessing the victim.

1. Accessing the victim

Accessing the victim can sometimes be complicated. Rope access techniques are used in such a case. When access is possible from above, rescuers use rope descent techniques. If an access rope is in place, rescuers can ascend the rope with rope clamps. In other situations, rescuers are obliged to use climbing techniques to reach the victim.

Example of access from above

Example of access from above

Example of access from below

Example of access from below

2. Releasing the victim.

2. Releasing the victim


This involves using a mechanical advantage pulley system in order to easily raise the victim. When the rescuer is alone, he will create such a system to conserve energy. The disadvantage is that a long rope is required. If there are enough rescuers, a lower mechanical advantage is used to speed up the operation.

Counterbalance technique

This is a counterweight system. The rescuer is on one side, the victim on the other. The rescuer unweights the rope on the victim's side by pulling on it. The victim ascends and the rescuer descends. The advantage of this system is that it is easy to do with little equipment. Engaging the counterweight is the step that demands the most energy. After that, it is important to be careful to keep the system under control. Be careful when there is a big weight difference between the rescuer and the victim.

Example of raising

Example of raising 1/2 Example of raising 2/2

Example of counterbalance

Example of counterbalance 1/2 Example of counterbalance 2/2

3. Evacuating the victim.

3. Evacuating the victim

Downward, the evacuation is carried out with a descender. This is the easiest technique currently in use. When downward evacuation is impossible, the victim is evacuated upward or horizontally. Upward, rescuers use either a counterweight or hauling technique. Horizontally, one or more ropes are tensioned. One rope is used for carriage, another is used as a back-up belay, and another to move the litter.