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Using Paracord as emergency escape rope...

Discussion in 'General EDC Discussion' started by Bogus, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. Bogus

    Bogus Empty Pockets

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    Hi all,

    Been a lurker for some time and finally in need of some advice.

    I am thinking of making an emergency escape rope with a single strand of Paracord. 50feet of Parachord takes minimal space and can reach to the ground from a 4th floor window.

    Paracord is capable of supporting up to 550lbs - that's more than sufficient to support a persons weight. However the thinness of the cord makes it very difficult to hold on to - can severely cut into your hand.

    First question - If you had suitable carabiners how would you go about tying it securely to the end of the paracord?

    Second question - what could you use to "grip" the paracord on your decent down - some sort of handle? Another carabiner?

    Third question - any particluar way to wrap the paracord around yourself (like absailing) that will allow you to control your decent?

    Cheers,

    Bogus.
     
  2. Codeman

    Codeman Loaded Pockets

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    :welcome: out of the dark, so to speak!
     
  3. pnslts

    pnslts Empty Pockets

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    hello
    i think it's not a good idea !!! and can be dangerous ! ther some rope specially made foe that, but i do what you want it's your life :) :evilgrin:
     
  4. Bogus

    Bogus Empty Pockets

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    Thanks for the welcome Codeman! :wave:

    Hi pnslts, thank for your concern, but it's doable... I think....
     
  5. Stuey

    Stuey Loaded Pockets

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    Well, what he's saying is that if you want a rope for emergency climb-out use, then you're better off purchasing climbing rope. Paracord has a breaking point of 550 lbs but its safe load weight is going to be much lower.

    Another question you need to address is how will the cord/rope be anchored in the window in order to support a person's weight.
     
  6. bbriand

    bbriand Loaded Pockets

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    I think I read somewhere that paracord is rated for static loads. When climbing you're body / hands can slip a bit and put quite a bit more than your actual weight on the cord.

    Also something to consider is knots can reduce the cords strength by up to 50%.

    Although in an emergency I'd sure prefer to chance the paracord rather than say my flame resistance.
     
  7. AcydFlames

    AcydFlames Empty Pockets

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    I think my biggest concern would be slipping or falling from any distance with a paracord rope. Climbing ropes are dynamic and stretch a bit, paracord could snap your back, arm, leg or anything else its tied around if you slipped only a few feet.

    I share the same thought though, ;) if you gotta go, you gotta go. I think a good pair of gloves might be an option for a good grip. Something thin that you could pack in with the cord. Hell, if you have time to tie off, set up a set of 'biners, and pray, you should have time to put on some gloves.

    And like Stuey said though,
    attaching a carabiner to the end of the rope might not always be the best option. I would hate to have a situation come up and have to untie your escape plan in a hurry.
     
  8. jsmith008

    jsmith008 Loaded Pockets

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    I have a very competent climbing friend who has told me in the past that it is doable, and he has seen it done. It is sketchy, but doable. Spectra cord, technora, and a few others are extremely high strength static cords available specifically designed for such activities. Usually these cords are 4mm or 5mm in diameter. Static cord is what is commonly used for rappelling. The company SMC has a few devices that will handle such a narrow diameter cord, normal rappeling devices do not create enough friction to be safe. In an emergency, rappelling carefully with paracord is possible, but it might be worth investing some proper equipment if emergency rappels seem to be a more frequent occurrence. Have fun!
     
  9. Mark123

    Mark123 Empty Pockets

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    Ron Wood explains how to do the technique in The Woodmaster Volume 3 DVD.

    1. You need a good carabiner-one you can easily grip with your entire hand.

    2. Wrap the paracord around one side of the carabiner about 6-7 times, opening the gate with each wrap so the end result is the paracord is looped around one side of the carabiner. (I know a picture would help here!)

    3. So you have one end tied above you, the cord looped around one side of the carabiner about 6-7 times, and the other end hanging free below you.

    4. You rappel by using your free hand to loosen up the free end of the rope to descend, and pulling it tight to stop the descent-meaning you can only safely descend about 2-3 feet at a time. Wearing gloves, and good upper body strength wouldn't hurt.

    Careful. I could easily see how someone could hang themselves or fall to their death trying to do this. :thumbsdown:

    I think this falls in the same category as stopping an angry attacker by throwing a sharpened screwdriver at them.

    But good luck.
     
  10. WildEMT

    WildEMT Loaded Pockets

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    Interesting topic. I'm sure most of us have thought about this use for paracord. However, you have to ask yourself if the room you save having a bundle of paracord is worth the risk you incur. If you are tossing some paracord in a closet or drawer for this use, you may be better off tossing a bundle of climbing rope in the closet or under the bed. Being a family man, I would err on the side of safety and not size.
    :laugh: Agreed. Last resort kind of scenario...
     
  11. AcydFlames

    AcydFlames Empty Pockets

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    That's great! ;D "Yeah, well... about every week or so my office building catches fire and I find myself having to climb out the 4th story window..." Heh, just joking around. I think it is completely possible though, in all seriousness. Not something I would want to try out for fun, but in an emergency, sure. I think experience might help more than the gear in a case like this. I personally have limited climbing experience, and would almost go out of my way to find another exit before I tried something so risky, and new all at the same time. Headline would read "Noob fails at repelling with string, his coworkers exit through storage closet"
     
  12. dyyys1

    dyyys1 Loaded Pockets

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    IIRC, paracord stretches to about 1.5 times it's original length. I agree that you'd probably be better off with 50 feet of some kind of stronger (and thicker) rope.
     
  13. jsmith008

    jsmith008 Loaded Pockets

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    yeah, I thought it was pretty good too. I thought about adding something to about one thinking about moving if they encountered daily emergencies requiring para-cord rappelling, but I didn't. Oh, just another tip, only use the tactical rappel belts as a last resort (hence them sometimes being referred too as "last resort belts"). I, in my infinite wisdom and curiosity, decided to to try it out once. They work great. And they give you a wedgie. Enough said.
     
  14. bpa

    bpa Loaded Pockets

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    It might work for you, might not. But you should probably consider the needs of the panicky person on the floor below you who sees that nice rope dangling down, and decides to join you... :D
     
  15. ajacobs

    ajacobs Loaded Pockets

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    I would not suggest it. When I was younger and dumber and in the army I attempted it. It snaps almost never fail. String some up someplace like a basement or garage rafter and test your weight on it bouncing up and down. Now consider that when you have it out at a much longer distance, the bounce and shock to the cord is much greater. Additionally, when there is that much weight on it the cord is much more susceptible to abrasions. Additionally hardware such as a carabiner will hear up remarkably fast. Everytime I have tried any distance with any weight on a carabiner you end up with partially melted paracord. I have fallen twice from no great distance, thankfully, from paracord. Only once was trying to use it to rappel. I also have seen many others fall. Being young and dumb we would make newbe's in the army do various things with it.

    I also am an avid skier. Since I go out regardless of the conditions I have often been stuck on a ski lift for as much as 2 hours becuase of high winds. Never pleasant when you have shed layers because you are being active and then you are stuck on the lift in your sweaty with too few closes on. I carry 70 feet of 7mm rope that I bought as at discount someplace on line because it was the end of a spool. I have it prerigged and treaded through the drinking tube hole on my backpack. I use a mini rescue 8, a couple of caribiners and use a emergency belt through my ski pants. I have used it 3 times in the last 5 years. Not so much because of life threating emergencies like a fire but because I was cold and stuck on the lift. I use a bowline to secure to the carabiner.

    The hand technique as described above works well, if you aren't ready to commit to a nylon belt. I am not sure how well it will work with 550 cord though. You are going to have to constantly keep the tension so it doesn't get tangled. Not much worse than being halfway down a cliff or building in this case and being stuck (which has happened to me) at least with a cliff you can get a foot hold hopefully and take some weight off to free the knot. If you aren't willing to commit to full time wear of a nylon belt in places you think you might need it. I recommend a runner. Basically a nylon webbing loop, they are available in many sizes but 4 feet works good. Use the carabiner on the rope (as mentioned with a big enough carabiner for your hand to go through) and put the loop in the carabiner. This gives you a spot for one foot. Then you aren't just hanging on with your hand, your standing with one foot and all your body weight is there. Then with a prusik knot with some 550 cord you can control your decent. I think relying on gloves or for that matter just your upper body is pretty dangerous for most of us. I know with the speed of decent that gloves are not going to help at all in slowing you down. In air assault when we fast roped the rope is half a dozen climbing width ropes braided together and you still go fast and you gloves are still burning hot when you get down. school I do realize though that you are talking about the lesser of 2 risks (escaping a fire filed building or using less than ideal gear). I don't know enough about some of the modern thinner cord like the spectra to say anything about their strengths one of them though has got to be better than 550 cord. Don't get me wrong I love 550 cord and have about a dozen 1200ft spools in the garage but I don't trust if for body weight.


    All that said, I have seen someone with a carabiner and a belay device and proper harness decend about 30 feet in a climbing gym. Mind you they weighed about a buck and a quarter and it was an even speed slow decent from a free hanging rope (no abrasion).

    I think my rope shorts came from http://www.rocknrescue.com/acatalog/Personal-Escape-Rope-Shorts.htmlhere. I use a 6mm or 7mm rope. Usually the 8 or 9 is cheaper though.
     
  16. ajacobs

    ajacobs Loaded Pockets

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    I should have mention that consider in climbing a rope with a 4000 pound breaking strength generally can handle a working load of 450 pounds or so.
     
  17. Bogus

    Bogus Empty Pockets

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    Thanks everyone for the great replies. Looks like I'll have to consider something else other than paracord.

    Just to give a bit of background - I live in Hong Kong and occasionally travel to China for business. In HK I guess you can spend over 80% of your time "above" ground level - muilti story shopping malls, restaurants, office buildings, high rise apartments etc. On a daily basis I probably spend 21+ hours over 20 feet above ground level. In China there are regular news of fires breaking out in Hotels, restaurants, even a hospital - most caused by electrical faults. Even if I'm 80feet up and have a 50feet rope at least the final 30 feet drop would be "less" painful - relatively speaking ;D
     
  18. ChopperCFI

    ChopperCFI Loaded Pockets

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    As others have said, don't do it unless you're going to die anyway. From a simple math point of view:

    If you simply wanted to attach the cord to a carabiner, tying a figure eight loop will retain about 80% of the rope's breaking strength (440 lbs). If you need to tie the cord around an object, a bowline is best, but it only retains about 65% of the rope strength (357 lbs). So far it doesn't sound too bad. Now we load the cord.

    Simply hanging absolutely still would generate a load equal to your body weight. Climbing down or rappelling very slowly will easily generate double your body weight. A bounding rappel could easily generate four times your body weight or more. How much do you weigh?

    All of this assumes no sharp bends in the cord as might occur when passing over a window ledge. It also assumes no abrasion on the cord. Since the cord's strength is due to the integral system of core strands plus sheath, one nick and the cord rapidly fails. To demonstrate for yourself, hang a 10 pound weight from some cord and nick it with a dull knife. (Be sure to keep toes out of the way.) Then imagine 170 lbs instead of 10.

    So to add a margin of safety, how about 4 strands of paracord. Not much more space, but likely more survivable. Assuming at least four strands, there are several ways to create sufficient friction to safely descend. Something to protect your hands would be necessary. Leather gloves are best, but a towel or shirt wrapped around your hands would do.

    The simplest friction method would be to wrap the cords around the side of a locking carabiner opposite the gate at least twice and possibly three times. Non-locking biner would work, but runs the risk of opening. Two biners with gates pointing opposite directions would also work. All of this assumes you can fashion a harness out of something. Adding a 12 to 15 foot piece of 1 inch webbing would allow you to create a swiss seat harness that is reasonably comfortable. A 50 foot piece of paracord folded four times would also work.

    For additional friction, run the cords around your butt from the non-dominant hand side to the dominant hand side and use your dominant hand as the braking hand. For even more control connect a standard figure eight rappel device to the carabiner with the cord wrapped around it. Better still is a rappel rack which allows you to precisely control the friction on different size ropes.

    Self rescue is certainly possible, just think it through. As others have said, using a proper climbing rope is preferred. If the location is your normal home or office, space isn't really an issue. If your really high up, you probably want one of these.
     
  19. Stuey

    Stuey Loaded Pockets

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    What about this?
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000H5S96A/

    It'll help you climb down 3 stories - might allow you to get into another floor which might be protected from whatever hazard you escape.
     
  20. Russ

    Russ Empty Pockets

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    550 is a static load. Knots, abrasions & heat reduce the load. A dynamic action such as dropping the weight (rappelling) will cause an impulse that will spike the load to way over 550#. In the heat of the moment there would be a lot to go wrong.

    Ron Hood discusses parachute cord in chapter 16 & 17 of his Woodsmaster #3 DVD. Not for recreational use, emergency only. As was already mentioned, you may want to try it first from a low height so that you can experience its limitations first hand.

    Para-cord is great to have in a kit. I have 100' in one kit and several 20" lengths in others. But it's there to better secure a shelter, not for supporting large weights.

    Check on the web and you can find minimalist climbing gear (8mmx30m dry rope) that would serve much better. 550 cord might save someone's life, but don't let your Plan A to work so close or past the limits of your gear.