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Working with Lift Bags?

Posted by Feld Fire on 9/10/2014 to Fire Equipment
Lift bags can be very important tools for fire rescue operations. If you are not familiar, lift bags are highly pressurized air bags that help lift patients or victims to safety. They are held via ropes or hoses by operators or who are a few feet away from the scene where the lift bag would be used. And as these bags are pressurized air and are being held away from them, like pulling on a balloon and letting go, if the load shifts or is not centered over the bag it can release from under the load and potentially cause serious injuries to anyone around it. 

Such a thing happened in South Dakota a few years ago, as a man was killed when a lift bag dislodged from under a load, flew through the air and hit him the head and chest from about 10 feet away. In the wake of that, there has been more emphasis placed on having the proper safety mechanisms in place when handling and working with a lift bag. 

One of the first recommendations, presented by the manufacturer of the lift bag, is to ensure that the load is centered on the bag, since lift-bag ejection tends to happen when too much weight is on one side of the bag or the other. Those operating or around a lift bag when in use should maintain as safe distance as possible - clearly more than 10 feet, for example. 

Rescuers on the scene should be observant with the lift bag, the way it is being deployed and where the load is positioned to take note of the potential path of ejection and be clear of that path. Inflation of the bag should be slow and steady to ensure the load does not shift; if a shift does happen, the inflation or lift should be stopped and the load adjusted before continuing. Another suggestion is to make a note of the potential ejection path and create a 90-degree no-crossing zone (with the potential ejection path at about the 45-degree angle mark) and tell all personnel to avoid that area at all costs.  The operators of the lift bag should be in positions outside of the zone and a safe distance away, but where they can maintain strong visual contact with the most people at the scene. 

For more about lift-bag safety, check out this link. 

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