How to Tie Knots for Emergency Rescues, Disaster Situations, and First Aid
Learning how to tie knots adds to emergency preparedness
Emergencies and disasters happen. That’s the reality. Although we try to prevent them, they still creep up to us and wreak havoc. Sure, disaster preparedness is important. But what have you done to prepare yourself for the worst? Whether the catastrophe is man-made or natural, emergency situations and disasters can be mitigated if we know how to address the most basic human needs. Of course we don’t want to be in such a situation—but if we were, are we ready?
There are numerous skills and knowledge sets that can be useful in times of crisis. First aid, basic life support, disaster management and the like are all too important to set aside. But the truth is not everyone has adequate training.
There is one skill that is often neglected but has proven to be useful in disaster situations – knot tying. Yes, the simple skill of tying knots can save lives. Okay, it sounds like I’m glorifying this skill, but the fact is that rescuers all over the world learn how to tie knots. The relentless practice of rope twisting and tying can save lives when done properly. But what's more amazing is that anyone can do this.
Here are some useful knots when you're all tied up in an emergency.
How to tie a bowline
The bowline is considered as the king of all knots. First it’s easy to make. Second, it does not slip (or jam). Lastly, it can be used in many situations from pulling some out of the water to safely bringing down people from upper levels to the ground.
Tie a Bowline:
- Take the right end of the rope and curl it over itself to make a small loop.
- Insert the right end of the rope through the initial loop making a larger loop.
- Continue around the back of the rope just before the first small loop.
- After going around the back of the rope, pass the end into the small loop again.
- Tighten the knot.
As a kid I learned to tie this knot using the “rabbit tale”. Make a loop (step 1) this is called the rabbit hole. The rabbit goes out the hole (step 2). Goes around the tree (step 3) then goes back in the hole (step 4). There are many variations of this tale, but the principle is the same.
Uses of the bowline:
The bowline is a versatile knot and is used in many scenarios. Here are some applications:
- Pulling victims out of the water
- Act as lifeline to rescuers and/or victims during a rescue
- Can be used to lower or raise victims
How to tie a Bowline
How to tie a Prusick Loop
The Prusick loop or knot is another versatile knot used in many instances from mountaineering to emergency rescues. What’s unique about this knot is its ability to slip and slip at the person’s will. As a sliding or friction hitch, it relies on the presence of a load or pressure to slip or move. Simply put, if you tug on it, it will remain in position. But if you loosen the pull, it will release and move.
Tie a Prusick Knot:
- You will need to lengths of rope, one will be the anchor while the other will be used for the knot/loop
- Lay the anchor rope on a flat surface.
- Tie both ends of the other rope to make a loop.
- Place the loop underneath the anchor line
- Pull one side of the loop over and underneath the anchor line – do this three times
- On the last turn, tighten the knot around and through the other end of the loop.
Uses of the Prusick loop:
- Can be used as support for carrying loads
- Used to ascend and descend if no other equipment is available
- Helps anchor victim for support
How to tie a Prusick Loop
How to tie a Double Fisherman’s Knot
The fisherman’s knot is a joining knot. This means it is used to secure two ropes together to make one longer rope. This comes in handy when a single rope is insufficient in length. Using this knot lowers the risk that the two ropes with disengage.
Tie a Double Fisherman’s Knot
- Place two ropes parallel on another.
- Using one rope, make a loop by passing it over the second rope then under both ropes. Do this twice ( that’s why it’s called double fisherman’s knot)
- From underneath the two ropes insert it into the loop you just made.
- Do the same with the other rope
- Pull both ropes to tighten the knot.
The double fisherman’s knot is a stronger version of the fisherman’s knot. The extra wrap around the other rope gives it additional strength.
Uses of the Double Fisherman’s knot:
- Joining two ropes together
- Extending rope length by fastening two ropes together
This is ideal for ropes of the same diameter. However, if the ropes have different sizes a Sheetband is your best option.
Double Fisherman's Knot
How to tie a Square Knot
This is probably one of the most widely known knots. From boy scouts to paramedics, this knot is truly widely used. It is also called the reef knot used to secure sails on ships. The simplicity of the square knot makes it easy to learn and easy to tie. Likewise, its ease of untying makes it really popular.
Tie a Square Knot:
- Take one end in each hand.
- Cross over the right end and wrap it around the left end. Now the right end is not on the left side.
- Take the end on the left side and cross it over and wrap it around the end on the right.
- Tighten the knot.
Many remember this knot using this mnemonics: right over left, left over right. The knot can also be done starting with the left over right pattern. If you need a stronger knot than a square knot you may opt for the surgeon’s knot. It’s practically the same as the square knot but it uses several turns on the first “right over left”.
Uses of the square knot
- Although this is initially used to tie two ropes together it is not recommended as it can disengage easily
- Knot used in first aid bandages because it’s easy to tie and easy to release
- It can tie items together if fastening them does not require too much security.
It is important to practice these knots so it can be second nature to you. During emergencies and disasters, time is of the essence. Learning how to tie knots is a skill worth knowing. So pick up some rope and start twisting and turning.