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A review of quick-release harness performance in water rescue

Chris Onions (University of Central Lancashire, Rescue 3 (UK), Bala, UK)
Loel Collins (University of Central Lancashire, School of Sport Tourism and the Outdoors, Preston, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 21 October 2013




The purpose of this paper is to consider the performance of quick-release harness buoyancy aids in water rescue.


The assumption is questioned that the performance of water rescue harnesses, in what is perceived as benign, low-flow conditions (<1.85 km/s) is acceptable. Increasingly, rescue personnel are deployed to flooding events during which low-flow, but high-hazard conditions may prevail. A range of commercially available buoyancy aids manufactured in the UK were tested under “real world conditions” and the nature of the release rated.


The primary data illustrate that 25 per cent of releases where incomplete in low-flow conditions. By analogy a karabiner in a rope rescue system with a 1:4 chance of failure would be unacceptable. Consequently, harness testing, design, manufacture, use and deployment may all be in need of reconsideration if the harness is to remain suitable for its current deployment.


A group of international experts from the USA, Europe and the UK have reviewed the findings and highlight possible reasons for these failures. These comments form the basis for research in future papers.



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Rescue 3 (UK), Palm Equipment International, Peak Equipment, Surequip and Nookie. The project was supported by the University of Central Lancashire Knowledge Transfer Initiative and the Livesey Research Scheme.


Onions, C. and Collins, L. (2013), "A review of quick-release harness performance in water rescue", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 141-154.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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