Search and Rescue Knots

Knots are important for search and rescue because a good rope can be made to serve many purposes. Here are the ones that members are required to learn as a minimum body of knowledge

For Call-Out Qualified (CQ) Level:

Figure 8 – a single rope is knotted on itself to produce a figure that looks like a numeral 8; it is relatively easy to untie, yet stays secure under most conditions.

Figure 8 on a Bight – a Figure Eight is tied using a doubled rope (a bight), so that one end results in a loop instead of a single line; good for any situation that calls for a connection to be made (say, to a carabiner, post or other rope). In the end it looks just like a Figure 8 Follow-Through.

Figure 8 Follow-Through – Start by tying a loose Figure 8 knot. Pass the tail around the attachment point. Follow the original Figure 8 around the entire knot in reverse. Exit beside the standing end to complete a two stranded Figure 8 knot.

Tautline Hitch (or Midshipman’s Hitch) – relatively simple knot to use on a taut line, rod or post; good because it tends to bind and hold when pulled in a direction almost parallel to the larger line, but slide when pulled at a more perpendicular angle.

Water Knot (also called Ring Bend) – Even simpler than the Figure-Eight-Follow-Through, this could be called an "Overhand-Follow-Through" – one line is tied in an overhand knot; the other traces those loops, coming from the opposite direction. Often done using tubular webbing (example: to fasten webbing to a Stokes litter rail).

Note: most of the knots described here can be made more secure by the addition of a "stop" – a simple knot that holds down the loose extension/s of the lines used in the knots, preventing them from slipping back through the knot and coming apart.

For Field Team Member Level:

Double Fisherman’s (or Grapevine Bend)– Two different knots are tied, in which line A is knotted onto Line B, then Line B is knotted onto Line A. The two act as a stop for each other (preventing the two lines from slipping apart), yet can be slid in the other direction easily; therefore, the size of the loop formed by the two can be adjusted to fit the usage.

Square Knot – Like an overhand knot in which the second crossing of the two lines (or two ends of the same rope) is done in reverse direction; much more secure than an overhand knot (resists unraveling).

Girth Hitch – a loop of rope goes through something, comes back out and knots with itself; handy for securing a rope to a fixed ring or bracket, such as that which extends from the girth on a saddle (the band that goes under the horse’s belly), or for attaching a luggage tag to a bag handle.

Prusik Knot (also called a Triple-Sliding Hitch) – Like a girth hitch that is repeated three or more times. The loops of the Prusik constrict when the knot is pulled from one side, but loosen when allowed to slide freely without a load. Its principle use is as a progress capture device (i.e., a way to prevent a line from "retreating" back in the direction from which came); this feature allows it to be used as a back-stop for a haul system, or as a means of climbing a vertical rope. This knot can be done with a continuous closed loop (like a rubber band or necklace), but in SAR is usually done with a length of rope, whose two ends have been tied in a Double Fisherman’s Knot to form a circle.

Bowline – knot used to make a strong, but easy-to-untie (when load is off) loop of virtually any size (Note: cannot be untied when under a load.)

Other knot knowledge will include: creating a climber’s harness out of rope or tubing, attaching a rope to various climbing devices, etc.

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