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CMC Rescue Escape Artist

Version A Version B Version C
Version A Version B Version C

Overview


Version A
(#1025)

Front View Rear View
Front View Rear View
 
Left Side View Right Side View
Left Side View Right Side View

Technical Details

InstructionsI acquired my CMC Rescue Escape Artist from Rescue Response Gear in 2006.

The CMC Rescue Escape Artist, Version A is 101 mm. tall, 70 mm. wide, and 41 mm. thick. Mine weighs 145 g.

This Rescue Escape Artist consists of a pivoting, lever-actuated, oval spool fitted between two side plates. The side plates are 2.5 mm. anodized aluminum. The side plates are shaped much like inverted rescue pulley side plates, including a 24 mm. high, 16 mm. wide oval hole at the bottom of each for rigging, and two bends each to bring the plates together at the rigging hole. The plates are rigidly connected by two 9.5 mm. riveted bars, one at each side. The spool and lever are mounted on a hollow steel shaft that penetrates the rear plate. A third bar riveted to the center of the front plate passes through a hollow bar. The rear plate has an additional cut to provide clearance for a second pin connecting the spool and release lever.

The spool is 28.7 mm. high by 19.2 mm. wide oval-shaped aluminum block. The block appears to be extruded. It has shallow grooves at the lower left and right, while the top is semicircular. The block is free to rotate on the shaft to about 60° to one side of center. A 3.2 mm. stainless steel pin protrudes 9 mm. from each side of the spool.

The release lever is made from 4.1 mm. anodized aluminum.

The front plate is printed with "Ø 7.5-9.5mm," "PATENTED," an illustration of the rope path complete with an arrow labeled "TO ANCHOR" and a hand labeled "MUST GRIP ROPE." the "Reading is Dangerous" icon, and "LOT# A001." The lever is printed with "CMC RESCUE ESCAPE ARTIST™," "MEETS NFPA 1983 (2001 ED.) E MBS 13.5kN," the Underwriters Laboratories Classified logo, and a semicircular double-ended arrow around the pivot with one end labeled "GO" and the other "STOP."

Comments

The CMC Rescue Escape Artist came without any instructions (so what is the "Reading is Dangerous" icon supposed to mean?), but there is some information available on the CMC web site.

The Rescue Escape Artist does not open for rigging, so the user must have access to a free end of the rope. This means that the device should be pre-rigged if one intends to have it available in emergency situations. Rigging consists of putting two wraps around the spool. The device is not symmetrical so the rigging must follow the illustration on the front of the device.

The instructions state that one controls the descent using both the lever and a braking hand. The lever is too sensitive for my taste, especially on smaller ropes. Squeezing the lever fully decreases friction dramatically - there is no "panic safety" feature. The Rescue Escape Artist will provide an autostop feature if one lets go. I don't like this on any device, for a variety of reasons.

The Rescue Escape Artist is designed for firefighters. I avoid burning buildings myself, so I'll let people who don't write their own web sites to tell about its use in that environment. For cavers and climbers, it is too small for ropes over 9.5 mm. and too complex.

The Rescue Escape Artist was clearly motivated by the Traverse Rescue 540° Rescue Belay, which CMC now sells as well.

Another Viewpoint and a Warning

On the home page I state. "I don't run into burning buildings to jump out the windows, I don't play Tarzan of the jungle, and I no longer actively interfere with natural selection. I have no objection to anyone doing these things, but I don't have those forms of experience. If you do any of these, you should form your own opinions." William Voorhies is one of those people, so after exchanging emails with me, he tested the Rescue Escape Artist to form his own opinions. He had results that I didn't. In August 2008, he sent me a short note that contained the following paragraphs:

I purchased the descender not long after we first spoke and was able to test it early June. I had pre-rigged it on my escape line and kept it in a bag attached to my harness for quick deployment.

For the test I was descending out of a third story window in full fire fighting gear. I realized quickly just how right you were about how sensitive the actuating lever is. The descender worked well for the first three tests. But the fourth test was a disaster. Because of how the descender is designed with a pin to separate the rope as it feeds through the device, it locked up on me. You see, while it was in my bag, prior to deployment, the arm was moved and the rope slid over in front of the pin. When I exited the window and put my weight on the line, the pin came down and pierced the outer jacket of the rope. The only way to descend would then have been to raise all of my weight off of the device, unhook my rope from the pin and then proceed. Something I wasn't able to do. Good thing I was belayed.

I asked if I could use his note here, and he offered to send more details and some pictures. Here is how he tested the device. First, note that he had a belay during the test, in case anything went wrong. Next, note that crawling out a window in full turnout gear is not the ideal way to start a rappel (and this building isn't even burning). It is easy to get things rearranged in places you don't want them to be (of course, that happens in caves as well).

Window ext testWindow ext test

Now for his expanded description of what happened:

The CMC Rescue Escape Artist Descender is marketed as a comparable alternative to the Petzl EXO Escape System which is currently the premiere firefighter self-rescue system on the market now. A firefighter escape system must be:

  1. Quick to deploy [thirty seconds with fire at your back is an eternity]
  2. Simple to use [in zero visibility and with thick fire fighting gloves on]
  3. Always ready [incorporated into a firefighter’s equipment so that it isn't an option to put it on].

I purchased a CMC Rescue Escape Artist (REA) descender and was able to borrow a Petzl EXO Escape System for practical testing. Aside from obvious mechanical differences in their construction, their actions were very similar, until the last test. I performed six "bail-outs" from a third story window at our fire academy; three for each system. For the sake of comparison I pre-rigged the CMC RAE with 7.5 mm. NFPA Soft Escape Tech Lifeline rope and the Crosby Hook anchor that the Petzl system uses (the Crosby Hook allows a firefighter to use a windowsill as an anchor.)

On the last bail-out test the rope crossed within the CMC RAE and moved in front of one of the pins on the bobbin. This apparently happened while the device and rope were stored in my deployment bag prior to use. As you can see in the following pictures the pin is then in a position to penetrate the outer sheath. When the system was loaded with my weight, the pin effectively locked the system up. To free my rope I would have had to take all of the load off of the device, something I was obviously unable to do (in full gear I weigh in at around 300 lbs.)

I believe this is a serious problem with the CMC RAE for persons intending to use it for firefighter self rescue. While the version of the device I own is no longer offered on the CMC website, their literature for the updated devices indicate that they include these pins as part of their mechanism. It is possible that the CMC RAE works better with the rope they sell with it as part of their system. However, this is not a stipulation that I could find on the device or any of it’s accompanying literature. The Petzl EXO mechanism, in contrast, has been tested by FDNY [Fire Department of New York] over 10,000 times during which they were only able to make it fail once (subsequently a slight design modification was made.)

Bill provided these pictures to illustrate what happened. Ouch! To a caver hanging in a waterfall (with a couple ascenders), this would be a nuisance; for a fireman trying to get off a burning building before the rope melts, I can only imagine it as a nightmare.

Jamming potentialJamming potential

As a bit of trivia, before Petzl developed the EXO for the FDNY, the FDNY contacted me to see if I could recommend a device that met a certain list of requirements that they had developed. At the time, there was no such device on the market, at least not to my knowledge.

Bill, thank you for taking the time to prepare a writeup for this site!


Version B
(#1155)

Front View Rear View
Front View Rear View
 
Left Side View Right Side View
Left Side View Right Side View

Technical Details

InstructionsI acquired my CMC Rescue Escape Artist from Rescue response Gear in 2008.

The CMC Rescue Escape Artist, Version B is 117 mm. tall, 72 mm. wide, and 37 mm. thick. Mine weighs 145 g. It is similar to Version A, so I'll give the description in gray and use black to indicate changes made in Version B.

This Rescue Escape Artist consists of a pivoting, lever-actuated, oval spool fitted between two side plates. The side plates are 2.5 mm. anodized aluminum. The side plates are shaped much like inverted rescue pulley side plates, including a 24 mm. high, 16 mm. wide oval hole at the bottom of each for rigging, and two bends each to bring the plates together at the rigging hole. The plates are rigidly connected by two 9.5 mm. riveted bars, one at each side, and a third, 14 mm. steel shaft that acts as an axle for a central spool.

The spool is 28.7 mm. high by 19.2 mm. wide oval-shaped aluminum block. The block appears to be extruded. It has shallow grooves at the lower left and right, while the top is semicircular. The block is free to rotate on the shaft to about 60° to one side of center. A 3.2 mm. stainless steel pin protrudes 9 mm. from each side of the spool.

The release lever is made from a 108 mm. long, 12.6 mm. square, anodized aluminum bar. It pivots on one of the side bars between the plates. A 35 mm. long, 12 mm. wide, and 3.5 mm thick aluminum bar connects the upper end of the release lever with the upper end of the spool. These attachments are loosely pinned. The release lever has six 4.8 mm. lightening holes drilled along its length.

The rear plate is printed with "LOT NO 5397," "Ø 7.5-9.0mm," an illustration of the rope path complete with an arrow labeled "TO ANCHOR" and a hand labeled "MUST GRIP ROPE." the "Reading is Dangerous" icon, and "ESCAPE ARTIST™." The front plate is printed with "CMC RESCUE," the Underwriters Laboratories Classified logo, "5F04," "PATENTED," and"MEETS NFPA 1983 (06 ED.)E MBS 13.5kN."

Comments

I prefer the lever arrangement on Version B to that on Version A. Not only is the lever larger and easier to use, but it is also more robust and in a more protected location. Version B is larger and heavier than Version A, but this is mainly because of the sturdier control lever. For some reason, CMC reduced the recommended rope sizes as well.


Version C
(#1165)

Front View Rear View
Front View Rear View
 
Left Side View Right Side View
Left Side View Right Side View

Technical Details

InstructionsI acquired my CMC Rescue Escape Artist, Version C (Double Brake) from Rescue Response Gear Inc. in 2008. Version C is 113 mm. tall, 71 mm. wide, and 38 mm. thick. Mine weighs 189 g.

Version C is similar to Version B, the difference being that the release lever on Version C has a small triangular extension on the inside (see the arrows in the comparison picture). This extension presses against the rope when the rappeller squeezes the release lever too far.

The markings on Version C are slightly different as well. The rear plate is printed with "LOT NO 5561," "Ø8mm ONLY," an illustration of the rope path complete with an arrow labeled "TO ANCHOR" and a hand labeled "MUST GRIP ROPE." the "Reading is Dangerous" icon, "ESCAPE ARTIST™," and "DOUBLE BRAKE." The front plate is printed with "CMC RESCUE," the Underwriters Laboratories Classified logo, "5F04," "PATENTED," and"MEETS NFPA 1983 (06 ED.)E MBS 13.5kN."

Comments

While Versions A & B have no "panic safety" feature, Version C adds a "panic safety" feature. I don't like these sorts of things on any device, for a variety of reasons, but I have to admit that CMC found a clever way to add this by a minor modification of a single part. Unfortunately, dimensions are critical so it only works on one particular rope diameter, 8 mm. I consider that too thin for general use, but for emergencies, I’d trust it if I had to. Personally, I’d rather use a normal rope/descender combination.

Instructions