H-Elevated Win the CMC GRIMP North America Challenge 2019!

The CMC GRIMP North America Challenge took place last week (March 28-30) in Los Angeles on the historic Battleship USS Iowa and we’re extremely pleased to say… WE WON!

This prestigious rope rescue and confined space challenge attracted ten teams from around the world to compete against one another.

Harken Industrial, merging with Elevated Safety and other rope access professionals, took part in the event and created their own team, known as H-Elevated.

Our man on the ground and H-Elevated team member, Tom Wood, reflected on this historic occasion by providing a roundup for each day in the following post.

So, from here on in it’s over to you Tom.

The Road to GRIMP

Hosted by CMC Rescue (thanks!), this year’s GRIMP competition marked the first time in the event’s 14-year history that it was held in North America. Ten teams from around the globe were challenged to complete five technical rope rescue and confined space scenarios over two days.

Over the last several months, the Magnificent Seven (which is my super-unofficial and Clash-inspired moniker for H-Elevated, our OFFICIAL name) trained hard to sharpen our skills in preparation for this event. We all have informally assigned roles on the team, each of us specialized in a certain aspect of technical rope rescue. Navy veteran and Palatine Firefighter Nate Paulsberg was our fearless team leader. Harken Latin American Sales Manager Joe Rogat shared lead rescuer duties with rope access veteran Sean Cogan. Ross Chapman put his even-keeled nature and extensive confined space knowledge to good use as the H-Elevated evaluator. Young buck Dale Abbinanti and myself (the team’s designated old fart) were the team’s riggers. And Harken CEO Bill Goggins temporarily abandoned corporate America to serve as our designated victim, a role that earned him no small amount of good-natured ribbing. 

Now, when my good friend Sean Cogan approached me several months ago about joining the merry band of rescuers that he was putting together for GRIMP, I’ll admit to having some reservations.

I’ve been a mountain rescuer with the Alpine Rescue Team in Colorado for the last 20 years. What in the wide, wide, world of sports was I getting myself into? A rope rescue competition? In my experience, rope rescues have been serious business. At first blush, I thought the notion of turning the unique, life-saving skillsets required to plan, build and execute rope and confined space rescues into a timed competition sounded about as crazy as having teams of heart surgeons competing against each other under the watchful eyes of black and white striped shirt clad referees.

But upon closer inspection, I came to realize that maybe the idea of having rope rescue and confined space rescue professionals pitted against each other in head-to-head competition wasn’t as crazy (or dangerous) as it first appeared. Hollywood, which is down the road from this year’s competition, usually portrays rescues as being chock full of high drama and rescuers as being larger than life, well-muscled heroes. Consequently, that is often the rep assigned to us. Which is (almost) not true.

In reality, the 21st century rope rescue professional doesn’t care for drama and most of us don’t consider our work as being especially heroic. It’s a job, and we approach it as such. As for being well-muscled, I can’t personally speak to that, but let’s just say a few of the H-Elevated team members could do push-ups with a pack of Cub Scouts on their backs and still do burpees till the sun goes down (to be honest, I don’t even know what burpees are, I just know that Nate, Joe and Ross do lots of them).

But seriously, we ALL love helping people, and we all geek out on rope work. Rope is, both literally and figuratively, the common thread that keeps us safe and allows us to access and rescue our fellow human beings.

Once I came to the realization that training for GRIMP would make us better rescuers and that head-to-head competition would force us to step up our rescue game to a new level, I understood that I wanted to be a part of GRIMP 2019. Challenging our comfort zones on the international stage taught us how to be more open-minded about the tools and techniques of rope rescue.

In the last several months, all seven of us worked and trained hard. We didn’t want to let our teammates down, but at the same time, we didn’t want pride to trip us up. We lugged our collective experiences in rope access, fire rescue, rock and ice climbing, mountain rescue, cave rescue, confined space rescue and sailing to the field of competition. In reality, we did not compete AGAINST the other teams. We competed WITH them. Our stiffest competition came from within. We were successful and the cross-pollination of skills, tools and techniques we experienced has enriched us and we can take home a duffel bag full of tips and tricks that will help us to save lives in future. THAT is what is most important.

We cannot thank Harken Industrial and Elevated Safety enough for supporting our efforts. They stood behind us from day one and enabled us to become the first-ever American team to win a GRIMP competition. Cascade Rescue, Courant, CAMP Safety, Truewerk and Sterling Rope were ENORMOUS contributors to our success as well.

Now, I’m off to eat some more ibuprofen and celebrate with a shot of whiskey! Cheers!!

Roundup Day 1 - Thursday, March 28

March 28 was a historic day in technical rope rescue as Harken Industrial participated in the CMC GRIMP North America rope rescue competition. The first day featured a dozen vendors lining the docks alongside the venerable battleship USS Iowa. Harken Industrial and Elevated Safety’s seven rescuers toured the battleship in preparation for the five scenarios that would pit them against nine other teams from around the globe.

Roundup Day 2 - Friday, March 29

All ten international teams had their first taste of competition on the Friday, with everyone attempting to complete one event. The H-Elevated team tackled a challenging confined space rescue scenario deep within the bowels of the battleship USS Iowa. Though each scenario was allotted 90 minutes, the H-Elevated team needed less than 40 minutes to complete their assigned task.

No one knew how the scoring would play out until the end of the last scenario on Saturday, so we were all cautiously optimistic that we scored well on safety and efficiency, as well as time. Saturday’s stoke-meter would doubtlessly peg out in the red as everyone pushed their limits to safely complete the final four scenarios and walk away from the event stronger and wiser than when they arrived.

Roundup Day 3 - Saturday March 30

The hard work paid off! Harken Industrial’s team, H-Elevated, took first place in the 2019 CMC GRIMP Challenge. Ten awesome rescue teams from around the globe fought hard in the competition that consisted of both confined space and rope rescue scenarios.

Everyone worked their tails off and walked away from the event better rescuers than when they started. Thanks go out to Truewerk for outfitting our team with top-notch workwear for our industrial athletes.

Congratulations also to the team – Nate Paulsberg, Ross Chapman, Bill Goggins, Tom Wood, Sean Cogan, Dale Abbinanti and Joe Rogat.

The Final Rankings

  • 1st - H-Elevated (USA)
  • 2nd - Special Rescue Association (Germany)
  • 3rd - Namur FD (Belgium)
  • 4th - Rescue Methods (USA)
  • 5th - Exxonmobil – BRPP (USA)
  • 6th- 49th Parallel Rescue Team (Canada)
  • 7th- Las Vegas (USA)
  • 8th- County of Los Angeles Fire Department (USA)
  • 9th – CYRRT (Taiwan)
  • 10th - Red Rock Training Group – Northwest Fire District (USA)

Well done to all of the teams who took part in this year’s GRIMP competition! Check out the image gallery below to see some action shots from the event.

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