Since engineers are gear junkies, and since I keep seeing references to bandage scissors, I figured I’d outline my opinions on safety/ extraction tools. There will come a time when you need to stop “RIGHT NOW.” Candles get knocked over, claustrophobia kicks in, or maybe you were too loud and the hotel called the police. (Hey, it happens) Don’t panic at the size of the list. How you play determines what you should keep on hand. Most of us can get by with just a pair of EMT shears. For years I simply carried a scout style Camillus camp knife. The awl served as a marlin spike and I sharpened the can opener to use as a J-knife. Scissors – or “When in doubt cut ‘um out” Bandage Scissors I’m starting with these because in my opinion they are of no use as a safety/extraction tool. I had to hunt very hard to find mine. I’ve replaced the ones in my first-aid kits with EMT shears. More properly called Lister scissors, the blades angle at the pivot so that they can be inserted under the bandage leaving the cutting hand clear. The lower blade has a rounded “shoe” designed to lift the bandage away from the skin. http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-_8c1-PK7Uh0/TvTRsqFHeBI/AAAAAAAAACU/hZAUmn2JbEQ/s634/Scissors.JPG EMT/EMS Shears Like I said, these are usually all you need. EMT Shears are the workhorse of the healthcare/rescue industry. While similar in design to Lister scissors the teeth on EMT shears typically have a serrated edge and are designed to cut though tough material. They easily slice through leather cuffs and heavy rope. “As seen on TV” versions advertise they can cut through a penny. Stainless steel versions are available for $5 – 12. The additional money buys larger grips/blades for better leverage. Stay away from the “hardened” aluminum, $1 versions. Buy two pairs and keep one in your first aid kit. If you do try to cut a penny, put that pair in your vanilla tool box and get another for your extraction kit. Stitch/ Suture Scissors If you play with anything that may embed itself into the skin such as string, floss or rubber bands you should have a pair of these. The hook on the end is designed to slide under a suture when removing stitches. http://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-I5ssJzyVjsM/TvTRtTu2mII/AAAAAAAAACc/oLj-aFf3oOQ/s634/Stitch.JPG Rope Scissors While I don’t advise breath play or anything that violates the “two finger” rule if that’s your thing then you should consider finding a pair of rope scissors. I picked up a pair of Antonini SOS Lobster Claw rope scissors from a scuba shop in the UK. CAMP makes a similar tool available in Australia. I’ve not seen these tools here in the US. Their advantage is that you can press the rounded blade against the skin to cut rope that is embedded deeply. It hurts like hell but it’s better than asphyxiation or tissue necrosis due to circulation loss. http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Rt_KNy51bv8/TvTRhIlh5mI/AAAAAAAAACM/7cRnAktMoaw/s634/antonini.JPG Bruns Plaster Shears I don’t recommend these, but back before EMT shears were commonplace I packed a set of Bruns plaster shears. They’re designed for removing plaster casts. They are expensive: the cheaper ones starting in the $60 range and going upward to over $250 which is why I can’t really recommend them. They cut rope, leather, fingers, and pretty much anything you can get in their jaws. Mine were supplied by an ER nurse I was dating at the time. If you do manage to pick up a pair in a similar fashion make sure they are sharp and the ER staff tend to use them for cutting anything the EMT shears won’t handle. Ligature knives – “When EMT shears just won’t cut it”…… Rescue knives These knives are primarily designed for EMS personnel. They feature blunt tips, scalloped or serrated teeth, and usually have a line/belt cutter in the handle. Often the blade is curved to provide leverage while using a pulling motion when cutting. My current favorite is the curved, scallop-bladed, K2 from K-Bar. http://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-HsCymFA3HCg/TvTRg-elUJI/AAAAAAAAACE/ktszX3Yk6Cs/s634/Knives.JPG J-knives and strap/line cutters Many folks prefer strap and line cutters over a more traditionally shaped knife. CRKT, Buck, Gerber, Benchmade, and many other manufactures make them. Since they were originally designed for cutting paracord, fishing line and seat belts it’s important to make sure your largest rope will fit into the cutting slot. I’m currently using a box cutter style knife with craftsman “lino” blades. They’re razor sharp but tip is curved to safely ride against the skin. The angle of the opening allows for a greater range of rope diameters than many line cutter style knives. Our EMS friends in the UK and EU seem to prefer large “J” shaped knives. They provide lots of leverage for cutting and the large size means rope diameter is not an issue. I used to carry the 911 rope knife but it mysteriously disappeared from my luggage during one trip. http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-4Ic5-9Xjuo4/TvTRaG8tzVI/AAAAAAAAAB8/OriHRDpuznI/s480/911.jpg Wyoming knife Designed for skinning big game, the original Wyoming knife features two razor-type blades. One blade protected in an angled guide so it could be pulled like a zipper and the other exposed for a normal cutting motion. The version sold by most specialty shops has the single protected blade. Price (~$6), size and the leverage provided by the finger holes may make it more attractive than J knives and belt cutters. http://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-vsVrofY-t_4/TvVP-qZZ7UI/AAAAAAAAAC8/Ri_KZ7wAmSw/s200/Wyoming.jpg Untying If you play with ropes long enough eventually a knot will jam. If the sub is calm and not in distress then having the tools working the knot loose is very handy. Marlin spikes A marlin spike can be as simple as a short nail or knitting needle or as elaborate as a sailor’s hand turned custom made tool. They come as individual tools or in a folding sailor’s knife. Remember they can be just as deadly as an ice pick. Always keep them parallel to the body when inserting them into the knot and pull away. Never push them toward the body. Since I’m weight/size conscious when traveling my current tool is a pin from a fire extinguisher. It’s non-threatening and the finger ring gives me leverage. Button hooks A once common tool, easily found in yard sales and antique shops, they are a safer alternative to a marlin spike. More elaborate tools have Victorian style elegance and provide a larger handle. They are great for removing rubber bands. The hooking motion used when inserting the tool into the knot automatically puts the tool in the proper orientation for pulling away from the body. Forceps When locked closed a small set of curved forceps can be used as a marlin spike or they can be used like pliers to pull open a knot that fingers can’t grip. Their main disadvantage is their small jaws lack strength. Pliers A pair of needle-nose pliers provides a better grip over forceps. The nose can be worked into a knot like a marlin spike and they have the grip needed to pull open jammed knots. Some folks prefer a curved shape. I always have a Gerber multi tool stashed in the rope bag. http://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-tGEs8B-aOaM/TvTRuHOr85I/AAAAAAAAACk/3tJmnPkIwno/s634/untying.JPG Misc. Hardware Flashlight Untying someone in a dark, smoky room is not easy. Pack a small mini mag light in your kit so you can find the light switch in the dark. Keys If you use locks it’s helpful to buy them in bulk so they all use the same key. When this is not possible color code the locks/keys with paint or fingernail polish. I pack a working key ring. The spare set is clipped in my rope bag and a redundant, third set is in the first-aid kit. (If triple redundancy is smart enough for NASI, it’s good enough for me) Handcuffs keys If you’re using the cheap fake handcuffs toss them in the trash. (Right now, we’ll wait for you). The locks jam, the keys often don’t match other sets, they have sharp edges and they’re just crap quality. Real handcuffs can be found for ~$25 if you try. The fake ones cost at about the same so why settle? They come with two keys. You should buy a third, redundant key one to store in your first-aid kit. You do not want to call the cops to have them unlock your sub. They’ll happily do it because hey, being a cop can be a crappy job and they can always use a good laugh. Unless you work in security, do not put a spare handcuff key on your vanilla key ring or you'll have to answer questions about it during your next traffic stop. Bolt Cutters If you favor locks and chains… don’t the weight and cold steal feel delicious?… you should have a pair of bolt cutters close at hand. See the comments above about the cops and insert “locksmith.” First-aid Kit While not specifically for extraction, I store my extraction tools and first-aid supplies together in a shaving kit. I also make sure my kit includes Benadryl and my partner’s EpiPen.