Tech Rescue

Storing Lift Bags Correctly Ensures Easy Accessibility

Issue 11 and Volume 8.

As I travel around, instructing and learning various fire service disciplines, I continually find myself acting like a kid in a candy store, particularly when it comes to departments I’ve never visited. The apparatus captivate me, and I quickly find myself opening compartment doors to observe all the exciting equipment. I often find myself taking pictures of inventive ways to store equipment—but I also find many examples of poor equipment storage. Equipment that is commonly stored incorrectly or that lacks organization is a set of lift bags. Although lift bags are extremely durable, they are susceptible to damage when improperly stored. Most lift bag manufacturer guidelines have consistent procedures for storage.

Lift bag components should be stored in their own cushioned compartment. Most new rescue vehicles have individualized shelves for each lift bag and storage boxes or shelves for all associated components, including the hoses, controller, adapters, etc. If your apparatus does not have that capability, pad the bags from other equipment in the same compartment and the surface of the compartment itself. Do the same for any other piece of equipment that may ride on the surface of a metal compartment. Chaffing eventually damages the equipment.

Lift bags must be protected from environmental conditions and extreme temperature ranges. They should not be stored on the exterior of vehicles or in compartments that can become exceedingly hot or cold. The common high-pressure lift bags are constructed of neoprene and strong, synthetic fibers, such as aramid. They are sensitive to acids, salts and ultraviolet radiation, all of which are common environmental conditions.

Regardless of whether stored flat or upright, the inlet nipple should be protected. The nipple serves as the connection point for the lift bags and if the hoses or accessories cannot be connected to the bag, they are inoperable.

Store bags in a compartment free of oil, gas or other petroleum based products. Even if the compartment is ventilated, the excess buildup of fumes will cause damage over time. Depending on the body structure, this not only includes the immediate compartment but potentially other compartments as well.

As much as it is important to ensure that equipment is properly stored, it’s just as important to have as many systems, checklists, etc., in place to ensure efficient and effective use. This is even more apparent with lift bag operations because of the many considerations that go along with the equipment. In two recent articles, “The Physics of Extrication Lift Operations” ( and “Questions about Lift Operations” (, there were a variety of formulas, questions and operating characteristics that had to be considered before selecting the appropriate equipment. Most responders train on lift bags several times a year and are comfortable with their operation, but should not be expected to memorize or recall all the pertinent information at any moment. Ensure that quick reference guides are stored with the lift bags or that smaller cheat cards, which give specifications as well as height versus weight comparisons, are made available for personnel.

In addition to quick reference guides, responders can place markings on the bag to facilitate identification. Although there is specific information, such as lifting capacity, size, lifting height, and operating pressures, molded on the lift bags this information is typically hard to read under good conditions. Identifying that same information in a stressful situation coupled with bad environmental conditions is almost impossible. Some possible solutions include labeling with a paint pen, attaching tags to the eyelets, and using various colored rope handles.

Lift bag kits vary from simple two-to-three-bag starter sets to extensive urban search and rescue kits. While the larger kits have in excess of 100 components, even smaller ones may have as many as ten to 15 components. Arthur Ashe stated, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Today’s fire service is as a professional organization as it has ever been. We should have self confidence to proficiently operate a set of lift bags under the most difficult situations. And that self-confidence should be derived from realistic training and reinforced with proper storage to know the equipment is going to work correctly and the organization to select the best equipment for the job.