Restraint Training: Soft Cuff as the Least Restrictive Option – Part 1

March 23, 2015

The Alternative option: Soft-Cuffs (Emergency Response Cuff – ERC) 

An innovative and very significant restraint device is now available to hospitals and care services in the UK and we believe that it deserves a serious and comprehensive exploration.

The equipment is formally known as the Emergency Response Cuff (ERC) and is sometimes referred to as the “Soft-Cuff” due its tough-cloth construction.  While sharing many characteristics with its long-standing law-enforcement cousin, the metal handcuff, some could say that this new device is an important evolution on a theme.

This restraint equipment has recently been released to healthcare and police services, following an expert medical review and the development of a comprehensive training programme for its use in a variety of settings where it is gaining much attention and some popularity.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time becoming familiar with, using and observing the training of teams who are adopting the Emergency Response Cuff (ERC) and I thought that my experiences might be useful to managers, trainers and teams who are interested in this new development.

The Product








The ERC has two lengths of universal velcro, bound and sewn together at one end where a pair of D-rings allow the tips of the lengths of velcro (the compression straps) to loop around and form circular enclosures.

To the touch, the fabric of the ERC gives the impression of being extremely tough but also surprisingly flexible and indeed soft to the touch.   This pliability of the material becomes important when applying the ERC to a subject – the ease with which the staff can turn and flip the material assists easy application.

The current model of ERC incorporates a new D-ring design, introduced in order to make sure that insertion and extraction of the compression straps could be as simple as possible for staff.   The manufacturer has also uprated the strength of the D-ring to the highest level.

One important point to note is the relative comfort of being held in this device.  On the numerous occasions when the ERC was applied to me during training it did not leave marks, although applied with enough security to leave me under firm control.  This is a key differentiator when considering the alternatives to ERC – various kinds of metal cuff (rigid, hinged or chain).


Whereas metal cuffs almost always leave marks and reddening (and I am aware of the potential civil claims which can result from that in my role as an expert witness), I found that the soft-cuffs were not as likely to do so.

This benefit – comfort and safety – appeared as one of the main beneficial features mentioned by the staff teams I was encountering.   Here was a potential, viable alternative to metal cuffs for their clients in severe learning disability and mental health settings.

Some teams are substituting Soft-Cuffs for this purpose, increasing the level of comfort for the patient while also removing or reducing the ‘police case’ stigma that attends the use of metal cuffs.   I overheard one team who were evaluating the Soft-Cuffs saying “this [soft cuff] feels more like something I would use in a healthcare environment” rather than metal cuffs, for example.


The ERC is part of a product family which started with the Emergency Response Belt (ERB) which is a restraint device from the the USA and which has a very successful history.    The ERB has been in use by emergency responders of all kinds to assist in the control of violent subjects for almost two decades in the UK, having first been adopted by police agencies looking for ways to control people involved in, for example, acute behavioural disturbances.

The safety record for ERB is remarkable in that there have been no adverse incidents due to its use.   One of the reasons for this is that the equipment itself is only released to individuals, teams or organisations who have had accredited training in the safe and appropriate use of the device.

It is therefore worth noting that any organisation or team who want to procure the ERB or ERC devices would first have to evidence that they have had full, accredited training from a competent ERB/ERC trainer before the equipment will be shipped to them.

Training is accompanied by a full manual, including advice on the storage and care of the device as well as comprehensive instructional details on the safe and appropriate application of the device for different needs.

In the next part of this blog, I want to explore some of the scenarios in which teams are examining the ERC Soft-Cuff and ERB Response Belt.


Coach Gerard O'Dea is a personal safety specialist trainer

Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist provider of personal safety and violence management programmes and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict.

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Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

Gerard O'Dea

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