Don’t look away

Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park committed suicide earlier this week.

I cannot help but feel affected.

Not because I am a die-hard Linkin Park fan (I am not, their music does not really float my boat – but that is beside the point) or because he was famous and therefore somehow more important than others, but rather because every time something like this happens, you know that there is a story of terrible suffering behind it, a corrosive, oftentimes long and painfully drawn-out process that gradually degrades and finally ends up destroying the life of the person concerned, causing massive collateral damage to friends and family surrounding them.

Why am I writing this?

Because from a demographic point of view, percentage-wise, we, as an industry, are equally likely to be directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues and/ or substance abuse as the rest of the population. In tight-knit teams where one is relying on each other, the effects of such issues can be difficult to handle and upsetting.

Speaking from experience I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of recognising early warning signs, not to attempt to trivialise or laugh off the behaviour of the person affected, however erratic or unusual it may seem at the moment. Sometimes such symptoms may be hidden in plain sight, where in retrospect you say to yourself that if only you had realised, it would have all made so much more sense.

It is essential to be realistic in regards to what one is capable of carrying, there comes a point where the burden may become too heavy to carry as a team mate, friend or family member, where it is totally legitimate – and necessary even – to get help from outside. That makes it sound simple, which it is not, of course… these kind of situations are painful and messy, especially if they are happening to someone you are close to.

There are many ways in which one can support a person in these kinds of crises, really, the only wrong thing you can do is to look the other way and turn your back. Mental health disorders are not simply a whim, they are a serious issue that ought to concern us all.

We can and should react.

Ken and me

As you may have gathered from my ramblings in the past, over the years a complex relationship has developed between myself and Ken, our Simulaids rescue dummy. We have been through some highs and lows together, you might say.

There is a pattern here, where the evening before I leave for an event or a workshop I will ask around the house whether someone would mind giving me hand loading up, I will get a couple of tentative yes… followed, on second thoughts, by a rather more cautious: Does it involve loading Ken?

And then if the answer to that should happen to be yes, it is a bit like being in one of those Road Runner cartoons: the rapid exit, leaving nary but a puff of dust…

Errr.. hello? Anybody…? Can someone lend a hand here…? I was only joking, no Ken this time… Sheeesh! What a bunch of lightweights.

Ken, you see, is somewhat heavy, weighing in at a good 90kg.

I believe for training purposes this is about right, the average person plus gear will probably weigh in at around this mark. I see a risk when training with unrealistically light dummies that one might be tempted to identify apparent solutions that in reality will not function with a full-weight casualty, for instance due to friction hitches binding or insufficient lifting capability. So yes, 90kg seems about right.

Having said that, it does make Ken a bit of a handful – and not what you might call easy to handle by any stretch of the imagination. I have found the easiest thing is to ratchet strap him to a spine board and manhandle him from the cellar up to the vehicle and vice versa… I have mastered this operation solo, due to the circumstances described above.

When selecting a rescue dummy, Simulaids offer a wide range of patient simulators, allowing to train for all kinds of situations, from child-size to obese dummies but also mid-size to large persons. Back when we got ours for treemagineers we got one of their standard Rescue Randys which is slightly less realistically articulated, but more robust – and a Randy 9000. That would be Ken. This dummy has more realistically articulated joints, the limbs can be individually filled with sand or water to the required weight, but it is a bit more fragile.

Quite a few people have had the pleasure of making Ken’s acquaintance during training courses or at comps, so at least I am not alone in my suffering. Take the other day: I was manhandling him back into the cellar, it was mid July, the temperatures were high, so I was barefoot – when one of Ken’s arms slipped out of the strap holding it up on his chest, it flips out and his hand tonks me right on my toes, with a vengeance. YEOOOOW!

Blinking back tears, I was sure I spotted Ken grinning in a evil fashion. Naughty Ken.

Oh, and once again, I had to replace one of Ken’s knees. He has a slightly disconcerting habit of dropping bits of his body in public. At this year’s ETCC this occurred during the post-comp climbers’ meeting… I was waffling away in front of the crowd, when behind me I heard an ominous clunk, turned round to see Ken’s lower leg lying on the ground below where he was suspended. Huh. Thanks, bud.

And this was by far the first such instance

The funny thing? Years after having bought the dummies, the UK Simulaids rep told Chris they only ever sold two Randy 9000, ours being one of them, due to being worried that they might drop limbs.

No shit, Sherlock?! This I can confirm.

I would recommend a Rescue Randy.

Freezing in the face of danger

We seize up in the face of danger. Why is this so?

For years I have used Hans Selye‘s research on stress as an introduction when discussing aerial rescue and planning for emergency. Selye, a native Austro-Hungarian who emigrated to Canada, started his studies on stress in the late 1930s. He was a prolific writer with many research publications to his name, as well as a number of popular books. He formulated the GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome), which describes a response to stressful situations in three steps:

Alarm Phase
Upon perceiving a stressor, the body reacts with a slow-down, all no-essential systems, such as higher cognitive functions or digestion are shut down, responses happen at an instinctive level. The body’s resources are mobilised to meet the threat or danger, releasing “stress” hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

Resistance Phase
In this phase the body uses the mobilised forces to either fight or flee the stressor, at the same time, the nervous system attempts to return many physiological functions to normal levels while body focuses resources against the stressor and remains on alert.

Exhaustion Phase
If the stressor or stressors continue beyond the body’s capacity, the resources become exhausted and the body is susceptible to chronic, stress-related disease and/ or death.

As is so often the case, when you think you have understood one aspect of a subject, you discover that there are many other aspects you had not considered. The same was true here, I only recently understood some further consequences the GAS can have…

One of the things which Selye’s model explains is the cognitive paralysis which is frequently observed during ferry or aircraft incidents, where studies have shown that around 75 percent of people simply stay put and die, rather than attempt to flee the area of immediate danger. This is due to a cognitive paralysis. In your daily life, your brain builds a model of the world around you, usually that model is accurate. In a threat situation, however, when the model in your head and the reality of the situation are no longer be congruent, this dissonance can led to freezing – a bit like your computer beach balling…

In the alarm phase, the evolved fight or flight reflex serves to prepare us for action – yet at the same time those parts of the brain linked to working memory or assimilating new and/ or unexpected information are inhibited. So if you are confronted with a situation which demands novel solutions, your body’s response to the danger – preparing for action – may well at the same time be blocking your ability to think sufficiently clearly or innovatively in order to be able to address the danger.

It is interesting talking to crews who have experienced hazardous situations or accidents, how divergent the recollection of individual team members can be in regards to the actual duration of the incident, as well as the exact sequence of events. This is largely due to the way in which the body attempts to adapt to the situation. In instances like this, it is not about who gets smarter under stress, it is about who gets dumber faster.

One clear point the reflections above highlight is the importance of preparing for emergency.

If your emergency response plan is that you will wing it, takle the situation there and then, you are setting yourself up to fail. However, if you form a muscle memory of sequences of actions, are deeply familiar with procedures such as rescue technique or first aid, then in a stressful situation the body has familiar patterns to fall back upon and you are increasing the likelihood of responding well in an unforeseen, stressful and maybe dangerous situation.

Did you have a rough day today? #2

Continuing the theme of asking whether you think you had a bad day today

I think it is safe to say that the people involved in this incident had a sticky end to theirs… a lorry transporting a load of hagfish in Oregon tipped over on the highway, spilling the hagfish and their excretions onto the road. Um, yes. A pretty icky business, by the looks of it. Must smell pretty rank, too.

Can’t have made the hagfishes day either, come to that.

Reminds me a bit of how years back, when I was new to the arborist industry, training with my friend Alan, we were pruning Ginkgo, which was absolutely loaded with ripe fruit, its boughs bending under the weight. I cannot quite remember the exact sequence of events, but anyway, it ended up with me giving the trunk a vigorous kick – put it down to youthful exuberance – provoking a veritable avalanche of over-ripe Gingko fruit, with us caught in the middle this Gingkonami!

Alan was not impressed with me. We smelled very ripe. Over-ripe, in fact. Let me describe it this way: we had lunch outdoors that day. Probably a bit like the folk in the vehicle above left, one moment peacefully cruising down highway 101, enjoying the view with their roof window open to let the fresh air in, when the next moment… KERSPLURGE!

Ach. I sometimes wonder if it is weird that stuff like this makes me smile?


Halfway through the year already – enjoying a couple of days off, using the opportunity to take stock of the year so far and give some thought of what is still to come.

One way or another it has been a busy year (once again) so far, with a number of exciting events having come and gone and projects moving forwards – with more in the pipeline. One of the events I am looking forwards to, is returning to Finnland end of November, doing a couple of days there for SPY, the Finnish arborist association – it has been years!

So often in tree care, you find yourself confronted with a room full of guys. Which, depending on the group, can be fine, don’t get me wrong. But there is the other half of the world population out there, where did they get to? And why are they not here?! I am not sure what the answer is, there still seems to be this preconceived (false) idea that women are somehow less suited to tree work. That, and entrenched, antiquated attitudes within the industry. But this does seem to be changing, slowly, but none the less.

Finnland is refreshingly different in this respect. It is the only place I have been so far where you have an equal number of men and women. Also, the past time I have found the folk there to be switched on, interested and competent.

I don’t want to overemphasise this whole gender issue, but it certainly creates a different dynamic when you have a more balanced mix. The arborist industry can only profit from so broadening of its horizon, by bringing more people into the fold, you also introduce new competencies, abilities and attitudes, therefore I am convinced we need to be doing all we can to make it as attractive and inclusive for all – putting gender, sexual preferences and creeds to one side.

After all, the trees could not care less…

A bit like the business with waving flags. Ah, yes, maybe pre-ITCC is a good moment to raise this one again: Please, don’t bother waving your flag im my face… the trees don’t care where you come from – and nor do I.

Leave your mark

In the past I have written a number of times about the risk of rolling out the locking mechanisms of karabiner gates and by doing so inadvertently opening them, a fairly frequent occurrence in tree work, I would suggest.

Some testing that the UK’s HSE did on roll-out showed that one of the locking mechanisms that offered a good level of protection against this phenomenon was Petzl’s Ball Lock. Back in the day this was a type of gate locking mechanism frequently used by arborists. One of the issues with the original Ball Lock was that it was made out of plastic and really did not tolerate outside loading of the gate well, this was liable to cause cracks in the plastic – which could be surprisingly hard to spot.

Since then, the locking mechanism has seen a number of evolutions, with various different barrel and ball combinations, up until the most recent version of the Ball Lock karabiners…

But… what I loved about the original version, plastic or not, was the fingerprint on the concave indentation in the barrel (see pic above), housing the green ball which needs to be depressed as one of the motions to unlock the gate! The first time we were in Crolles visiting Petzl, I was like Yes, fine, let’s talk. But before we go any further: Whose fingerprint is that on the Ball Lock barrels?! I have spent years wondering! It turns out it was some engineer who stuck his print on the original mould.

I mean… wow. How cool is that? Talk about leaving your mark! Because that fingerprint then went global on thousands upon thousands of karabiners.

Ok, maybe my fascination dates back to being the kid who could never resist sticking his fingers in the glazing putty on windows before it set (just don’t tell my mum!). Yet still, I think that is quite a claim to fame! And what a way to break the ice at a dinner party: Mais oui, my name is Fabrice. We ‘ave not yet met, but certainement you know my fingerprint!

But hey, guess what? Progress took all the fun away: Today we are left with two bland parallel knurls on the barrel either side of the green ball. Oh well. And I thought the future was supposed to be fun.

Talking about roll out, this is something other karabiners manufacturers have offered up various solutions for over the years, such as ISC’s Springlock (below left) or DMM’s Durolock (below right).

No fingerprints in sight.

Sigh… when will the world start to listen to me?

Thoughts on sponsorship

Over the years of being involved with events such as ETCC or vertical connect I have come to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the people running these events and the sponsors. The baseline is that the relationship is not very complex, it boils down to a fair deal in both directions, with both parties treating each other in a fair and respectful fashion.

On the one hand, the event needs a monetary foundation allowing it to take place, for up-front and running costs to be paid and expenses to be covered. On the other hand, sponsor have a right to expect positive exposure, creating positive links between their brand and whatever values the event represents, in the examples above this would be industry best practice and professional skills.

But there are subtleties… I had one epiphany regarding branding a couple of years back. I always assumed that from the sponsor’s point of view the larger the branding with their logo, the happier they would be. Not so, it turns out. I was approached in this matter by the person representing our main event sponsor for ETCC who said that he felt we were over-branding the posters and t-shirts with their logo and that he would much prefer subtle branding.

Err… right?

This is really interesting if you think about it: Branding can be subtle, giving exposure without shoving it in peoples’ faces (yes, this is worth reminding oneself of in a world in which branding is so ubiquitous). It reminded me of something a person in TV production told me about once. They had a contract with an energy drink manufacturer, which stipulated that there shall be no more than one of their logos in any imagery at any time. Yet here is the problem: for racing sports they plaster their drives and riders with their logo, not to mention backdrops with the logo on, so it is nigh on impossible to get an interview with the winner of a race with only one logo in the frame.

Another thing I have learned is that it is ok to push back against sponsors. Sometimes you need to stick to your guns. It is totally legitimate for them to expect a certain return on an investment. But there are limits to that return. They can ask for more, but then they need to give us more for it. In good, stable sponsoring partnerships I have found such demands and counter-demands to be negotiable and resolvable.

But then of course there is always the matter of leverage and balance.

If the sponsor has too much leverage over you, it is going to be hard to push back – say if you only have one sponsor upon whom your whole event depends. In such a situation, you risk sliding down a slippery slope towards becoming something you do not want to be or having to make concessions in areas you do not want to be conceding in. The easiest way to protect yourself from this kind of dilemma is to strive for a diverse, broad-based sponsorship portfolio, with companies with fairly close ties to the industry, who subscribe to the event’s mission statement and have an understanding for what the event is attempting to portray.

After all, surely this is about advancing industry best practice and professional skills – rather than just another extreme sports event?

I think.

Another pink elephant

It’s funny how you can talk about stuff, sort it – and put it to one side, to then forget about it over time.

A recent episode brought this fact home to me.

We have a new vehicle in the company, my old Hilux, which I kitted out with the gear we need for work before it went into service. Over a period of a couple of weeks, every time we were setting access lines and were on the job site with the Hilux, I had something niggling at the back of my mind, yet could not quite put my finger on it.

We were finishing off a job for the city, that alignment of chestnuts I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I was setting my access in one of the last trees, aiming for a crotch fairly high in the tree. Got it in on the first throw, as visibility was not great, I decided to pull in the access line. I could see that the stem branched into three sizeable limbs which were nice and upright, so after proof loading it with a second person, I decided to ascend upon that anchor point. The access consisted of two isolated lines attached to a rigging hub, onto another line passing through the crotch down to a stem anchor.

Once I got to the top, I realised that things were not as they had seemed from below: Two of the limbs were upright, but the third was fairly flat, with a slight inclination upwards – and that was what the line was isolated over. Gah! I really should know better. I felt grumpy and disappointed in myself for making a bad call. Having said that, when I had another look at the point later that morning, after having calmed down a bit, I had to admit to myself that it was not that bad. The line was right up against the trunk, the diameter there was a good 20cm. But the fact remained that I ascended upon an anchor I was not clear about – and which turned out to be in a different orientation from what I had anticipated.

The red thread in all of this?

We have a set of binoculars in all vehicles, this one of the remedial actions we agreed upon after a cluster of incidents around selection of access line anchor points five or six years ago, another one being a decision-making flowchart – but there are none in the Hilux. Talk about a glaring omission. It was only then that I realised that this is what had been niggling at me all the time: it’d be great to have a pair of binos to check that point – was the thought that was just not reaching the surface.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes things can be hidden in plain sight, against all better knowledge, just because of a shift in focus or other preoccupations. I do not say this by means of an apology of my bad call, that was quite simply a bad call, an error.

Talking of errors, this is what James Reason has to say on the matter in his book Human Error:

Error is intimately bound up with the notion of intention. The term ‘error’ can only be meaningfully applied to planned actions that fail to achieve their desired consequences without the intervention of some chance or unforeseeable agency. Two basic error types were identified: slips (and lapses), where the actions do not go according to plan, and mistakes, where the plan itself is inadequate to achieve its objectives.

Yep, my chestnut incident would would fit the bill as a slip or lapse.

Did anyone say “binoculars”? Binoculars are great!

BUT you most certainly do not want to skimp on quality. A friend of mine, Phillippe, who is my go-to in all matters bushcraft, certainly the person you would want to have around after the Zombie apocalypse, used to work in an outdoor store. His recommendation when it came to binos was simple: There are the cheap and cheerful ones for €50, which are a waste of money, plain and simple. Then there are the mid-range models, €150 to 200 – which you can also forget about. His advice was to go straight to the top of the range, to Leica, Zeiss or similar brand. It is going to sting you, but anything less is just not worth having.

This coming from the guy who spends weeks in the bush with nary but a blanket, a ball of twine and a knife?! I’m all ears!

So I ended up splashing out for a set of Leica Ultravid 10×25.

These are both water- and shockproof and at 260 grams light enough to carry with you. You can argue the magnification back and forth… you can get the Ultravids in eight- or tenfold magnification, some say that it is harder to keep the binos stable with the factor ten, I don’t find this to be a problem to be honest, not with what I am using them for at any rate. The second number is the objective diameter in millimetres. Essentially, this defines how much light passes into the binoculars. The higher the number the better you will see in low light conditions or in shade. So when looking into a canopy, I would suggest to aim for a fairly high number for this. The quality of the Ultravids is stunning, you really get the sensation of being right close up to whatever you are looking at!

They are expensive, without a doubt, but this is one of those things you only buy once – and will probably pass onto your kids or grandkids.

From a professional point of view, this is an indispensable piece of kit, which helps to avert incidents such as the one I described above. I highly recommend looking into a good set of binoculars if you do not already use it as a matter of course.

This post was brought to you by Leica… 😂 no, just pulling your leg. Simply nice kit, call me a geek.


ETCC Speedclimb 2017

Amongst the disciplines at the tree climbing competitions, Speedclimb is a bit like that uncle you have, the eternal bachelor who is alway underdressed for the occasion, seems to manage to get rip roaring drunk at every family reunion and ends up telling dirty jokes in the restaurant at the top of his voice. A bit of an embarrassment, doesn’t quite seem to fit – and spoiling the lovely time everybody would be having otherwise.

But I am going bang the drum for Speedclimb.

Agreed, it does not reflect a part of our work one on one, but if set up accordingly it does allow a demonstration of core strength, balance, poise, dynamic, fluid movement and the ability to read a line of a climb – without a doubt these are skills we use during our work.

I have to admit that I am sometimes disappointed by the apparent lack of vision when it comes to setting a speed climb. Too many uninspired straight up and downs, or even worse, cranking your way up pulling on the down side of the belay. We have an ascent event where you ascent up a line called Footlock (or Ascent Event), this is not what Speedclimb is about.

During the site visit in February I spotted two leaning lime trees and thought they would make a fantastic Speedclimb, as they offered the opportunity for a central, high belay point which would work for both trees – and a traverse! There were no trees in the park with limbs all the way to the bottom, so we had to make do with Monkey Grips, artificial  rock climbing holds, which are ratcheted onto the tree for the first couple of meters. We started the climbers on the smaller of the two trees on the upside of the lean. Above the Monkey Grips we switched the climbers onto half hitched 25mm line up to about 12 meters. Here we installed a traverse at two levels, the lower one to balance across on with a Span Set (ratchet strap), the upper one to hold on to with a 20 mm rigging line bridging the gap between the two trees. Once they had crossed to the larger of the two lime trees, we used a combination of limbs and holds, a good part of the final part of the climb was overhanging – until they reached the bell at a height of about 25 meters.

Nina Trebuch running TCFNADFP, image courtesy of Smaragd Medien/ Stihl

We had a lot of discussion with Fred and Matthias and the rest of the set-up crew, as to how to set the climb and what we exactly were trying to showcase. Again, you can argue it either way, and I agree that we ended up adding a lot of artificial elements into the tree, yet a key part of Speedclimb is demonstrating the ability to climb on the structure – and this was  achieved with this set-up. Thanks to Fred and the crew for being patient with me in setting TCFKADFP (The Event Formerly Known As the Deventer Fun Park), which was later to become better known under the moniker Deventer Kill Zone (hmmm, as I am writing this I am realising that a lot of people have had to be patient with me recently 😉).

This climb really forced climbers to pace themselves and get the rhythm right – right from the start. It would have been easy to burn out on the first part going flat out, to then arrive at the traverse all shaky, which would make the traverse hard… not to mention the overhanging last third. Normally the upper part of the climb is easier part as there are more limbs, in this case however the sequence was reversed.

One thing to consider with Speedclimb is how often it can be biased towards climbers with a lot of upper body strength, it is worth trying to come up with tweaks to avoid always giving the advantage to the long and lanky climbers with loads of upper body strength. This is one of the reasons I like the climbing holds or the half hitched line, come to that, as this levels the playing field a bit, giving lighter climbers a fighting chance. On this set-up, I watched Jiri from Czech Republic fly up to the bell in an extraordinary 43 seconds. He does not fit the stereotype, the key is the way he tackled the climb, his style seeming very fluid, with his centre of gravity close to the structure, propelling himself forwards and upwards in a very efficient manner.

The point I am trying to make here is that Speedclimb is all you make it.

Give it some thought, use your imagination and creativity to make it meaningful and fun. I think back to ETCC in Thun a couple of years ago, when we started the climbers up the lower side of a steeply inclined black pine – off a boat, moored in the lake below the tree. I so hoped someone would fall in the drink. Johan, being the nice chap he is, was happy to oblige.

The audience can get their heads round this event, it is a straight drag race up from A to B – and it allows us to demonstrate a number of skills used in tree work. So let’s hear it for Speedclimb, I say!

ETCC Aerial Rescue 2017

Aerial Rescue scenarios at tree climbing competitions are something that interest me.

They offer a unique opportunity to come up with a scenario which reflects a current cluster of incidents, a high-profile accident which recently happened or new tools or technique being introduced to the industry – or mix of the above.

For this year’s ETCC we decided to focus on a scenario involving power lines, after having showcased a wide range of incidents over the past years including a climber trapped under a taught rigging system, suspended under a failed anchor point limb, on a pole on spikes or on an access line.

I am convinced that it is important to evolve a story line which is coherent and logical, rather than play acting and relying upon supposition. This starts with your scenario, is reflected in the set-up, as well as how you present it to the climbers. Ultimately it is a story you are telling, that they then pick up and continue, interpreting it the way they view as appropriate. Add to this, of course, the tight time frame in which the rescue has to be performed on the day.

Further, I am a firm believer in investing time and effort in building the scenario. For Deventer, for instance, Eddy milled two trees he felled into six meter poles for us. Nike lifted four ceramic insulators off his neighbour, Wolter scored another two off eBay. I made up stencils to put the voltage and service number of the grid operator on the poles. Thanks to you guys, Nike, Eddy and Wolter, for being patient and for bearing with me…

Next we worked with the crew running the event to make sure we were clear on how we were going present it. The story line went something like this: You have work planned on this oak tree, in whose vicinity there is a power line. You spoke to the grid operator who came round and had a look and declared the distance to be sufficient for the work to be safely performed, so long as the one meter safety distance is guaranteed. All of this is on your risk assessment sheet. Cut to the incident… your work mate has injured himself, a handsaw injury to the left upper arm, and is now suspended unresponsive above the 1kV power line.

The reason we decided to go with the climber being unresponsive/ unconscious, was that we wanted to avoid a climber on the ground saying if the scenario envisaged a responsive casualty, right, he is responsive, so there is not immediate urgency, I will call the grid operator and get them to shut down the line – to only then go and rescue the injured climber. Which you cannot really fault, but is hard to score. With an unconscious climber, however, the situation changes, this is now essentially a crash rescue – provided you can ensure you own safety, i.e. verify there is not contact between the lines and any part of the tree or the climber, and whether you have your one meter safety distance. This was possible in this case.

What was highly interesting during set up was how the position we initially set the dummy in – just shy of the line on the side of the tree – allowed for a rescue within a two to three minutes. Obviously this was too easy. So we moved him to the far side of the lines, with his climbing line also over the far side. This made for a distance of maybe one meter further away from the tree, yet this rescue was now practically not feasible within the time frame and keeping one meter distance to the line. So we ended up positioning the dummy half way between the two positions, this made it hard, yet feasible. What I took away from this was how a meter difference in the position the casualty is suspend in can make a difference between life and death.

The other insight I took away has to do with a mantra I have regarding always approaching the casualty from above with an efficient anchor point. In this specific instance however, it actually transpired that a flatter, more aggressive approach angle proved more efficient to allow the climber to tow the casualty out of the danger zone.

Finally, during the climbers’ meeting on Sunday after the comp there was debate about when to address the handsaw injury. You can argue this either way, depending on how you assess the injury. If you estimate it to be potentially life threatening, then you might decided to apply a pressure bandage there and then. However, the fact that you are in an immediate danger zone, suspended above a 1kV line, indicates a degree of urgency to get the climber into a safe area before taking any further steps.

All of the above are part of building a story. I find this really interesting, as it allows you to gain insights with other arborists in a way you would normally not be able to. After all, when do you get the opportunity to see fifty people performing the same rescue?

An important part of the story which aerial rescue tells is the conclusion, which happens during the climbers’ meeting on Sunday. I have found this session really helpful in understanding how we can improve, but also to debrief on the details of the scenario, what different views were there on how this scenario should have been tackled and what was the rationale? I certainly learnt something about working around electricity during this year’s ETCC. And what a great conclusion to an event, when you leave it knowing more than when you arrived?

Let’s make sure we do not sell ourselves short with unwieldy, illogical aerial rescue scenarios, let’s use our creativity and imagination to come up with something meaningful! My rule of thumb tends to be that if looking at the finalised set-up, just before climbers’ walk-through, gives me that sense of unease by hitting uncomfortably close to the mark, then I think we have succeeded in striking the right balance.

Give it some depth.