Room for improvement - 3rd Sep 2012

Leith Thomson - one of the few to successfully complete the aerial rescue event on Saturday
Richard Tregoweth on his Treetools blog (Saturday, September 01, 2012) commented; 'the judging team at the aerial rescue event at the South Island National Tree Climbing Competition were less than comforted by the skills on demonstration'.

Being able to rescue an injured climber from a tree is a fundamental requirement – a core skill of every climbing arborist. There is no excuse for not being able to do this safely and efficiently.

Tim Lovejoy and Mat Palmer (the judging team) need to be commend for expressing their concerns on Saturday, but the issue is not just confined to the South Island of New Zealand. My recent experience in the North Island suggest aerial rescue training isn’t part of the corporate curriculum there – 'time pressures don’t allow it'.   Through our international work and involvement, I know that this failing is common throughout most of the world.

It should be noted that Tim and Mat were not just commenting about the skills needed for competing in an aerial rescue competition, but the skills needed for being a climbing arborist. 'Everyone needs to have a simple plan and be able to execute it', fundamental things like;

  • Always knowing where you are (how can you get help to come to you if you don’t know where you are?)
  • Knowing how to assess the victim, the victim’s equipment and the tree they are in
  • Being able to get up to the victim, secure them to you then lower them down (without causing additional harm to the victim)
  • Knowing what to do with the victim once you have them on the ground

There are those that say Tree Climbing Competitions (like the ITCC events through the International Society of Arboriculture) no longer reflect reality.  They say that these are just show-pony events highlighting techniques and equipment that the overwhelming majority of the real world don’t and / or will never have. There may or may not be truth is this, but if ITCC events can highlight areas of concern within the industry and demonstrate techniques that could address those concerns then I believe they have their place.

I encourage every climbing arborist to practice and improve their aerial rescue skills and if at all possible, to attend Tree Climbing Competitions – who knows, the skills you pick up could save a life.

- Mark Roberts -

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