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Are you ready for the Unexpected?  | Aerial Rescue

Are you ready for the Unexpected? | Aerial Rescue


Arboriculture, where skilled professionals ascend into the crown, every limb tells a story of dedication, expertise, and a commitment to the well-being of our leafy companions. Among the myriad challenges we must face, one aspect stands as a testament of our prowess – the art of aerial rescues. We will embark on the journey into the heart of the Tree Care Industry, exploring the captivating realm of aerial rescues. Adrenaline pumping moments of assessing a precarious situation(s), we unravel the intricacies of this vital skill set that elevates the arborist to the status of tree care guardians.

At one point or another, the company you work for must have conducted aerial rescue training and if you haven’t, highly recommend you do so. Not only is it vital training that may assist in saving a life, but it is also written in the “Z” (ANSI Z133); employees who may be faced with a rescue shall receive training in emergency responses and rescue procedures appropriate and applicable to the work to be performed, as well as training to recognize the hazards inherent in rescue efforts. Additionally, at least two workers trained in first aid/CPR shall be available. In the opinion of many arborists, basic life support will play into the rescue situations and if you don’t know how to perform CPR, are you really training correctly? Training will apply to those working from aerial lift platforms as well, no exceptions.

Before you begin training or rushing up to help a victim you must remember the cardinal rule: DO NOT BECOME THE SECOND VICTIM! You must take precautionary measures when training for Aerial Rescue, most accidents happen during training. Before you start setting up aerial rescue training, remember this, your training should not mirror that of tree climbing competitions… to a certain extent. You know what I mean, “five minutes is all you have to get the victim down”! In reality, a single rescue could (potentially) take hours to complete.

Switch it up from time-to-time.

Avoid creating the repetitive up-down scenario at training, throw in some curveballs. It will keep your trainees engaged and get the gears turning, especially if you have high level employees that have been at your company forever but keep it low-ish to the ground.

Two hazards associated with Aerial Rescues:


  • Electrical Hazards – trees in the vicinity of power lines pose a significant risk during aerial rescues. If power lines are in the mix on your job site and an accident has occurred, do not rush in immediately. This may be difficult but it could save your life. Do look for down power lines.
  • Tree stability – assess the stability of the tree before initiating the rescue. A tree may become compromised during a rigging operation that has gone south. Tree top lodged, codominant split, the root flare beginning to heave, etc.…


What happens during an aerial rescue?

Before I share, I am aware that everyone has different ways of conducting their training and not everyone may agree with one another when it comes to “should I get the injured person down or make them comfortable until EMS arrives”. However, we all share the same goal and that is to bring the person down safely.

Here we go:

  • Assessment of the situation – evaluate the nature of the emergency. Identify the person in distress, try to make contact in order to assess their condition, conscious or unconscious, bleeding, broken bones, you get the gist. Don’t forget to analyze the stability of the tree as well.
  • Equipment setup – not every rescue will be straight forward. Rigging and anchor points will come into play for the intricate rescues. Properly set up anchor points and use suitable rigging techniques to create a stable system. This step may be skipped.
  • Communication continued – after establishing communication with the individual, provide reassurance and guidance on maintaining their safety. Call emergency services and relay clear, concise, and relevant information. The key phrase is a High Angle Rescue.
  • The ascent – emotions and adrenaline will be high. How can they not be? More than likely, you have worked with this person for a while. Safely, after you have assessed, called EMS, and deemed it safe to go up, begin making way to the victim. Be aware, that firefighters may not allow you to ascend but they may ask for assistance.
  • Reassess – if you have reached your victim, don’t move them yet. You must reassess your victim. ABC; airway, breathing, circulation. I am not a medical professional; I have been trained on the basics of life support. With that being said, I believe the industry is torn when it comes to leaving the victim in the tree or bringing him down to the ground. Yes, back and neck injuries will create a delicate rescue but if there is an additional life threatening injury in the mix, I am confident in my skills, techniques, training, and I will bring that person down. I do not want to have a recovery on my hands. Yell at me all you want, that’s how I feel about that.


There is plenty more to consider and think about when it comes to aerial rescue, this should just get the wheels turning. We don’t train because we are expecting to perform a rescue, I have not had to perform a real life rescue and I wouldn’t want to, but we train so that we may keep our composure if the unexpected does happen. Aerial rescues demand a combination of skill, preparedness, and a commitment to safety. By prioritizing ongoing training, regular equipment maintenance, and thorough risk assessments, we can navigate the complexities of aerial rescues with confidence. This not only ensures the well-being of those involved but also upholds the professionalism and integrity of the arboricultural industry.

Next article The Unsung Heroes of Tree Work & The Expectations of the Groundie

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