THE Big Rescue Event – a training day with a difference – returned this summer with a bang, raising over £13,000 for charity.

Giving arborists the chance to hone their skills and support a great cause, it was attended by more than 150 tree-climbing professionals from across the UK on Friday, 24 June, at Compton Verney, Warwickshire. 

Primarily aimed at climbers that already hold the NPTC 206/306 (old CS38) ticket and could benefit from a refresher, the event demonstrated the importance of aerial rescue training and raised funds for the Air Ambulance Service.

First held in 2018, the event is the brainchild of Chris Wyatt. Having spent over 20 years in the arboriculture industry, from student through contract climbing to running his own company (CTS Forestry and Arboriculture), in recent years Chris has devoted more of his time to instructing and assessing for City & Guilds NPTC, with his main focus now on what he calls the safety side of the industry.

Chris said: “The idea behind the Big Rescue Event is to refresh as many people as possible in one hit on aerial rescue techniques and bring them up to industry standards. It happens so often that people get a qualification, but never refresh on aerial rescue.

"They keep getting experience in climbing, but never on the rescues. 

“Hopefully, they never need to, but if they do need to rescue someone, it’s likely they’ll have forgotten the essential skills, knowledge and ability required to do it.”

A climber’s typical kit bag could offer seven or eight different methods of reaching a casualty and bringing them down safely. Seconds lost in the confusion of trying to figure out which one to use could have catastrophic consequences, so it’s important for climbers to find an approach they’re comfortable with and can put into action in a crisis.

Forestry Journal:

At Compton Verney, participants were split into groups of five, each led by two industry assessors, for workshops and simulated rescues. In the field, groups practised canopy rescues, while on the other side of the lake, in woodland, another 50 or so climbers worked on pole rescues. Halfway through the day, groups swapped, ensuring everyone had the chance to test themselves in multiple scenarios.

With changes in the industry, even those who were at 2018’s event were given a lot of food for thought, particularly on rescuing someone using two ropes. For many it was a major departure from when they passed their rescue ticket.

“In 2018 we were working on single lines – SRT or stationary rope technique,” said Chris.

“There was slight variation across the industry in how the work-at-height regulations from 2005 were interpreted. A lot of things have changed since then. We are now required by that regulation to be attached to two individual anchor points whenever we’re climbing. There are so many configurations in how we can do that and today is an ideal chance for attendees to look at the different techniques and methods you can use to meet that standard.

Forestry Journal:

“I was heavily involved in the practical element of developing that requirement. Any arborist out there who can climb will be able to adapt to it very easily. We are in a fantastic industry, but sadly people die through accidents – and nine times out of 10 they’re avoidable. We need arborists to work within the regulation and learn the techniques so they can keep working. We don’t want people being injured or killed.

“Tree surgery is a job I love. I have tremendous passion for it – on the training and contracting side. But it’s important that we all get to go home at the end of the day. If that means putting extra backup systems in, then we should be doing it. Don’t be scared of it – embrace it.

“There are loads of different techniques and today is showing how everyone can find a way that works for them and makes their job safer.”

The event was supported by a range of sponsors, including Stein, Fletcher Stewart, SIP Protection, Gustharts, FR Jones, Sorbus and more.

Forestry Journal:

Speaking on behalf of Fletcher Stewart, account manager Emma said: “As a company, Fletcher Stewart likes to be at the forefront of driving best industry practice, mainly by producing high-quality products and distributing those from other brands as well. This event sums all that up, highlighting the importance of some of our products like bleed and trauma kits and some of our climbing equipment.

“It’s showing people how to safely retrieve a casualty from a tree as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure their chances of surviving a potentially catastrophic injury are improved.

Forestry Journal:

“Organising it has involved a lot of late nights, particularly for Chris, but there has been some great teamwork throughout. As sponsors and supporters, we all have our individual strengths to bring and it certainly looks like it’s paid off today.”

Many sponsors provided prizes for the impressive raffle, tickets from which contributed to an incredible £13,638 for the Air Ambulance Service, which paid tribute on the day with a fly-by over the field.

Chris said: “I think this event has highlighted why we need to support the industry and what we do it for. Yes, we’re updating people, but an equally important aim is supporting the Air Ambulance. We don’t want to have to call them, but because of the likelihood of falling from height, chainsaw injuries, etc, we want the best to come to us.

“I know a few people who’ve had the assistance of the Air Ambulance. One of my clients had the Air Ambulance land in her front garden to help her husband. A young lad I know was involved in a serious accident in which he lost an arm and has been an avid supporter of the Air Ambulance ever since. Due to the fact we work outside, often in rural locations, it’s the Air Ambulance we need. It’s essential we support them and provide them the money they need.”

Forestry Journal:

Jonny Lavery of Joe Bridson Arboriculture told essentialARB why he wanted to be a part of the event: “I’ve been rescued by Air Ambulance, so it’s a cause I believe in. I’ve been on some of Chris’s courses too, and like him as a person. Plus it’s a great networking event. In the first couple of hours, the sharing of skills and knowledge has been fantastic. 

“There are so many experienced tree workers here, all utilising different types of climbing methods and gear. It’s been really enjoyable.”

The Big Rescue team issued thanks to everyone who attended the event for their participation and generosity, with plans already moving forward for a return in 2024.