Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Get Out!

(…When you really need to)

“Communication breakdown, it’s always the same. Havin’ a nervous breakdown Baby; drive me insane!” Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” is a popular song on their 1969 debut album and a huge hit in the music industry. However, the inability to communicate from the jobsite can mean tragedy. Those of us in the forest products industry are accustomed to working in some of the most adverse conditions and remote locations. Such conditions tend to be more challenging the further we get into the boonies.

Are you prepared for your remote jobsites? Do you have an Emergency Action Plan? In some applications, OSHA requires it; but regardless of whether or not an Emergency Action Plan is required, having one and reviewing it periodically with your crew is a good idea. A key component of the Emergency Action Plan includes procedures for an emergency evacuation. This is especially important if you work alone.

In FISTA’s Basic level of our Chainsaw Safety program, we encourage the use of hand-held two-way radios and emphasize the importance of wearing some type of bright colored clothing as part of your PPE. Wearing an orange vest or bright green shirt enables a rescue team to easily locate you. Those are great tips, but let’s step back a moment. How would anyone even know you need to be located and rescued in the event of an emergency? In this day and age, the most common response would be the cell phone. But what if you’re in an area with poor or no service?

If you find yourself in a poor or limited service area, consider texting for help. A cell phone call requires steady service, but a text message only needs a short burst of service to get out. Also, your cell phone should have a menu of “quick texts”. This is a list of common phrases that can readily be sent without keying in all the letters. Consider adding custom messages to your quick text menu like, “HELP”, or “I’m injured, send help” or “I’m famished, bring steak…medium rare” (my personal favorite).

Your cell phone also has a GPS locator setting. By default, most cell phones are set with the GPS locator “active” so that you can be pinpointed in an emergency situation. Find this setting on your phone and make sure that is active before your next venture to the field.

In addition, signal enhancement products are available to help improve your cellular communication ability. For example, one of our TPA magazine advertisers and Logging Congress vendors, Complete Cellular, offers a wide variety of mobile booster packages. Complete Cellular also provides hands-free systems, enabling drivers to comply with current motor carrier cell phone laws. Be sure to check out their ad for more information.

FISTA has also teamed up with Complete Cellular to make these products more convenient to purchase and install. For the remaining 2012 SFI Training Workshops, Complete Cellular will be on site to install your new cell phone signal booster and hands-free system while you attend class.

Don’t have a cell phone? Regular “check-in” times can also let others know you may need assistance. Even when you are unable to request help, missing your regular check-in can cue others to an emergency situation.

None of us plan to fail, but many fail to plan. In our industry, failing to plan can lead to more than a loss in revenue, it can be fatal. Take time to think about what you would do in the event of an emergency evacuation. Make a plan for each job and share those steps with your crew. An Emergency Action Plan is like a good form of personal defense; “it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or