Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training CoordinatorOctober 2013

An acronym for ACRONYM

Acronyms are everywhere.  If you’re a veteran, or have been involved with forestry for any amount of time, you especially know this to be the truth.  Heck, there are even acronyms for the word ACRONYM!  Just to name a few:

  •  A Clever Re-Organization to Nudge Your Memory

  •  Alphabetically Coded Reminder ONames You Misremember

  •  A Crazy Reminder ONames You Misplaced

  •  A Concise Reduction Obliquely Naming Your Meaning

Ok, that’s enough goofing off…for now.  But the purpose of an acronym is to help us remember something important.  Something that FISTA believes is important is a five step process of evaluating and felling trees, dubbed “The Felling Five”.  The best thing about “The Felling Five” is that it reminds us there are five points of evaluation sawyers should make in order to gage how safely we can tackle the task at hand.  Where “The Felling Five” was lacking, is the ability for sawyers to remember each step.

When I would hold a chainsaw safety glass with veteran fallers, I would ask, “Who can tell me the steps involved with ‘The Felling Five’”.  Several of these individuals have had numerous chainsaw safety classes with FISTA in the past, but for some reason, they couldn’t remember the most important points of evaluating each tree.  Something had to remedy this concern of mine.

Last year, with a small amount of thought, we came up with a suitable acronym for “The Felling Five”.  If we took the word “help” and spelled it with two “H’s”, we had a pretty darn good way to remember “The Felling Five”.  Here’s how the “HHELP!” process lays out:

  • H - Hazards

  • H - Hinge

  • E - Escape route

  • L - Lean

  • P – Plan

Now, when sawyers approach their next tree, it only takes a few seconds to look for “HHELP”.

In a few seconds, we can identify the hazards present and make decisions on how to mitigate, or avoid them.  In a few seconds, we can calculate our hinge wood based on the 80% / 10% DBH rule.  In a few seconds, we can choose an escape route that is 45˚ opposite the direction of fell, where we can get at least 20 feet from the stump quickly.  In a few seconds, we can calculate and compensate for the lean of the tree and adjust accordingly.  In a few seconds, we should run through our plan and make decisions on how to bring each tree to the ground.  Decisions like, “What style of notch, back-cut and release cut will I utilize?”  “Do I need wedges, and if so, how many?”  “Do I have my felling target identified and clear?”  These are all questions we should have mentally answered before the first wood chip flies.  If we cannot plan and execute each of the 5 steps of“HHELP”, we have no business cutting the tree!    

It only takes a few seconds for us to find “HHELP” in felling each and every tree we drop.


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 ben.parsons@fistausa.org