Aerial-Rescue Training: Blended Frontiers

Fire departments often find that tree-worker rescue might be a blind spot for them. Photos courtesy of the author.

About two years ago, Kevin Lunnie, co-founder of Vector Rescue, and his business partner, James Croswell, started looking at the kind of high-risk, low-frequency events that exist for fire-service and technical-rescue teams. Lunnie is a lieutenant with the Danbury Fire Department in Connecticut and a founding member of the International Technical Rescue Association (ITRA). Croswell is an instructor and assessor with the ITRA and a career firefighter with the Danbury Fire Department.

They realized that arborist rescue was one of their industry’s weak points that they needed to become more familiar with. Through conversations with Shawn Emmons, president of Emmons Tree Service, a 16-year TCIA member company based in New Milford, Conn., where Vector Rescue is based, Lunnie and Croswell discovered  more about the hazards facing the arborist industry. The frequency of incidents, the frequency of fatalities and the difficulty that fire services have in performing arborist rescue were all interwoven topics.

Those discussions led to about three months of climbing with Emmons and some of his crew to better understand how arborists work in trees, how their systems work and, more important, how Vector Rescue could integrate typical fire-rescue-based systems to facilitate a tree-climber rescue.

The training aims to teach fire services how to perform aerial rescues using equipment they typically carry, blended with techniques more commonly used by arborists.

As a result, Lunnie and Croswell developed a curriculum for a training program to bring arborists and firefighters together in the same workshop to teach fire services how to perform aerial rescues using equipment typically carried by fire departments, blended with techniques more commonly used by arborists. It probably goes without saying that every tree climber is very concerned about who’s coming to get them if there is an incident. We’ve all heard stories of fire services taking several hours to rescue a climber pinned in a tree. With regular training and awareness, they could be making quick, efficient rescues like the scenarios arborists frequently practice.

Part of the training goal is to get fire departments to understand that tree-worker rescue might be a blind spot for them. They often don’t recognize the hazards of the tree care industry, especially if they’ve never been on an arborist rescue call before. But when interviewing those at fire departments who have responded to a tree care-related incident, they found the responders usually have had this lightbulb moment as they realized they were not as proficient as they would like to be in this area.

Vector Rescue, Emmons Tree and Chippers, Inc., a TCIA member company based in Vermont and New Hampshire, now a Davey Tree Care Company, recently collaborated to deliver Vector Rescue’s two-day training workshop, “Arborist Rescue for First Responders,” in Concord, New Hampshire, for firefighters from throughout the region.

For information about bringing this program to first responders in your area, visit

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