Storm Work
By Tim Ard
Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Since the hurricane season of 2005 we have had a significant increase in training requests for chain saw storm cleanup programs. Forest Applications Training has in place a training program that continues to gain momentum in requests and super reviews from storm workers.

Storm work with a chain saw is not a task to take lightly. Organizations looking to a thirty-minute video or a three-hour classroom program to satisfy storm-training needs and send their people out into the field should consider a few important facts from the following thoughts.

-Storm debris and damage removal work is not "simply cutting firewood." Storms leave trees and downed tops under sometimes enormous pressures and binds. Wood is heavy and limbs have the ability to become catapults and springs, a very hazardous opportunity for the untrained and inexperienced saw operator. If you read report statistics following storms you will find that usually more people are killed and injured from the clean up operations than the storm activity itself. That simply doesn't make since does it? Accidents happen because people are not aware of hazard potentials and plan their actions. An accident is an unplanned event!

-You can increase awareness about chain saw operation and safety in a one-day program or demonstration but actual production and safety application concerns take time and require experience.

-Chain saw maintenance is of high importance when dealing with storm work. A properly running chain saw and a very well maintained saw chain is a prerequisite to approaching a storm cleanup operation. Every operator should be able to recognize when a saw is or is not running correctly.

-Storm downed trees, limbs and tops are generally dirty. Sand, mud, etc., can make working with a saw a very slow and tedious process. The operator must be someone who can recognize a dulled chain, one that is not cutting as it should, and be able to replace or sharpen it. The operator should be aware of current sharpening tools and have an understanding of how to use them.

-Skills in taking information, analyzing and applying a plan is an important step to approaching storm damage work.

-A skill of producing matching cuts, notch cuts and hinges in cutting techniques and applications are very important.

-A complete understanding of the reactive forces - Push-back, Kick-back and Pull-in. The operator should be able to explain what they are and where the reaction is created on the guide bar. Why is stance and saw control so important in working with a chain saw's reactive forces.

-A commitment by the saw operator to wearing proper personal protective equipment is a must and often the law… Know and understand what's available and make a commitment to use it.

What type of training and experience/practice is needed to accomplish a baseline skill set for chain saw use in storm work?

There are a "million uses" (give or take a few thousand) for the chain saw in the workplace and homeplace. Harvesting trees in logging, maintaining trees in arboriculture, back yard clean-up for the land and homeowner and firewood are just a few of the broad-stroke applications of the chain saw. Basic saw skills are important in all of these areas to begin work but, when you apply dead wood, storm twisted and broken trees, tops and limbs under pressure, though they may be on the ground, special skills in approaching these are important and possibly mandatory.

Forest Application's initial training program for storm work consists of three days of training. This progressive training system, over the three days, is needed to accomplish firm positive results for the storm applications chain saw operator.

IL3 - This day can accommodate 100 or more participants. The instructor takes the group through 3 hours of classroom and then an outside session where a tree is felled and the instructor demonstrates limbing and bucking techniques.

IL4 - This second day is hands on with each participant (max.12-15) felling a tree and going through a hands-on RDT maintenance routine.

IL5 - The third day is addressing storm situations. Work areas are constructed/located, planned and removed utilizing the participants (max.15) equipment and skill set. Very important is the person on the saw and others work together as a team.

We suggest, according to the workers task assignment, that at least two additional days of supervised sharpening, bucking and limbing be part of the complete training program.

Often organizers question the need for their people/participants to take down trees in the class. Even if the normal duty of the participant does not include felling, it is our belief the time for felling most likely will occur in storm work. If it does, it is important to have the skill set. Most important, the day of felling emphasizes the information and planning functions that are a pre-requisite to working on downed trees. The process of felling trees has its unique hazards and is viewed sometimes as more "accident-prone" than cutting on downed trees and limbs. However, most people are not aware of the potentials of a downed tree under storm and wind damage. These storm work situations can be just as, or at times, more potentially hazardous than felling a tree. Training for added awareness is important!

SO… before you pick up a chain saw to tackle a storm pick up the phone or rattle the old computer keys and contact Forest Applications Training, Inc. , PO Box 429, Rome, GA 30162 Ph. 770-543-9862 or                   WWW.FORESTAPPS.COM           ##