Category Archives: ropes courses

A long time coming…

Hi all, apologies for not checking in for some time. It all started when the developer of the iOS blogging app “Blogsy” stopped supporting their product. Flexible, easy to use, Blogsy, you will be missed 😦
So, I’m trying out a couple other apps to get back in the blogging game, we’ll see how it goes…

Where has the summer gone?

It’s July already? This pic was taken a few weeks ago while conducting rescue training with my new summer staff. I just can’t believe this was only a month ago and we’re almost halfway through our youth camp season. Staff are doing great, settling into their own – hey, they look like ropes course instructors!

Here’s to a great second half of youth camp, and successful recruitment of our 2016-17 intern class… I can’t believe I’m already thinking about fall 🙂

Summer begins in 3,2,1…

What a whirlwind the last several months have been! We moved our office to camp’s Science Education Center, I got to hire a full-time assistant, my department is now responsible for camp’s aquatics programs… We made it through a busy and challenging spring school outdoor education season… and summer staff training begins in a couple days.

More posts to follow, I promise!

I’m back!

This is a long overdue post, but it has been a crazy fall season. This past week had me on the road – first stop was a trainer certification workshop thru the Professional Ropes Course Association, immediately followed by a few days at Scioto Hills Camp, where I presented challenge course-related workshops for the National Association of Regular Baptist Camps conference being held there. A great road trip, connecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and talking ropes. Doesn't get much better… but it is beaten by getting back home to my family. 🙂


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Zipline Repair

Always fun to take a break from administrative tasks for a little rope access. Had to replace a hydraulic valve on one of our ziplines.


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It Begins…

Tomorrow marks the start of our fall outdoor education program. Thousands of school students will visit our grounds over the next 8 weeks, riding the zipline, trying the climbing tower, problem-solving on our low ropes courses. Here's to a safe & enjoyable season!


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Adventure Park Death

Another injury resulting in death this week on an aerial adventure park that opened 5 DAYS before the date of the incident. Opinions kept to myself as there will most probably be legal actions brought.


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The Importance of “Old Dogs”

This has been roiling in the depths of the “Dave Brain” for some time, and is very timely in light of recent incidents in the ropes challenge course industry.

Two fatalities involving new hires on zipline tours in little more than a year, participants hurt or killed while under the watch of “more mature staff” who were “fully trained”, “recently certified”, etc.

Where were the experienced staff, the trainers, the ones with more than an initial training and a handful of experience hours under their belts? Where were the “Old Dogs?”

According to ANSI/PRCA 1.2 Operational Standards for Ropes Challenge Courses, this requirement falls on the shoulders of the owner/operator of the course. Any time “Authorized Person” level staff are performing work, a “Competent Person” is required to be on location (H.2.8 Supervision.)

Bottom line? The vertical environment we work in is both exciting and deadly. As course owners and operators, we can never forget that. When I put a new batch of instructors in the field, dropping their names in the schedule, I am potentially putting them in harm's way. Sure, they've been through my exhaustive training, completed all required skills assessments, but that still doesn't change the fact that they are woefully inexperienced. For the first several weeks, new hires are never scheduled without an experienced instructor to ensure actions are consistent with training and procedures, answer questions, model behavior, etc.

The trending growth of ziplines and aerial adventure parks concerns me, not from the standpoint of industry exposure. I think it's great that more and more people each year get to stretch themselves through these experiences. What I really hope is that those behind the operations of these courses have truly counted the cost. Paying for an outside training company to administer an annual training/ recert and thinking that's enough to ensure staff and guest safety is incredibly shortsighted.

I know firsthand of a program that had the annual refreshers, course and equipment inspections by 3rd party vendors. What they lacked was the presence of the “Old Dogs.” Little to no oversight of newly trained guides, bad habits crept in… they were an incident waiting to happen, and it did eventually happen. Something that would've easily been caught and mitigated was missed, resulting in a participant falling 30' from their climbing wall.

Planning, design & construction are the easy steps… daily operations are what really sets a program apart from the rest. Staffing is the last place you want to skimp, for the safety of your employees and guests.

Be safe, all!


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A Backlog of Death

It’s a bizarre title, but it doesn’t compare to the tumult I’m experiencing right now.

I was going to post last month re: the June 11th zipline death of a 12yr old girl at a summer camp, but I held off. I wondered, “it’s relevant to ropes courses & risk management, but do I have to post every injury or death?”

Then a 16yr old girl died earlier this week on a Giant Swing… followed the next day by a 54yr old zipline guide who plummeted 150′ to his death (his second day on the job, btw.)

The absurdity of my thought today – “I’ve got a backlog of deaths to post.”


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Saw this news article concerning a new aerial adventure park going up in Franklin, Tennessee. 50 feet tall, 110 elements, 140 participant capacity…

[wipes drool from face]

Of course I'd love to try it (110 ELEMENTS!), but is it bad my mind instantly focuses on the underlying systems needed to successfully operate something like this? Training, staffing ratios, equipment tracking, etc.

I love my job!



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