Oct 6, 2011 | Lyle | Blog | 2

At the ALSAR conference I met with so many dedicated SAR responders and from many different organisations. Two of whom, Joanne Cracknel and Andy Harris, work with RAPID UK (Rescue & Preparedness in Disasters). They are both members of this volunteer based NGO, which deploys search and rescue response teams to any part of the world in the aftermath of sudden onset major disasters – and great work they do too, from the aftermath of the Tsunami in Japan to the earthquake in Haiti.


Joanne coordinates and works with the dog SAR section and Andy is one of the SAR responders sent into the disaster zones. Whilst talking about their work Andy told me of a simple technique to determine the safe working distance around a building that may collapse.


The technique involves finding a stick/ruler that is about 300 mm long, holding your arm outstretched with the stick upright and visually placing the bottom of the stick in line with the bottom of the building. Then walking towards the building until the top of the stick aligns with the top of the building, this defines the limit of approach to the building – brilliant, simple trigonometry at its best.


I will write up the work instructions for this technique and post them on the forum when I have talked more with Andy to make sure the operating instructions include safety perameters and I have understood the technique correctly.


As always, I salute you and your colleagues, great meeting the two of you.

2 Responses to New Technique

  1. Andy Harris says:

    The idea is not really new as I believe the technique used was developed by the lumberjack community.
    Starting off with holding a stick 1 meter (ish) long, hold out your arm so it is parallel with the ground. Pivot the stick so it is running along your arm and make sure the end of the stick is touching the same shoulder. After this has been done, pivot the stick back to its vertical position so the end that was touching your shoulder is pointing skyward. Keeping your arm extended horizontally face the building, either walk forwards or backwards to get the top of the building in line with the top of the stick.
    Make sure that the arm you are using stays parallel with the ground though because this can mean you can be out by feet or metres.
    Stop and place the stick in the ground or use a marker to mark your position. From that position, pace out the distance to the foot of the building. This will give you a safe distance to work away from the building and it will also give you an idea of how tall the building is so if you need to use ropes to rapel you know how long they need to be.

  2. Adi says:

    Excellent advice. Another trick I was shown in Canada by a lumber jack was using a pivot stick for determining the hight of trees or buildings and for working out safe working distances.

    Stand back from a tree and break a stick so that it appears to be the same hight as the tree when held out at arms length. Now rotate the stick 90 degrees so that the stick is parallel with the ground and what was the bottom of the stick is positioned at the bottom of the tree. Now the get someone to stand where the at the other end of the stick which would have been the top of the tree. Measure the distance between the person and the tree, possibly by pacing and you have the height of the tree and the limit of safe working approach of the tree.

    I will try to find a video of the technique to post up on the forum, which will hopefully better explain it.

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