Safety Check | Ron's Wish List for Santa
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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Safety Check | Ron's Wish List for Santa

Safety Check | Ron's Wish List for Santa

Safety Check
Thursday, December 22, 2022

Dear Santa,

Another year has flown by, and it’s time to send in a new wish list. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in this office for four years. We have enjoyed amazingly low fatality counts from 2018 to 2021, ranging from 15 to 10, with an average of 12.25 over those four years. Quite different from the 10 years prior, which had an annual average of 22.6 fatalities with a high of 30 (in 2008) and a low of 16 (in 2009). But our dwindling numbers have come to a screeching halt. Sitting here in October, writing up my wish list, our yearly fatality count is already 19. We will likely double our numbers from last year or, even more depressingly stated, match the combined numbers from 2020 and 2021. So, this year, I have only one wish: I wish skydivers would stop dying! And by that, I mean making mistakes that lead to fatal outcomes. So, for that reason, I’ll break my wish down and be a little more specific.

  • My first wish is that jumpers who perform speed-inducing maneuvers for landing would learn their landing parameters and have the remarkable sense to abort their landings when these parameters might be exceeded.
  • I wish tandem instructors would refrain from breaking USPA’s Basic Safety Requirements by making intentional low turns of more than 90 degrees under 500 feet. I also wish all drop zone leadership would take BSR violations seriously and start suspending those who won’t adhere to them, since they’ll risk suffering the same fate when USPA discovers that BSR violations are happening under their watch.
  • I wish all jumpers would realize that they do not know—and past performance does not dictate—how they will respond to stress (fight, flight or freeze) during an emergency, which can lead to the jumper performing emergency procedures incorrectly. The best way to increase the odds of survival in any given scenario is to practice emergency procedures frequently. Each session should include a deep dive into the possible complications a jumper could encounter during a certain scenario. Reviewing incident reports is an excellent way for jumpers to learn about what complications can arise in even the most basic situations.
  • I wish all jumpers would learn to avoid low cutaways by taking the time to understand the complexities of the human mind in stressful situations. Fixating on a problem rather than the solution can steal valuable seconds away from a jumper in an emergency, when a few seconds can be the difference between life and death.
  • I wish all jumpers would take better care of their health and review the medical requirements in the BSRs, Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 2-1.C.1. and the USPA Statement of Medical Fitness in SIM Section 4-3.D.
  • I wish jumpers who have recently downsized their canopies would slowly and methodically work up to the maneuvers they were performing on their former canopies. In addition, I wish jumpers would adhere to the recommendations on emergency procedures found in SIM Section 5-1.
  • I wish drop zone leadership would keep up the good fight against deaths due to unintentional low turns by continuing their educational campaigns on the proper techniques for making emergency low turns. The number of unintentional-low-turn injuries and deaths is dropping, but we can still do better!

This list is a little shorter list than in years past, Santa, but it covers most of the nightmares that keep me up at night.

Ron Bell | D-26863 
USPA Director of Safety and Training

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