Introducing ... the Make-a-Save Campaign!
Skydivers depend on their equipment to survive every jump. Every. Single. Jump. Given such high stakes, are we doing everything possible to be sure our gear is up to the task? The accident reports seem to indicate we aren’t, year after year.
A quick look at data since 1999 reveals that simple gear checks could have prevented as many as 20 fatalities. That’s roughly five percent of the total fatalities during that same timeframe. Five percent may not seem like much, but it sure does matter to those who lost friends and loved ones to tragic accidents that could have been easily prevented.
Gear checks are certainly nothing new; they’ve been a part of skydiving since the beginning. But now that equipment has evolved and become very reliable, many skydivers seem to be taking a more casual approach toward their gear. Some jumpers never pack a parachute after wrestling with packing for the A-license requirement. If a drop zone’s student program does not provide thorough equipment training or emphasize the importance of gear checks, new jumpers will not have a solid background to build on and will largely ignore gear checks. They will instead add the expense of using a packer for each jump and not deal with it. Suddenly, the gear routine consists only of handing a packer seven bucks and throwing on the rig when he’s done.
A change—a true cultural shift—is required to bring the gear check back full force for all skydivers. Some drop zones may need to make only minor changes because their jumpers have a solid base of gear knowledge and already perform thorough gear checks. Others may need to make monumental changes in their cultures to shift the mindset of the staff and current group of jumpers. In either case, DZs should emphasize that gear checks are simple, quick and save lives, so there is no good reason to skip them.
Change Starts With You
Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 5-4 includes guidelines on checking your equipment. Using a “check of threes” makes it easy to remember how and what to check as you prepare for your next jump:
• Three Straps: Check your chest strap and two leg straps for proper routing through the friction adapters, correct tension and secure stowage of excess webbing.
• Three Handles: Check your cutaway handle, reserve-ripcord handle and main-deployment handle to ensure that they are properly seated and accessible.
• Three Rings: Check your three-ring release system for proper assembly, as well as correct routing of the reserve static line. Also check the condition of the locking loop to make sure it is not damaged or frayed.
• Three Times: Check the rig carefully before you put it on, once after you have put it on and adjusted the harness and a final time in the airplane just before exit. Be sure to check the main and reserve closing loops, and inspect the main bridle to ensure the pilot chute is cocked and the bridle routing is correct.
Make-a-Save Monday and Other Initiatives
USPA is launching a new initiative to showcase the value of gear checks and remind us all to perform them: Make-a-Save Monday. On Mondays, through social media (and on other days through USPA publications such as Parachutist magazine and the “USPA Update” e-newsletter), this effort will publicize your stories and photos of saves—for example, catching a misrouted chest strap (one of the more common rigging errors), an uncocked main pilot chute or even a twisted leg strap or misrouted RSL—made by conducting gear checks.
However, that is not the only avenue for making a save. You can also:
• Donate to the U.S. Skydiving Safety Foundation
• Host drop zone mini-seminars related to equipment or safety issues.
• Mentor newer jumpers to provide guidance for safer camera use, canopy choices, etc.
Drop zone owners and Safety and Training Advisors can help by encouraging local jumpers to participate in the initiative.
All of us—whether we’re new A-license holders or 40-year veterans of skydiving—can promote gear checks at the drop zone. When you find a noteworthy gear problem, share it with USPA to help ensure it becomes a valuable teaching point in the Make-a-Save campaign. Send your photos and comments to email@example.com. With everyone working together, we can make a difference and improve our safety culture.