Long bottom lines on a banner, when used properly, make it possible to “fly” a banner like a kite and can reduce risks associated with high wind loads.
There are many things to consider when taking action in vertical environments but few can surprise you as much as wind. This is particularly true when dealing with banners where high winds can be treacherous.
To put this in perspective, imagine deploying a 80 x 20 foot banner on a calm day. You’re unexpectedly caught by 20 mph wind gusts that culminate to over 3,000 lbs of force on the banner — and you’re still attached to the bottom line. You haven’t tied off the lower corner of the banner and are now flying a sketchy sail. “It’s like riding a bull,” explains my good friend Cy Wagoner.
Wind forces can throw things around, tangle ropes, rip banners, push or pull people away from structures, jeopardize work/safety, and put a sudden end to a camp or occupation. In either case, the result could be challenging (to say the least) or even catastrophic.
The following chart is one of many adaptations of the Beaufort Scale and is used to identify wind force on a scale of 0 to 12. This along with wind velocity visual determination methods (see below) are practical tools for assessing wind speed in the field.
print material – source unknown
Wind Speed and Resultant Loads
When working with banners it’s good practice to consider potential wind loads that a banner may be subject to (the same holds true for any large object). The following table has been adapted from the Scaffold Training Institute manual and offers some conservative numbers for approximating potential wind loads (basic math skills required). It does not account for direction, angle, material types, and other variables so consult a structural engineer or physicist if a high degree of accuracy is desired. Better yet, speak to those with first hand experience.
Remember, respect the wind and account for it in your planning — this should include risk mitigation and a wind response plan in case of unsuspected gusts. Plan accordingly and consult those with experience.
The potential risk for damage from abrasion or cutting must be evaluated and eliminated anytime softgear makes contact with something. This is particularly true anytime softgear runs over an edge or rubs on itself since the components of softgear, nylon and polyester, are not very resistant to abrasion or heat. Remember – rope and webbing are extremely strong when pulled under load but can cut quickly when subjected to lateral abrasion while under tension.
Always make sure to protect your rope and other softgear from sharp or abrasive edges. Evaluate all points of potential contact and assess whether or not some kind of protective barrier or space must be made. Building anchors high or directing ropes away from edges can eliminate the chance of abrasive damage all together.
A heavy duty canvas rope pad and commercial edge roller both include attachment points for tie-off cord.
A heavy canvas tarp folded over itself or rubber car/floor mat work well as edge protection. Commercial rollers, gutters, and other forms of edge protection are also available. Tie these back or secure in some fashion to keep in place and prevent from falling. Avoid using synthetic materials in cases where friction from moving lines can generate enough heat to melt both the rope and intended protection.
A rope sleeve cut and sewn from a reused banner. A velcro closure helps secure the sleeve around a climb line and a grommet is used for a prusik tie back point.
Rope sleeves are another common and useful form of rope protection that can be secured directly to the rope and held in place with the use of a tie back or prusik. Buy these or save some money by making your own. Canvas and old banners can be cut and sewn together for great rope protection. Rope sleeves like these are easy to carry and great for protecting against edges while on rappel (sometimes referred to as over-the-side hot spots) since they are simple to move and secure with a prusik.
Here a canvas tarp is used to cover a vertical beam and protect against sharp edges at the anchor. A rope sleeve is also used and carefully positioned by a climber prior to navigating the lip below.
The rope sleeve protects the climb line from the edge on the lip above and is easily adjusted and secured in position with a prusik.
Note: Don’t just protect your rope – protect what you climb on. Use edge and rope protection to reduce damage to anchor points or areas subjected to tensioned lines. Be smart and place where necessary to prevent damage to property when working in industrial or urban areas. Use canvas wraps to prevent girdling trees and damage to the natural environment.
Rope work and safety checks are not mutually exclusive – if you disagree then I suggest you find a different way of interacting with the world.
It’s hard to find a “standard” safety checklist that’s perfect so take the time to adopt and modify one to your specific needs. This is crucial in avoiding ‘checklist fatigue’ – where points are read off or stated as if already checked and not properly accounted for. There’s no room for such negligence in climbing so be sure to create a checklist or system that works for you.
Below is an exhaustive rendition of the ABC Safety Check referenced and used by many climbers. Share these with others and modify them as needed. Your check list may shrink as you grow and gain experience but don’t let this lead to mistakes or missteps!
- What is the rope attached to?
- Assess the knots and their condition.
- Are the carabiners locked and oriented correctly?
- What is the condition of the climb line?
- Rope and edge protection where needed.
- Anchor angles less than 90 degrees.
- Equalized, redundant, no extension, strong.
BELT & BUCKLES
- Harness belt above hips and tightened.
- Check condition.
- Double backed.
- Loose straps tucked back.
- Leg loops fastened and snug.
- Helmet strap fastened.
- Check all connections inline (carabiner to lanyard to you).
- All carabiners locked and oriented correctly.
- Screw links/delta locked and oriented correctly.
- Are your lanyard knots dressed and weighted?
- What is the condition of your lanyard line?
- Check all devices you will be using.
- Which lines are your devices attached to? Are they correct?
- How many points of protection do you have?
- Check proper function of devices (moves up, moves down, holds you when locked).
END OF ROPE
- Rope on the ground or long enough to reach your destination.
- Clear of tangles (properly stacked if using a bag).
- Stopper knot at the end of rope or fixed to bag.
FRIENDS AND FEELINGS
- Where’s your buddy?
- How will you communicate? Verbal, radio, hand signals, etc.
- Check in with your buddy. Talk through plan or concerns as needed.
- How do you feel? Headspace, fatigue, hydration, etc.
- What’s the plan?
- What will you be doing?
- Do you have all the gear you need to make it happen?
- Is your gear organized and racked?
- Nothing hanging below your knee.
HELMET & HAIR
- Is your helmet in safe working order?
- Buckle closed and helmet secure.
- Hair tucked and out of the way.
Artwork by Cy Wagoner