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Normalizing Excellence: Planning for Safety Day 2020

A Parachutist Special Section

Features | January 2020
Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Each year, Safety Day is the second Saturday in March (this year, that’s March 14). It marks the beginning of a new season, and even in poor weather, jumpers flock to this event, their minds filled with fresh ideas and expectations of the warm summer days ahead. Everyone finds Safety Day valuable, from new jumpers who have gone uncurrent over the winter to veterans of the sport with several ratings. It’s the time to review all the procedures that keep us safe.

As a community, our focus each Safety Day should be on improving on the accomplishments of previous years. In the past few years, the sport has seen unrivaled low numbers of incidents, both fatal and non-fatal, and our average fatality rate has slowly crept down. To push our decade average below 20 (from its current 8-year average of 21.3), we will need to continue the safety culture we have but also add a new focus of striving for superior performance in all areas: to normalize excellence. This means learning from our past and then pushing forward with a higher standard of execution in every area (for more on this concept, see “Rating Corner” in this issue).

With more than 180 drop zones participating worldwide, Safety Day presents the most significant occasion of the year to make an impact on the safety of the sport and to make superior performance the norm. In addition to the traditional seminars and hanging-harness practice, many drop zones offer currency jump specials (when weather permits), organize safety-oriented games and contests or host potluck dinners to encourage the community spirit. Last year, USPA encouraged drop zones to expand their Safety Day activities that pertain to rating holders and staff, since they are the key to a healthy safety culture. This year, we’re expanding on those efforts even further.

Recognize a Standout

Recognizing those who already uphold high standards is a great way to thank them and inspire others. If you’re a drop zone operator or S&TA, look around your drop zone and choose an appropriate recipient for the Chesley H. Judy Safety Award—a grassroots award that a DZ chooses to bestow on a local jumper who “through example, deed, training or innovation, has promoted safe skydiving in a substantive way.” This type of recognition can spark the flame that drives your DZ’s safety culture toward an injury-free year. February 15 is the deadline for submissions. Select a recipient for the award, and USPA will mail you a certificate suitable for presentation. Send the name of the recipient, the name of the drop zone and the preferred mailing address to safety@uspa.org.

Presentations and Handouts

USPA is reworking the presentations, training aids and handouts offered to Safety Day organizers at uspa.org/safetyday. We’re adding new tools that will help DZs make this the most beneficial Safety Day on record. As always, we will provide Safety and Training Advisors with information about last year’s fatal and non-fatal incidents and provide analysis and training aids to help the community overcome the problems identified with the goal of making 2020 the safest year yet.

You can also find a virtual-reality malfunction video series created by Merit at uspa.org/malfunctions (which presenters can use as a standard video or with a virtual-reality headset). These resources make it easy for event organizers to put together a useful Safety Day.

Include Instructors

Last year, USPA encouraged DZs to have staff participate in Safety Day reviews, in particular, to have tandem instructors complete their biannual emergency reviews. This year, we are encouraging drop zones to also have AFF instructors sit down with coaches and review the canopy drills that students must complete during their coached jumps. Review what these drills are and how to teach and debrief them, emphasizing the two-stage flare. Use video of actual student landings, if possible.

Include a seminar for instructors on student problems below 2,000 feet. Recent statistics show that rating holders are doing a great job teaching high-speed-malfunction and cutaway scenarios but need to spend more effort teaching students about the range of problems that occur under canopy. The seminar should cover topics that rating holders can discuss with students such as the difference between the decision altitude and the hard deck, obstacle avoidance, parachute landing falls, braked turns and emergency exits.

For Everyone

This year, we encourage drop zones to hold a seminar with pilots and jumpers. These could include information on emergency exits and choices at different altitudes, how jumpers can help the pilot in an emergency, off landings, etc.

We’d also like to emphasize incident reporting this year. Make sure your jumpers know how to fill out an incident report and why they’re important. An incident reporting form is now available in Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 5-8. Make sure the jumpers at your DZ are aware of this.

Increase Participation

Don’t forget to register your event at uspa.org/safetyday. This list of participating drop zones helps jumpers find an event near them and informs them of the DZ’s alternate Safety Day date if it doesn’t fall on March 14. Submitting a listing also ensures that your DZ will be mentioned in the report on Safety Day in the May issue of Parachutist.

You can order newly redesigned T-shirts—this year in black with white graphics—from Jumper Sportswear for just $6 each (add $2 for XXL) plus shipping. You can order as few or as many shirts as you would like. For orders of 12 or more shirts, drop zones can add their logos to the sleeves at $1.50 more per shirt. Many drop zones order the shirts in bulk as gifts for their local jumpers. Jumper Sportswear must receive your order no later than February 24 for events held on March 14 or at least three weeks in advance of your alternate event date. Contact Lynn Smith at lsmith@uslogo.net or call (316) 264-1321 to place your order.

Get Recognition

A list of all participating drop zones, photos of the Ches Judy Award recipients, a report on any new or innovative ideas and a selection of the day’s best snapshots will appear in the May issue of Parachutist. Drop zones must submit reports and photos by March 23 to be considered for print publication. Submissions should be made via the form found at uspa.org/safetyday.

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