Blog - The Raven Speaks

How Mutual Aid Training Keeps Execulink on Top of Their Game

Execulink Telecom knew that a rope rescue solution wasn't available in their backyard. 

"London, Ontario has a rope rescue team," says Jeff Soetemans, Operations Manager at Execulink.  "But as you come further to the East, the next closest one might be Kitchener-Waterloo.  For much of the rural area around Woodstock, Ingersoll Fire would be the team responding."

Faced with the reality that a rescue's success would lay in the hands of the Execulink workers out on the job, and members of mutual aid provider Ingersoll Fire, Jeff made a proactive choice about Execulink's training approach.  Instead of just training his personnel in fundamental rescue methods, he opted to run more comprehensive Tower Competent Climber and Rescuer training, side-by-side members of Ingersoll Fire.

"Most of our tower sites are co-located on agriculture sites," describes Jeff. "Grain elevators in particular. Usually the challenges around the grain elevators are the obstructions that may surround the elevator, including platforms that you may go up, and grain bins."  Complex environments like this warranted rescue plans that relied on intelligent implementation of rescue techniques and equipment.  Execulink turned to Raven Rescue to provide the quality of tower rescue training needed to meet the needs of both their own workers, and members of Ingersoll Fire.

Jeff points out that the level of training his personnel receive should be the standard for telecommunication companies.  "The training that Raven Rescue gives us is the main training that our personnel get for climbing and rescue. The additional training that our workers have is 'safety at height', which is a provincial course that is federally legislated."

"Our workers get the right training, and the proper equipment. We’ve been adding equipment to our cache over the years. When new devices come on the market, we add the new hardware to our cache."


The Training: Setting the Standard

The standards surrounding work and rescue training within the telecommunications industry haven't shifted significantly in recent years, but this doesn't mean that concerns around safety have moved to the backburner.  In fact, Jeff is adament that repeated years of training have solidified Execulink's priorities. "The objectives that we started with years ago are the same now - to provide our workers with the training they need to stay safe, and be able to get one of their peers down in the case of a rescue."

Execulink's standards are clear - if there’s a team that’s going to be climbing, the second person in the team must have completed Tower Competent Climber and Rescuer training.  No exceptions.  New employees have to wait their turn to see tower climbing action. 

This dedication to training quality means that Ingersoll Fire is providing mutual aid to an organization that very likely won't ever need their services.  Pre-climb inspections and tailgate meetings ensure that Execulink workers have paused to consider the challenges facing them that day.  And when they do climb, Execulink workers have the latest training and equipment at their disposal.


The Gear Cache: Not Just Shiny New Toys

Jeff, who is also a member of Ingersoll Fire, highlights that innovations in equipment have had a very real effect on their daily operations.

"There’s a lot of hardware that we’ve been exposed to – the Aztek for pickoffs, and MPDs, which make it so easy to go from hauling to lowering.  We had Petzl I'Ds at the fire department, and we didn’t use them because they were a challenge. But on the Raven Rescue course, we saw how they could be used for a two-person lower, and that’s where they really shine. So now, even on the fire department, we’ve moved back towards using the Petzl I'D in those kinds of lowering situations."

Equipment also offered a solution to a perennial problem facing Execulink residental crews.

"Our residental crews do a lot of walking around on house roofs.  We’ve always had the issue of how to tie our guys off when they’re doing a wireless installation, and installing equipment.  With the amount of time it took to set up a traditional rigging system, we could have had the installation completed!"

Raven Rescue training has introduced Jeff to equipment that can be used as a fall restraint for his residental installation crews. "Crews can now throw a rope over the peak, tie it off, and then travel on the rope while completing the installation. It needs to be easy. If you have something a little too cumbersome, the workers won’t use it."


The Result: Everyone Goes Home Safe

Jeff Soetemans' innovative approach to providing training for workers at Execulink and members of the Ingersoll Fire department means that he has a depth of rescue resources to tap into when new solutions need to be developed, or when a real rescue needs to be effected. A fire department couldn't ask for a better relationship when providing mutual aid.



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Lyndon Brecia
Environmental Emergency Response, LTL Group

Our course was awesome. The instructors did an excellent job as well. What these guys did over the last three days is the way all training should be. I have been disappointed with training providers in the past, and you guys have reassured me there is still hope! Greatly appreciated. We had an awesome time, and will never look at a river the same again. We look forward to working with you again.


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