There has never been a better time to be a challenge course or aerial park manager. The marketplace is flush with industry specific tools and technology that aid efficient operations and effective risk management practices. Advancements include improvements to helmets and harnesses making them easier to put on and more comfortable to play in, a wider range of devices for managing vertical ascending and descending in a variety settings, and updates to our favorite and most commonly used tools including carabiners and rope runners. While these advancements are notable, some of the greatest improvements over the last decade have been to life safety systems, the critical connection point that prevents falls from height.
In addition to traditional systems like running and static belays, challenge course and aerial park operators can now choose between smart and continuous systems each designed to offer greater operations efficiency while reducing or eliminating the likelihood of user errors that put people at risk.
SMART BELAY DESIGN
Smart belays are familiar to almost anyone with challenge course experience. Their double lanyard design shares the same function and are used in the same way as traditional static belays. Anytime a user comes to a fixing column (i.e. a pole or a tree) used to terminate one end of a safety cable, they must affect a transition to the next safety cable by first moving one lanyard and once secured, following with the second lanyard. What makes them smart? Unlike traditional static belays, smart belays have a mechanism whereby the carabiner on each lanyard “communicate” with one another allowing only one carabiner to be removed from a safety cable at a time. This allows the user more autonomy of movement and a better night’s sleep for the operator. That rest comes with an ongoing cost, however, consisting of ongoing smart belay maintenance and recertification fees.
CONTINUOUS BELAY DESIGN
Less of an adaptation, continuous systems address the risk of safety system error by eliminating the need for in-course transfers altogether. While in use for a number of years, many operators may not be familiar with continuous belays, their strengths and some important considerations when evaluating a continuous system for their facility. Using a single safety cable in combination with specialized brackets, continuous belay systems create an unbroken path that once connected, makes it near impossible for the user to become unintentionally (or otherwise) disconnected.
Continuous belay systems work by connecting the user to the safety cable using a hook or trolley style attachment point. A continuous section of cable is anchored to a fixing column (i.e. poles, trees, etc.) using specialized brackets. The hook and trolley each has a gap wide enough to pass over the bracket and narrow enough to prevent it from coming disconnected from the safety cable. Once attached, the hook and trolley capture the cable and can only be disconnected in specifically designed exit points or by emergency evacuation.
While hook and trolley style systems work using the same principle, they get the job done in substantially different ways. Hook style systems are low in cost and can be easier to retrofit onto older facilities. While the cost leader out-of-the-box, hook systems can suffer from accelerated wear to both the cable and hook as it gets dragged along the safety line. Some systems address excess wear by offering replaceable guards that extend the life of the hook. The cost savings up front can be diminished by additional cost down the road from more frequent cable, and in some cases, hook replacement. Trolley style systems, on the other hand, greatly reduce wear common to hook systems as the trolley rolls smooth along the cable and over brackets.
KOALA CONTINUOUS BELAY
Koala Continuous Belay is a trolley style system designed and manufactured by Altus of France. Altus has been building ropes courses and aerial parks throughout Europe since 1997. Koala Continuous Belay reflects the same simple, efficient and innovative design philosophy evident in Altus built-facilities and has been tried, tested, and refined on aerial parks they own and operate near their headquarters in the heart of the French Alps.
The strength of Koala Continuous Belay is smart design that allows for easy installation and requires limited long-term care. High quality materials are crafted into precision components that stand up to the rigors of repeated and continued use and abuse. Components like the Continuous Life Line Swapper and the Y Swapper allow course designers to create escape routes, forks in the trail, and passing lanes. The Switch Station is perfect for vertical ascending using assisted locking pulleys like the ISC Alf and managing vertical descending using controlled lower devices like the Deus 7500. It's these unique features and easy adaptations that address gaps that other systems don't, this and many others is the reason we are the new U.S. Distributor of Koala Continuous Belay System.
Koala Y Swapper
Koala Switch Station
So, is Koala Continuous Belay the right choice for your facility? Here are ten considerations that may help you decide. (And remember, no matter what life safety system you choose for your guests, your staff should always be outfitted in OSHA compliant equipment.)