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Saturday, May 23, 2015 9:15 PM

Within the past year, accidents involving circus performers and aerialists have been highlighted in the news. With the most recent one being right here in North Carolina, we at Air Born Aerials thought we should let our voice be heard about a topic in which we are so passionate: Safety!!!

We do not wish to point fingers or place blame with anyone for any of these accidents, as no one should, especially those who are not directly involved. So to that end, we will only speak on that which we know. As an aerialist, whether you are a new student seeking out your first instructor or whether you are a professional performer, lucky enough to get paid for doing what you love; safety is your responsibility. Lack of knowledge is not a justification for not taking the extra steps to ensure safety. As we can see from some of these incidents; accidents can happen, even to professional, experienced aerialists.

By no means is this writing a substitute for rigging or safety classes. Rather, it is a few simple rules to live by. Some of which are non negotiable for Air Born...

  1. 1.Ask, ask, ask.. If you are seeking out an aerial instructor or are a relatively new student, the following list may seem like it doesn''t apply to you. Not so! You may assume that the instructor / studio is required by law or ethics to follow the strictest of safety standards. You never know until you ask! Knowing that your life depends on it, aerial coaches should be happy to answer questions about their rigging, maintenance and insurance.

  1. 2.Know your equipment... I am stunned to see pre-rigged silks available for purchase on line. Even more astonishing, is that we have met people who have purchased these and not ever performed routine maintenance on that equipment because they are unsure how to secure the fabric to the hardware! Aerial equipment, including fabric and hardware, needs to have regular inspections, maintenance and cleaning. For the equipment hanging in our studio, it is inspected every 3 months and the webbing changed every 6 months,

   whether it needs it or not. Excessive? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely.

  1. 3.Do your own rigging... If you are hired to perform somewhere, be very clear on your request to rig your own            

    equipment. While many venues have in-house riggers who are highly trained and qualified to hang heavy             

    equipment; rigging for an aerial performance, with all of it''s dynamic movement, changing weight loads etc is                    

    very different. At Air Born, we are fortunate to have qualified riggers both as support staff and as performers.    

    When encountering a client or venue who insists that their in-house riggers perform the task, we have always    

    been able to reach an agreement by having that person escort our rigger / aerialist in the scissor lift to observe    

    what we are doing. Having two sets of eyes on a rigging set up is ideal; If one set of those eyes is the person        

    whose life is dependent on the safety of that set up..even better!

  1. 4.Research all of your options before purchasing equipment.. For something as easily purchased as silks, there are many different types, which may have different strengths, weight limits and stretches. When purchasing hardware, cheaper isn’t always better. Do some research on the hardware and the company from which you are purchasing. For something more complex, such as a portable aerial rig; research all of the vendors and read all of their safety equipment prior to making a purchase. From a broad perspective, there are two basic styles, tripod and quad rig. At Air Born, we only use the quad style rig. While tripods work great for some acts, and are certainly easier to travel with; for us the quad offered more safety and stability as well as the ability to use our trapeze. However, ''more stability'' does not mean we can "Set it and Forget it" (remember that infomercial?). Rigs need to be taken down and inspected and should not be subject to all of the elements such as rain or snow for long periods of time. While they are up, rigs have to be monitored frequently as they are affected by terrain, wind, the aerialists movements etc.

  1. 5.Know what you are hanging from... Sure, its a beam. But is it strong enough to withstand the loads that will be placed on it? In fact, do you know what loads are generated during aerial work? Certain drops can cause a 125lb aerialist to add several hundred more pounds onto the equipment and beam. For that reason, we do not rig to trees. Sure, they are beautiful and it makes for wonderful photos. But while limbs seem strong and mighty, there may be a lot going on inside that would cause a seemingly sturdy limb to snap. If you decide to rig from a tree, spend the extra money to hire an arborist. Peace of mind is priceless!

  1. 6.Insurance is golden...There are already many skeptical clients or venues, nervous about the liability                    

    associated with dangerous acts. Having a vast knowledge of your equipment, its weight requirements and how        

    to rig goes a long way. The other thing that clients love to hear is "We are fully insured". We do not want to    

    seem  like an advertisement for any one insurance company, but we love our performers insurance. It covers    

    the performer, the audience, the equipment and the venue. Even though the coverage and pay out is large, the    

    cost of the insurance is surprisingly affordable.

We hope to never see another ‘aerialist accident’ in the news.  For anyone who has ever been involved in those situations, we sincerely hope you are able to get back in the air and are able to use your experience in educating aerialists everywhere.