How is a belay smart?
Can a smart belay make me a coffee? Not quite… but it can stop you spilling your freshly made coffee all over yourself as you see your participant standing on top of a 10-meter high structure with both their carabiners in their hand asking you where to clip?
If you work in the adventure industry you probably have had this experience. The chances are that you know all too well that feeling of panic you have to push down as you calmly tell your participant to please clip one carabiner onto the cable that is there to keep you safe! No matter how well we do the safety briefing, and how much supervision we have it is impossible to watch every person make every single clip. And as humans, we will make mistakes. It’s all about minimising the risk of these mistakes.
Smart Belays were designed to make the adventure industry safer. As ropes courses moved away from being used only by specialist groups for specific training and development and moved into the realm of commercial activities for children, young adults, and team building they opened up to a bigger market. This encouraged new builders, more creative designs, and a much bigger reach. Then accidents started to occur and thus a need for a safer system was born.
The first system was designed and engineered in 2007 by 2 swiss mountaineers. They had built a ropes park and had realised the risk of a participant being on an edge with no safety equipment attached needed to be reduced. The first system of speedrunner was created which would later become the safe roller system that we know today. The effects of this new safety system were immediate as they noticed a 25% increase in throughput and it was almost impossible for a client to detach themselves short of removing their own harness. The first adventure park to completely change over to this new continuous belay system was in Zermatt in 2009 (https://www.zermatt-fun.com/) and soon after other parks started to follow.
Since 2007 there has been an increase in research and development of continuous safety systems for the adventure park industry and today we have more options to choose from.
We have a few different types of systems on the market in South Africa so we will categorize them as follows:
1. Smart Belay System:
This is the version we may be familiar with. It closely matches the traditional system of using 2 cow tails or lanyards and has been upgraded with mechanical locks. These allow a participant to actively use their own safety system while still being continuously attached. Once the user is clipped into the cable at the start of the course the user cannot unclip both lanyards off the system. Effectively, the user is required to either finish the course or ask for assistance from a staff member to unlock the device using a key. An example of this type of system is CLiC-iT.
A big advantage of this type of system is that it can be used in an existing park without any alterations required and offers a great experience for your guests. Here are some links to parks that currently using the CLiC-iT smart belay system:
2. Continuous Belay system:
This is a passive system where you are continuously attached and no input from the participant is required. Systems like this are essentially a closed loop. They have a glider attached to the cable with special brackets that are called intermediaries. The intermediaries allow the glider to go around corners and pass around obstructions like activity poles. The Fall Protect system started off in industrial work at height space and has been adapted for the adventure industry. The attachments, cable, and intermediary are all rated and designed by engineers to international standards.
These systems are great if you are building a park that requires high throughput and low staff monitoring. The disadvantage is that the participant has no involvement meaning they sometimes lose the experiential learning opportunity of the activity.
Another system that is continuous but can be built in sections is Coudou Pro. These still have participant involvement and are very low maintenance. Coudou Pro is a brand supported by Kong Italy and is in use in some truly impressive parks like bounce below in the UK.
Choosing an appropriate safety system is not as simple as it seems at first glance. We need to look at the risk profile of our potential clients, what kind of experience we want to offer, and the number of participants that will be using the course. Also, we want to prioritise safety while keeping the user experience authentic and enriching. We will be happy to assist you with choosing the best system suitable for your adventure park.
Smart Belay Solutions:
|Traditional Cow Tail Method||