Former Vertical Access employee Keith Luscinski is now the Technical Institute Manager for Petzl. Recently he competed in his second-ever tree climbing competition. The previous year he landed 6th place and this year he dropped to 14th. “I prepared a lot for it, but there’s no way to compete with people who climb trees everyday and have years of experience.”
Keith is a self-taught tree climber, using the trees initially to practice rock climbing rescue skills. Eventually though, he fell in love with his time working at-height in a natural environment. While studying at Cornell University and a few years following, he taught classes on tree climbing techniques, which included regional classes in the upstate NY area for Cornell researchers. Tree climbing took him from the Sequoias to Costa Rica to Madagascar.
Now, five years later, Keith stepped into the competitors ring. “I wanted to start competing for professional development reasons; to learn more about tree climbing techniques and the tree care industry.”
Keith came to Vertical Access in 2006 with a background in industrial engineering and years of experience rock climbing and tree climbing throughout the world.
Keith Luscinski worked for Vertical Access from 2006 to 2017, “climbing” from a Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Certified Level I Technician all the way up to a SPRAT Certified Level III Rope Access Supervisor. During his time at Vertical Access, Keith served as the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), chair of the Safety Reporting Committee in 2016 as well as the chair of the Research Grant Committee from 2014 – 2016.
He has combined his knowledge of rigging and engineering to design and test industrial rope access equipment. Through a grant from The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Keith tested various types of mechanical anchor systems in sandstone and limestone. He also developed a rolling anchor system that permits efficient hands-on inspections of cable-stayed bridges.
Before joining Vertical Access, Keith worked for Cornell Outdoor Education to pioneer recreational tree climbing instruction. He helped implement institutional standards and safety protocols that are being adopted by similar organizations throughout the country.
We are so grateful to have had Keith on our staff and excited to follow his adventures with Petzl!
Like most of the professional world,
the onset of a pandemic induced work stoppage and quarantine presented opportunity
where it was once otherwise lost – time for some serious professional
development hours and continuing education. Personally, the accumulated dust on the piano keys, table
saw, and Dutch oven was a welcomed indicator that there was now time for all
the hobbies and unread books that fell to the wayside before traveling was put
on hold. Professionally, it meant
having dedicated time to explore new organizations and attend webinars,
conferences and symposia with the click of a button. With travel time and expenses eliminated, the virtual world attempts
to compensate for where it fails in the lack of
face-to-face contact, affording me a rise in information exchange and learning.
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) was one
of the organizations I explored, on the recommendation of a co-worker. My introduction started with a crash
course in dam assessment and inspections over three days of immersive ASDSO
taught sessions, scheduled to take place just a few blocks from where I live in
Nashville, TN. Like the rest of
2020 scheduled events, the course was ultimately switched to a virtual format. The course dove head first into more
technical aspects than I anticipated and pressed my memory of fluid mechanics
and hydrology from college. I
started with a basic working knowledge of dams, but nothing too extensive, and
finished feeling confident about making initial dam assessments and
inspections. Material covered everything from risk assessment and hazard creep
to inspection procedures, down to the Weir and flow rate equations for sizing
up spillways and measuring seepage. Case studies were a central feature to
illustrate the development of today’s emergency action plans and legal
precedents, which still vary by state.
I was surprised to hear that recreation is the most common purpose of
dams in the U.S. (as opposed to flood control, water supply, irrigation,
hydropower, etc.), considering the controversy surrounding them.
“Drinking from a firehouse” was the
term used to describe the course by the instructors, which was a reference to
the amount of material covered and speed at which it was taught, especially for
those without an engineering or dam-specific technical background. The scheduled onsite dam inspection
that typically occurs during the last day of the in-person course was missed
but the instructors did a great job of compensating for it virtually.
I was also able to attend the recent
annual ASDSO Dam Safety Conference and serve as a representative at our
company-sponsored booth. This
would be the first virtual conference I’ve attended following the March
Networking is one of the many aspects
of in-person events that the virtual space fails to replicate. I may stand corrected when virtual
reality becomes as mainstream as the iPhone and FaceTime, but until then it
just won’t be the same. The
conference was setup in such a way that encouraged and incentivized striking up
dialog with other attendees, visiting booths, and attending sessions, which helped
narrow the gap between our world and the Matrix. Like the course, the general and concurrent sessions were
filled with technical demonstrations, modeling, and case studies from various
respective dam safety professionals.
Despite the virtual format I was still able to reconnect with colleagues
and even make new connections from the safety of my home, thanks to the chat
The conference, along with the
course, provided a great introduction to the world of dam safety, albeit
virtually. With travel and work schedules
almost back to normal it stands as evidence of a silver-lined shut down.
Tuli Kuckes has joined the firm as a SPRAT Certified Level 1 Rope Access Technician and Preservation Technician. He is a graduate of Skidmore College and the National Outdoor Leadership School, served as a High Ropes Course instructor, and has his Wilderness First Responder certification.
Matthew Kreidler has joined the firm as our new TPAS and CAD Manager. He received his Masters in Architecture from the University at Buffalo and comes to the firm from Boston Valley Terra Cotta.
Judith Fagin, PMP, has joined the firm as Business Development Manager. Judy has spent the majority of her career in project development and implementation and has worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She has a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Tulane University, a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami, and did graduate work in Historic Preservation at Columbia University. She recently received her Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.
On March 11, 2020 I was in South Bend, Indiana with
co-worker Patrick Capruso and colleagues Casey Williams and Mary Donlon of
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. Just as novel coronavirus was starting to
dominate the news headlines around that time, a lot of our dinner talk during
the two days on site centered on the topic. What would it be like traveling home
later that week? Would our offices be open next week? What precautions would we
need to take in the coming weeks and months?
Then on Friday, March 20, New York’s Governor Cuomo
announced he was putting the state “on pause” and that all non-essential
workers must stay home as of the following Monday, March 23. Certainly, compared
to the heroic work performed by medical professionals and first responders, we
did not consider our work essential, and we asked all staff to work remotely as
of March 23.
Most of our ten-person company already works from their homes
across several states, so we were fairly well equipped to continue doing so.
The few people in our main office in Ithaca were now asked to make that
relatively simple transition as well. The larger impact was that the
stay-at-home order meant that all of the field work that we had scheduled for
the rest of March and beyond was now postponed.
Over the rest of March and through April and May our company
took the same steps that many of our colleagues and other small businesses
followed. We made cash flow projections assuming a plunge in billings. We
applied for, and thankfully received, a Paycheck Protection Program loan
through our local bank, Tompkins Trust Company. We developed an in-house
COVID-19 Plan for office, travel and site work. We watched webinar after
webinar on how to handle the financial, professional and personal impacts of
COVID 19. We acquired disposable gloves, face shields and masks, alcohol wipes
and other supplies to keep staff safe once we were ready to return to the
office and field work. And we checked daily, sometimes hourly, updates about
New York Forward, the phased re-opening plan of New York State.
By the end of April, some states had started planning their
re-openings, including Montana, which has had one of the lowest rates of
infection and deaths in the United States throughout the pandemic. One of our
projects that had been scheduled for months prior to the beginning of the
pandemic was an assessment of the Montana State Capitol, working with Comma-Q
Architecture of Bozeman, Hennebery Eddy Architects of Portland, OR and DCI
Engineers, also from Bozeman. Our one of week of field work was originally
scheduled to begin April 13 before it was postponed due to COVID-19. With
Montana re-opening and with New York starting to establish its plan for
re-opening, known as “New York Forward,” we agreed with the project team on a
June 1 start date for our field work in Helena. For the next couple weeks as we
continued to track the health situations in Montana and New York, we became
more comfortable with the June 1 start date.
Typically, I get my temperature taken once a year, in the
doctor’s office for my annual physical. But in May I purchased a noncontact
thermometer and started taking my temperature daily, as well as checking my
oxygen levels and pulse with a fingertip oximeter. We had as a company decided
that we would take daily temperature checks while on site, and previous records
of our temperature would be useful for establishing our own personal baselines.
As expected, my temperature did not fluctuate much from 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit
over the course of several weeks. The morning of Sunday, May 31, I started my
journey to Helena, MT in Syracuse, NY. After my third flight that day, as I
left the secure area of the airport in Helena, a group of Montana National
Guard members greeted me, and all other deplaning passengers with a few
screening questions and a temperature check. My temperature was normal. The
morning of June 1, I took my temperature again and it was now above 99 degrees,
a significant increase from my consistent readings of 97.9. I took my
temperature an hour later and it was over 100 degrees. I immediately looked up
COVID-19 testing centers in Helena, MT. Later that morning after confirming
with one that I should and could get tested, I was in the line of cars at the
closest testing center.
I spent the next three days in my hotel room waiting. At the
testing site I was told I would get the results in 24 to 48 hours. After about
24 hours I called the hospital where I was tested, but the results were not in
yet. After 48 hours I called again, and the results were still not in. Finally,
at 5 pm on Thursday, the hospital called to tell me the good news, my test came
back negative. What a relief to know that I had not put those who I had come
into contact with over the past two weeks at risk. What a relief to know that I
would be able to join my co-workers on site the next day at the Montana State
Capitol to help them finish the project.
During my three days in isolation, I thought a lot about the
measures I had taken since mid-March to protect myself and those around me and
I thought a lot about the precautions I had not taken. There is always more
that I could have done, and more that I will do because this is not the end of
the COVID-19 story.
Marshall Sellers, a registered architect in New York, has joined Vertical Access as branch manager of our New York City office. Marshall earned his Master of Architecture from the University of Louisiana and brings 13 years experience working in architecture offices in New York and Louisiana on historic structures and building envelopes. A SPRAT Level I certified rope access technician, Marshall is fluent in Revit, BlueBeam, Newfoma, Fieldlens, AutoCAD and other software.
The proposed rule would require almost all UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds to be able to broadcast their identity and location directly from the aircraft and/or transmit that information via internet link from takeoff to landing to an FAA-approved third party service provider, allowing law enforcement agencies and the public access to real-time information about where drones are flying. Manufacturers would have up to two years to make sure their products meet the performance requirements, and operators would have up to three years from the rule’s effective date to comply. It’s estimated that most unmanned aircraft currently available to consumers could be made compliant via software updates.
According to the FAA, remote identification is a step towards enabling the safe authorization of flights over people and moving vehicles as well as flights beyond visual line of sight, both of which are necessary for full-scale implementation of drone deliveries, emergency response support, and infrastructure inspection.
The public comment period for the proposed rule is open through March 2, 2020.
Kent Diebolt and Berta de Miguel have written a children’s book, “Immigrant Architect”. This book is an extension of the authors’ shared passion for the life and work of Rafael Guastavino Moreno and his son, Rafael Guastavino Expósito.
In an effort to offer clients the best possible services in challenging access situations, Vertical Access has purchased a new diagnostic borescope to replace our older video enabled borescope system that we bought 25 years ago. Vertical Access uses these devices to afford minimally invasive observations to seeing behind cladding materials as well as any other hidden spaces we are asked to investigate. This upgrade features on-board, all-in-one light source, video screen, and recording capabilities.
Modern day borescopes, which are more industrial versions of the endoscopes first created in the early 1800s[i], generally refer to any device that provides a view of what is going on within an inanimate structure through a small opening.
Borescopes originally referred to small diameter scopes with different angles of view for different applications, but it is generally assumed in modern applications that a camera and a light source are connected or included in the setup. The scopes are traditionally long rigid lenses (rigid borescopes) or flexible fiber optic varieties (flexible borescopes or fiberscopes). Some of the newer styles available simply have a video camera on the tip of a flexible cable. This particular variety is sometimes referred to as a videoscope because the camera sensor is permanently integrated into the system, but they are still covered under the general definition of a borescope.
Vertical Access’s newest tool is the Fluke DS703 FC Diagnostic Scope. This videoscope replaces our current setup, which was composed of an Olympus ILV-2 light source with Hawkeye lens scopes. This will complement a 200’ fiber optic scope called the SeeSnake® that Vertical Access still uses for applications such as drain investigations.
The Fluke DS703 FC Diagnostic Scope incorporates a 7-inch touch display screen with a 0 and 90 degree lens system on the end of a 4 foot flexible cable. It provides all of the capabilities of the old borescope system at a fraction of the size complete with wifi connectivity and 6GB of internal storage.
The connectivity that is made possible by adding a mobile phone will have important implications for immediate feedback in the field. A technician on the ground will be able to connect and download what the technician on rope is seeing before the test location has been left, should there be questions about what else the client wants to see.
With the addition of an HDMI cable, Vertical Access will also be able to provide live video through the diagnostic scope. Most importantly, this new scope no longer requires an extension cord to power the light source. Coming in at 2 pounds, this fully integrated system will be a huge asset in the fieldwork to come.
Published in November 2019 by CRC Press, Applications of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Best Practices and Case Studies presents case studies for UAS-enabled applications across a range of disciplines. Drones have made established technologies like photogrammetry, aerial imaging, and mapping affordable and accessible. Now, early adopters are sharing their expertise, allowing researchers, governments, and businesses to fully understand what is possible and to envision new UAS applications.
Kristen Olson wrote about Vertical Access’s work at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Monument in her contribution to chapter 9, “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) and Structure from Motion for Identifying, Documenting, and Monitoring Cultural and Natural Resources”. VA used multiple means of access to gather information about the exterior and interior of the monument, including UAS to document existing conditions at inaccessible interior spaces. Kristen co-presented on this case study at the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology Digital Documentation Summit in New Orleans in 2017 along with Douglas Gonzalez of Leslie E. Robertson Associates.
‘Twas the month before Christmas, Thanksgiving weekend On a campus deserted, but lo! There ascends We know not yet which – sleigh, climber, or drone To place upon high a garment on loan From a jolly old elf: a hat red and white; A mischievous prank under cover of night…
Exactly 22 years and 58 days after one of the most famous pranks in the history of the Ivy League, another mysterious object appeared atop Cornell University’s McGraw Tower on Sunday, December 1. This time, instead of a hollow gourd, it was a Santa hat. No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the caper, and the perpetrators’ means of access is unknown.
A swirl of questions surrounded the pumpkin, after it was discovered on the morning of October 8, 1997. Speculators wondered whether it was real and pondered how anyone had managed to impale it at the top of a steeply-sloping metal roof. Student scientists competed to obtain a sample of the object to confirm that it was, indeed, a pumpkin. And finally, after enduring five months of winter conditions, the shriveled fruit was removed with a crane. To this day, the pranksters have not revealed their identities (Vertical Access was not involved).
Unlike the pumpkin, the hat has disappeared just as quietly
as it appeared. Did a certain toymaker reclaim his cap? Did the wind blow it
down? Why didn’t they call VA? We may never know.
While Vertical Access had nothing to do with the placement of the hat – “my alibi is rock-solid,” says Founding Partner Kent Diebolt [Cornell ‘82] – we stand at the ready to put our expertise to work in accessing, documenting, or removing the next object to appear atop McGraw Tower.