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The Mechanics of Tree Hazards

Updated: Jul 24

When we do not take care of our cars and send them for regular maintenance checks, the car can easily become a hazard and a danger to us.


The same goes for trees in our urban environment. They cohabit with other greenery, with people, with buildings, with other urban infrastructure around them. These trees need care and maintenance for their own health, for aesthetic reasons and most importantly, for safety issues.


We shared about what happens when trees become hazardous and how home or property owners can look out for warning signs. Today we take you with us so you can see what happens on the arborists' side of tree hazard assessments.

After the Floods


Recently, Australia has, unfortunately, had to endure another battering of the elements and the floods have caused great damage in the Mid North Coast, New South Wales. It is not just the properties and infrastructures that have been destroyed. The trees around have also fallen victim to their own destructive forces of nature. With fallen trees or those which are still standing but have heavy branches that are left hanging, they can become hazardous and they need to undergo hazard assessments and management so they do not cause further damage to the property or infrastructure around them or cause injury to people near them.


Breaking Down Hazard Assessments


At Accomplished Tree Management, we are experienced with the hazards that trees pose and while they may be our passion and we are dedicated to their care, we also recognise they are large, heavy structures that need to be respectfully managed.


Usually what happens is, the owner of the property where there is a problem contacts us and explains the nature of the hazard, how the tree looks and how it is "behaving". As in the case of the recent floods, it is a weather-related event that has prompted property owners to call us. So even before we actually get down to seeing the tree and assessing it, we already have some important information from that call.


Accomplished Tree Management breaks down hazard assessments into two categories - non-invasive (Stage 1) and invasive (Stage 2).


Stage 1 - Interpreting Body Language


What happens in Stage 1 assessment is reading the trees. This means observing and picking up any information the tree may give us, understanding the signs the tree is sending out. Trees have their own unique body language (and the beauty of it is each species of tree has its own way of expressing itself) and as arborists we understand what they are trying to say. Are some branches or even the entire tree predisposed to failure and cannot be saved? Any change in their environment can affect trees and they respond with their own signs to show if they are adapting well to the changes or not. So at this first stage of assessment, arborists need acute and detailed observations.


You can see Stage 1 as a merely visual assessment where we walk around the tree in question looking for any obvious problems e.g. broken parts, dead bits, any large cavity openings etc. We also use this initial screening to identify which trees need more urgent attention in terms of hazard level.

Stage 2 - Bring Out the Tools


Stage 2 of hazard assessments is an "invasive" one, and it involves having to physically manipulate the tree itself. We always work with care to ensure that it does not cause the tree any long term harm. As long as we have not passed a final decision that a tree needs to be removed due to its hazard threat, we treat each tree with care and respect and our aim is always to ensure life carries on as best as it can.


Depending on what each tree needs, we recommend two different techniques in Stage 2. One technique uses a Resistograph®. This may sound like a rather negative name for a tool, but it really is simply a specialised drill that creates a very discreet hole (approximately 1.5 - 3mm in diameter) in the tree. Think of it like giving the tree a tiny injection.


It is essentially a decay detection equipment typically used at the more advanced stage of tree hazard assessments. This tool helps detect any internal decay in trees that cannot be observed from the outside. When the drilling needle passes through the tree, it records the resistance it encounters. So if there is sign of low resistance, this tells us that there is a possibility that a crack or an area of decay is present. This is minimally invasive to the tree and gives arborists useful information which we would otherwise not have access to.


The Picus® Sonic Tomograph is another tool for this stage of the assessment. It uses the velocity of sound waves in the wood to detect and calculate the area of decay within a tree. Sensors mounted into the cambium (external) layers are placed radially around the tree and these activate the sound waves. If a tree has any damage or disease (causing fractures, cavities or rot), the sound waves get blocked and do not pass directly through the wood. This tool is non-invasive and does not require introducing any instruments into the tree itself.


What Happens Next


Beyond the technicalities of tree hazard assessments, we also need to consider other factors when documenting the assessment. We think about if people could be exposed in the area of the potentially hazardous tree and how many, what kind of activities are taking place in the area affected and also how the terrain is where the tree in question is being assessed. Trees that have been affected by extreme weather conditions (e.g. bushfires, snowstorms, floods) are on a priority list to ensure they get assessed and if hazardous, they are removed before further damage can occur.


If you are in an area that has been affected by the floods and are not sure how hazardous the trees are on your property, contact us to see what we can do to check the hazard level of trees.


Choosing Life


We have seen Australia battle more than its share of natural catastrophes. From bushfires to floods over the last year, we continue to bring our skills and experience to guide the safety of people on properties with trees and also to ensure the longevity of trees that can be left alone to heal, grow and flourish once again. Trees are our constant reminder that life is stronger than the elements. Seeing a fresh green shoot on a burnt tree and watching a tree survive cruel waters inspire us to go beyond our job to deliver the best of our experiences and expertise to our clients. It is a message to tell us to always choose life, even in our darkest moments.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson so simply puts it,

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.

About Accomplished Tree Management: Tel 0411 443 535 Accomplished Tree Management is based in Port Macquarie and services the Mid North Coast. With over 16 years of experience, we employ safe work methods and are certified with Australian AS 4373-2007-Pruning of Amenity Trees standards. We're fully insured with $20 million Public Liability and $1 million Professional Indemnity Insurance. We provide the following tree services -

  • Tree management - tree removals, palm tree services, council permits

  • Tree and garden maintenance - hedging, pruning, deadwooding, stump grinding

  • Tree consultation - arboricultural reports, hazard assessment

"The Mechanics of Tree Hazards"is written by Vermilion Pinstripes, a sales marketing and communications agency based in Port Macquarie helping businesses thrive with brand confidence.

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