Who We Are

MAC-ISA: Continuing to Meet Member Needs during COVID-19

Nancy Herwig, component executive

The Mid Atlantic Chapter (MAC-ISA), like everyone else around the world, has been affected by COVID-19. Fortunately, we were able to host a TRAQ course and renewal class before the stay-at-home order took effect. Then, we had to reschedule a three‐day certification course and cancel our Tree Climbing Championship. We were excited to resume in-person meetings in July, starting with a certification course.

Before the event, we surveyed the participants to find their comfort level with coming to a class versus participating virtually. It was almost 50-50 response for both, but we deemed it safer to offer the course online. So, we worked with our instructors to develop a three‐day, either-hour-a day course on the Zoom platform. We had particularly good feedback from the students and are now planning on offering another online course in January.

After the course, we hosted a pencil-and-paper exam at a private camp where 13 people attended. We followed all of the ISA Guidelines for Extraordinary Measures. Additionally, I drafted some basic procedures for set-up and dismantling the exam and check-in areas, laminated the World Health Organization (WHO) signs and provided hand sanitizer to our proctor. During the concluding announcement, we asked that only one test-taker approach the table at a time for check-out. Also, signs directed them where to place their materials at the end of the class.

In August, we hosted a TRAQ course and a TRAQ renewal course in a state building that had a big display in the lobby about precautions during COVID. Signs were already on the doors reminding everyone to wear a mask. As before, we followed all the ISA guidelines along with some of our own. Also, we had masks available; surprisingly, everyone brought their own.

Our food arrangements were modified from our normal format too. All snacks were individually wrapped, and we had only one type of snack in each basket to eliminate the need for attendees to touch multiple packages to find what they wanted. We served boxed lunches with bottled drinks. Pouring coffee and water out of larger containers was not an option, so we recommended that everyone bring their own coffee and a water bottle. However, we also ran a tab for coffee in the local restaurant for those who needed a caffeine boost.

Here are a few precautionary measures we followed:

Before the arrival of test-takers

  • Set up and wipe down the tables.
  • Place chairs at least six feet apart at tables and facing the same direction.
  • Set up the table or podium in front of the room for the instructor.
  • Hang signs or set them out on the table(s).
  • Set up a hand-sanitizing area.
  • Set up snack baskets with only one type of prepackaged snack in each.
  • Place markers on the ground to designate six feet of space between those waiting to sign in.

Check-in Process

  • Staff/volunteer sits behind a table with the sign-in sheet.
  • The test-taker lays his/her license on the table and lifts his/her mask for a moment.
  • Proctor confirms the test-taker’s identification without touching the license.
  • The test-taker signs the sign-in sheet and picks up a nametag, the COVID-19 acknowledgment form and any other materials.
  • The test-taker selects a seat he/she will use throughout the entire day.

During class and breaks

  • Remind students to keep masks on unless eating or drinking.
  • Remind students to stay six feet apart.
  • Only one student may use the restroom at a time.

Adding the precautions did not take that much time and was well worth it. Attendees seemed very comfortable following the guidelines and were happy to be in the class.