Rating Corner | How to Write an Incident Report
By Ron Bell
Last summer, the USPA Board instituted a Basic Safety Requirement that obligates instructors to report any AAD activation—student, instructor, videographer or anyone else on the jump—that occurs during a student jump that they are on or supervising (in the case of solo students). If it is a two-instructor jump, then both instructors are responsible for reporting the activation. Although an AAD activation report is the only incident report USPA requires instructors to file (the board can discipline members who do not comply), instructors should file a report when anything affecting safety—injuries, malfunctions, cutaways, etc.—occur during a student skydive.
A good incident report gives a thorough account of what happened without glossing over unsavory information or leaving out crucial facts. It’s vital to follow the appropriate protocol outlined in Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 5-8 to make the report as useful as possible. Writing only, “A tandem student broke his ankle,” will not help prevent similar incidents in the future.
Here are seven things to keep in mind when filling out an incident report:
1| Use the online submission form. You can access it with any internet-connected computer, tablet or phone at uspa.org/ir. The next best option is to use the downloadable PDF. You can save to the file as you gather the facts. If you have to write the report by hand, print clearly instead of using cursive. Please don’t leave us speculating as to whether your 1s are actually 7s.
2| Gather all the facts. Don’t leave any blank lines on the form. All the information on the Incident Reporting Form is essential and required for a reason.
3| Start the report as soon as possible. Write it the same day as the incident, if possible. If you wait a day or two, your memory will start to get a little fuzzy. Write down at least the basic facts as soon as the incident occurs. The same applies to your witness statements.
4| Write a narrative that tells what happened. Write a chronological description of precisely what happened when you reported to the scene. Don’t just describe the injury or incident but tell a story from beginning to end (if you were there to witness it). The harm may have occurred on landing, but the story started when the jumper put on their gear (or even earlier). How was their preparation? Were they excessively nervous? If there was nothing significant to report, state that, but give it some thought. Adding details is imperative.
5| Be meticulous, specific and clear. Write as much as you can remember—the more details, the better. Don’t leave room for people reading the report to interpret something the wrong way. The important thing is to report a complete picture of what occurred. Don’t use flowery, confusing language to describe what occurred. Your writing should be clear and concise. Use short, to-the-point, fact-oriented sentences that don’t leave room for interpretation. Do not write something in the report that you aren’t sure actually happened. Report hearsay as hearsay, not as fact.
6| Description of incident section: Describe the event, including factual information obtained from the investigation and any witness statements. Do not add speculation or conjecture in this section.
7| Conclusion section: Provide speculation or conjecture in this section. This is the area where you interpret what may have been the cause of the incident using the facts from the description section.
Instructors play a vital part in student safety, as well as in the safety of others at the drop zone who look to instructors as mentors. Filing thoughtful, complete incident reports after an accident or injury will help you play a part in safety not only at your own DZ but around the world, as well.
Ron Bell | D-26863
USPA Director of Safety and Training