The Tower Handbook

3.2: Be Prepared

You can reduce or prevent problems if you think how you would cope with them and take precautionary measures. This section is to help you think ahead.

a: Should we have a first aid kit in the tower?

Yes. Minor injuries can happen anywhere. You can deal with them quickly and hygienically if you have a first aid kit to hand. Provide first aid facilities in the tower unless you have ready access to them in the church.

b: What should be in the tower first aid kit?

You can buy a small general purpose kit or you can buy separate items. Sticking plaster is the commonest need, to protect cuts and scratches on people's hands while ringing, or to patch up blisters caused by rough ropes or rough handling. You can get an assortment of sizes, but bear in mind that a plaster with a lint (non sticky) centre may not stay on very long if it is where you hold the rope. You may find (flexible) plaster on a reel better because it can be cut to length and wrapped more securely round the finger, far enough to stick to itself. So include some scissors. Some disinfectant cream and cotton wool is useful too.

Think what other hazards you may meet in your tower and make sure you have what you need to cope with them. Always make sure you replace consumables like plaster, and make sure the container is clearly marked and easily visible [5]. It will be of no use if people can't find it when they need it.

c: What happens if we have a power cut?

That depends on whether you have emergency lighting fitted.

If it went suddenly dark while you were ringing, how many of your ringers would remain calm and stand their bells? How many would reliably catch their sallies in the dark? How many would panic? And how would your learners react if they were ringing at the time?

Emergency light fittings that trickle charge from the mains and come on automatically when it fails are widely available and easy to fit. If you do not have one, talk to your PCC. You can also get simple plug-in ones.

d: What would we do if a rope broke?

Do you keep a spare rope? Is there always someone present with a key to the bell chamber? How many of your ringers know how to fit a new rope and adjust it for length? Would they know which bells to lower so they could gain safe access to the one that has broken? If you can't answer these questions positively, what could you do about it?

And when you have changed the rope, can anyone repair it? Most breaks only affect a small part of the rope and a splice can save you the cost of a new rope. If you can splice, why not teach someone else (and encourage them to practise by doing the next repair - ideally under your supervision). If you can't splice, why not find someone who will teach you? See section 14.8m.

e: Can we avoid ropes breaking?

You can greatly reduce the risk. You can't make ropes last for ever, but by checking them regularly and being aware of any tell tale signs of problems, you should be able to remove any ropes at risk before they break. Make sure there are no abnormal causes of wear and you will help your ropes to last longer and reduce the risk of premature failure. See section 14.8.

f: Can we prevent stays breaking?

Proper maintenance and stays made of the right materials will help, but the most important ingredient is TLC (tender loving care). In normal ringing you should never touch the stay (let alone bang it). Always ease your bell gently onto the stay when you set it. If everyone did this, there would be few broken stays. Learners present problems, but if they are properly taught and supervised, with the correct length of rope, they should not bump the stay very often, and then not heavily. See section 14.5 for advice on looking after stays, and whenever you are in the bell chamber for any reason, have a quick look round to see whether any seem bent or cracked.

g: Is it possible to break a stay even if you do not bang it?

That depends on what you mean by 'break' and 'bang'. If someone else bangs the stay and cracks it, it may not break immediately, but may do so later when someone else touches the stay or stands the bell. Very rarely will a stay fall off without contact with the slider, but it has been known to happen. If the stay is fitted in a socket in the headstock the bolt can work loose without the stay movement being large enough to notice. In the same way, the dingler [6] on a Hastings stay can work loose and drop off. Include this in your routine safety checks. See section 14.5c.

h: Can I detect when a stay has been damaged?

Very often. It depends on how the stay has cracked. If it has split part way through, it will give more under the weight of the bell, so it will be deep set when you come to pull it off, and will feel 'spongy' when you set the bell. (It may also be light set, or impossible to set at backstroke because of the bent stay). If you set your bell properly by holding it just over the balance and then resting it gently on the stay, you will have the best chance of detecting the tell tale 'give'. Then make sure it is investigated. Don't ignore it. It could break in twenty minutes when a learner might be ringing it.

i: Can you ring a bell without a stay?

There is an old joke about whether it hurts when you fall down to which the answer is 'It doesn't hurt when you fall, only when you stop'. It is the same with the stay and ringing. You don't need a stay until you want to stand the bell. If you are ringing properly, the stay and slider will never touch the end stop until you stop.

If one of the bells has no stay and you need to continue the ringing session, you have two possibilities:

j: What if someone opens the door while we are ringing?

Strangers do occasionally burst in upon ringers. Is your ringing room small with an inward opening door? If so would it hit anyone ringing if it were thrown open by someone in a hurry? A notice on the outside of the door warning of the risk caused by opening it during ringing could prevent an accident. Better still, a small window at eye height in the door would allow people to see whether it might hit anyone.

k: What happens if there is a fire?

It is not very likely, especially as fewer people smoke these days, but it could happen, perhaps caused by an electrical fault. Where is the nearest fire extinguisher? There ought to be one in the ringing chamber if it is upstairs, since going down to the church to bring one up could lose valuable time. If you do not already have one, you should talk to your PCC about getting one.

l: What is a hazard analysis?

It is a fancy term for systematically writing down all the things that could go wrong and what the consequences would be if they did. It is a good way to make sure you consider all possibilities, including the ones that might otherwise be overlooked. It helps you to focus on the greatest risks. If there ever was a serious accident, being able to demonstrate that you had taken all reasonable precautions would be very useful. When you do such an analysis, it often tells you things you think are obvious anyway. But then if they really are so obvious, why had you not already taken preventive action?

For example, one tower analysed the chance of unauthorised access to the bells. Despite several locks and doors there was a weak link in the protection. An intruder could gain access to a critical key and enter the bell chamber, without forcing any doors. The problem was easy to solve, once identified.

m: What happens if …?

We can't anticipate all the things that may happen in your particular tower. Only you know all your local circumstances. You are the best people to anticipate what may happen and how to deal with it.


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