Have you ever looked at a tree near your home or driveway and wondered: “What are the chances this tree will fall down?” The fact is, what goes up must come down eventually, and that goes for trees. Many trees live long lives and it will be obvious when they are getting sick and ready to fall, but in some cases it’s not clear. Nor is it clear to the average person what kind of damage a tree could cause if it fell. Fortunately, an arborist with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) is an expert at calculating the chance of a complete or partial failure of a tree, and what sort of damage they could cause.

What is a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification?

To receive a TRAQ, a certified arborist must take an intensive two day course and pass a challenging 100 question test and a one hour live tree examination. In the course, the arborist learns the best methods to determine and calculate tree risk. Much like a pilot should go through a checklist when starting a plane, a TRAQ gives an arborist a standardized process and form to fill for assessing trees and the nearby environment for risk. They learn how to quantify dozens of factors such as species, weight of the tree, the lean, the tree structure, the influence of decomposers like mushrooms and insects, wind forces, and soil conditions in a holistic way and clearly communicate this information to the client in both written and verbal forms.

How Does Using an Arborist with a TRAQ Benefit Me?

While all certified arborists are able to assess risk, apply treatments, and communicate with their clients to a large degree, a TRAQ ensures the arborist is able to do all three at the highest level. The following are five ways using a TRAQ Arborist could save you money, stress, and legal trouble.

  1. Confidence is Critical. An unqualified arborist probably can tell you if a tree is risky, but a TRAQ will allow the arborist to say the threat is minimal or dire with greater confidence. If they say the risk of failure is very low, you can rest easier than if an unqualified arborist is pretty sure the risk is low. By standardizing the process, arborists will make fewer mistakes in both assessment and treatment, putting both you and them at less risk of financial damage and injury.
  2. Precise Treatments. With a TRAQ, an arborist may be able to offer a treatment to reduce risk to an acceptable level without completely felling the tree (through targeted pruning or a fungicide treatment, for example), saving you money and heartache from a needlessly felled tree. They can better protect trees from storm and fire damage this way, as well. Just removing a few branches in the crown to reduce air resistance could be the difference between a tree toppling in a high wind event or staying upright.
  3. Less Climbing. If the arborist has to fell the tree, by quantifying the risk and accurately identifying failure points of the tree, they may be able confidently do so without a time-consuming climbing process, which could save you money. Even if the arborist must climb, they can do so more efficiently and safely by not second guessing the risk profile.
  4. Clear and Consistent Communication. A TRAQ gives the arborist the tools to communicate risk with you in ways anyone can understand. This will give you confidence in the arborist’s treatment, rather than sowing doubt with jargon or an unclear sense of the problem. Also, a uniform process means one TRAQ arborist can perform an assessment, and five years later, a different TRAQ arborist could look at this assessment form and understand the information at a glance, saving you money because they do not have to perform their own assessment. 
  5. Legal Protection. In the written report, your arborist will use the same language as lawyers and insurance companies, which could benefit you in a legal case or insurance dispute where the tree falls down and causes damage. If the TRAQ assessment says the risk was very low, you are more likely to not be found to be at fault. A non-standardized risk assessment might not count as good evidence in court.

When Should I Get My Trees Assessed?

You might think a tree is perfectly healthy and it is a needless expense to have an arborist evaluate them, but there are some conditions or situations where you should consider a professional assessment, especially for larger trees:

  • The presence of fungus, holes, or insect damage. Even a small hole could indicate more extensive damage.
  • A complex tree shape with lots of leaning and twisting branches, especially if it moves a lot in the wind. A leaning tree on a slope is especially prone to failure.
  • Any signs of mottling or yellowing of the leaves if not deciduous.
  • Any large tree within fifty feet of your home should be assessed at least every three years, more often if leaning over a bedroom or other frequently occupied room or area. 
  • If any major work on the soil has been done near a tree such as excavation or stump removal, critical roots could have been damaged. 
  • If another nearby tree has been removed that may have been blocking wind. The tree might be vulnerable to strong winds since it had adapted to a windbreak.
  • If you think a tree has been struck by lightning during the dry season, you should call 911, since it can smolder for days or even weeks before erupting in flames. Even if the first responders believe it will not smolder, it still may have suffered structural damage.
  • If a tree has suffered obvious damage in a storm, fire, flood, earthquake, car accident, or other physical trauma, it should be assessed as soon as possible.

Have Your Tree Assessed for Risk by Vintage Tree Care!

As you can see, there’s a lot of tangible benefit behind this little acronym. Using a TRAQ arborist like Fred Frey at Vintage Tree Care is the safest bet when you want to know if and how your tree might fail. More and more arborists are acquiring this qualification because it benefits them and their clients so much. Call or message for a quote for a tree risk assessment today!