Sierran Masthead

Wilderness First Aid Class

By Jane Fuller, Chapter Outings Chair

"Confident." "Satisfied." "Prepared." These are a few of the adjectives participants used to describe their feelings at the close of the 16-hour wilderness first aid class held at the chapter office.

Fifteen Hoosier Chapter members were joined by Sierrans from Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan to receive instruction from Bobbie Foster, a wilderness first responder and first aid trainer from Nevada City, California. Bobbie had been contracted by Steven Shewach, outdoor activities training manager with the Sierra Club in San Francisco, to provide advanced first aid training to Sierra Club outings leaders.

How does wilderness first aid differ from urban first aid? This was the first concept we were required to learn because the care that may be needed in a wilderness situation may be inappropriate or hazardous in an urban setting. In an urban setting, the first aider's primary task is to access the 911 system and get a victim in the hands of a medical professional. While the first aider may need to give CPR, do rescue breathing, or slow or stop life-threatening bleeding, the job is quickly handed over for further assessment and intervention by the pros.

A wilderness situation, by contrast, is defined as being more than one hour away from professional medical care. The first aider needs to be able to identify and assess injuries as well as provide more extensive treatment. Wilderness injuries often involve trauma-injuries such as falls or being struck by moving objects that may injure the head or spine. Following assessment and treatment, a decision must be made on whether the victim needs to be evacuated, and if so, how the evacuation will be done.

First aid trainees practice on "hurt" individuals during the Sierra Club wilderness
first aid training. Observing are trip leader Mat DeLillo, first aid leader
Phil Crookshank, and wilderness first aid instructor Bobbie Foster.
Photo by Tom Ransburg

Bobbie is a very dynamic instructor. Her lectures came alive with stories of real-life situations and emergencies. As soon as we learned about a particular skill, we were put in a practice situation to perform it with other students. Primary assessments, head-to-toe evaluations, clearing the spine, immobilizing the spine, stabilizing injuries, stopping bleeding, sprinting, improvising care with what is at hand, evacuation protocols and techniques...all students became familiar and comfortable with these skills and concepts.

Jane Fuller, Hoosier Chapter outings chair, helps her team identify injuries on a
"patient" in a wilderness first aid scenario. Photo by Tom Ransburg

On Sunday, a written test determined whether a student received a three-year wilderness first aid certification. The afternoon was spent outdoors practicing emergency scenarios.

I find myself thinking differently when planning an outing now," reported Jayne Langan of the Heartlands Committee. "I think now about what could happen and how I could prevent it." The participants agreed that this was one of the most useful and interesting trainings that they have taken, and many expressed the desire to take the next step-to train as a wilderness first responder.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[09/13/03]efp

Fall 2003