Wilderness first aid required when medical technology is unavailable
By Michael Darzi
When calling 911 is not an immediate option and help in the form of a hospital or trauma center is more than an hour (or days) away, time becomes the essential element between wilderness first aid (WFA) and standard first aid. In such situations, the task of managing the injured and the ill will challenge one beyond basic first-aid knowledge, and require skills that make you think “outside the box.”
Wilderness medicine is required whenever medical technology is unavailable, whether due to a lack of adequate equipment or too distant medical facilities. WFA’s value makes it a requirement for many groups such as search-and-rescue and the Boy Scouts of America for its highadventure bases, and highly recommended for outdoor leaders and guides. WFA is an intensive 16-hour course that teaches students how to properly assess, treat, and manage common illnesses and injuries.
Long hikes, extended lengths of rivers, large expanses of ocean, and miles of asphalt may separate the patient from a medical facility. You may have to endure heat or cold, rain, wind, or darkness.
The equipment needed for treatment and evacuation may have to be improvised, and communication with the “outside world” may be limited or nonexistent. Remote locations and harsh environments may require creative treatments. All these things can be a part of the world of Wilderness First Aid.
The Sierra Club’s Potomac Region Outings (PRO) is teaming with The Center for Wilderness Safety to hold two Wilderness First Aid courses this summer. The courses, taught by The Center for Wilderness Safety at the Turkey Run Education Center in Prince William Forest Park, are sponsored by PRO.
Courses are open to all. Sierra Club outings leaders are eligible for reimbursement. CPR/AED certification is a prerequisite—if you do not have that, you may register for a CPR/AED course at TrinityPresbyterian Church, Herndon, VA. See the complete schedule at www.wildsafe.org/courses.
This WFA course covers more than the basic first-aid requirement for Sierra Club outings leaders. If you are interested only in a CPR/AED course, CWS also teaches American Red Cross CPR/AED and will gladly schedule a class to accommodate your schedule. See www.wildsafe.org/courses/cpr.htm for more information. Outings leaders are also eligible for reimbursement of basic first-aid training.Michael Darzi is chair of Potomac Region Outings.