The outdoors is great. But, under some circumstances, can unfortunately also come with risks to your safety and the safety of others. There are, however, measures that can be taken to increase how safe everyone is in the outdoors.
An important first step is acknowledging the risks involved. Stuff doesn’t only ever happen to a friend of a friend who heard of someone who had a mishap in the outdoors. I did that recently and asked myself which skills, knowledge and gear I can personally improve to be safer in the outdoors. One was stepping up my first aid game.
My most recent first aid certificates
In the past, I have completed some first aid courses, including first aid for road safety and first aid in the workplace.
Since I started working with volunteers in a seminar setting and then even more so once I started going on short outdoor activities with them, I felt that the basic workplace first aid wasn’t quite cutting it anymore. Also, my personal time in the outdoors and my ambitions for adventures increased. I wanted something more comprehensive, something more specific to what I am actually doing. So to the internet I turned to research and I booked myself into two first aid classes, one in late 2018 and one in early 2019. Here’s how they went.
Outdoor First Aid by Borderlands First Aid, Gilwern, South Wales
This course is designed for leaders of outdoor activities, hikes and group excursions. In two 8 hour days, it covers scenarios that we might encounter when being in the great outdoors by ourselves, with a friend or with a whole group. I attended one of these classes in January, led by trainer Martin Sweeney in the Gilwern outdoor centre in South Wales.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the gym of the Gilwen outdoor centre and met my fellow first aid trainees, as all I knew was the little course description from the internet. With that in mind, I can’t deny that I was a little nervous. But, as it turned out very soon after the start, there was absolutely no reason to be nervous as trainer Martin created an open, safe and welcoming space for everyone and made the two days fun and educating.
His focus was on the practical side of things. So with everything we learned, Martin pointed out the practical implications and some real-life examples from his or someone else’s rich experiences. That helped to illustrate the point and also made listening for longer periods of time very easy. All information was summarized in a comprehensive guide book for every participant.
The most outstanding part of the course were the “scenarios”. These were roleplays indoors and outdoors where we got to practice what we had learned and perform some actual hands-on first aid tasks. Now, when these roleplays were announced, I found the idea daunting at first, even though I immediately saw the benefits. But again, Martin created such a welcoming space and made sure everyone felt comfortable that even for me, a socially anxious introvert, there was nothing to worry about. The added benefits of these scenarios far outways the temporal lack of safety in one’s comfort zone. I learned so much during these two days and I am glad I found this course.
Canine First Aid by ProTrainings, Llanharran, South Wales
The second first aid course I took part in may seem a little more obscure but again, is rooted in and specific for what I am actually doing.
In late 2018 I participated in a canine first aid course given by trainer Sian Lake at the Hope Rescue Centre for dogs in Llanharran. I am a volunteer for Hope Rescue and as that got invited to participate in this course for free. However, looking back on the course I would absolutely spend my own money to participate had I not been given access to this class as a volunteer.
Again, the atmosphere at the course was very welcoming and Sian shared a lot from her personal experience not only as a dog owner but also as a member of a mountain rescue team. For me personally, there was a great overlap between the volunteering for a dog charity and my adventures in the outdoors as I personally bring dogs to the hills with me and also create dog-friendly outdoor activities for groups as a guide.
Here, too, the course was a mixture of explanations via a presentation and practical exercises. Each participant got a dog mannequin to practice bandages, vital sign monitoring, carrying and even CPR on. We swapped mannequins throughout the course to be able to handle different shapes and sizes of dog. This course also featured much useful information on the prevention of accidents in the first place. The nature of the class contents didn’t allow for as many roleplays as the first aid with humans but that was compensated by relevant videos and the usage of mannequins.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
After both first aid classes, I came home with a slight feeling of shock and dread. Discussing worst-case scenarios tend to make you feel like everything in the outdoors is out to get you. Obviously, that is not the case and with the right preparation, knowledge and gear many scenarios are preventable. But still, having this knowledge can be vital on the occasions where something unforeseen does happen. And as we have established earlier, it totally CAN happen.
Essentially, you build up all of this knowledge and try to be prepared but you will always hope that you’ll never actually need it. And let’s all hope that this will always be the case for all of us but that we still have some extra skills under our belt. Just in case.
Both classes I would highly recommend as they were both very useful, relevant and of good quality. Certificates acknowledging participation were handed out for both of them
You can find Martin’s classes here: https://www.borderlandsfirstaid.co.uk/
And Sian’s classes here: https://www.procourses.co.uk/facilitators/7622-sian-lake-bridgend
Of course, first aid is only one building block of a good skill set. There are many more like reliable navigation skills, the right gear picks, personal locator beacons, exit strategies and backup plans. Tell us in the comments what you have in your repertoire to stay safe in the great outdoors!