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Wilderness first responder course ?

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Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:33 pm

My son is an avid kayaker/hiker and is considering taking a wilderness first responder course. His intent is to be prepared in case of emergency, not necessarily as a requirement to be a trip leader. Has anyone taken this type course and is it "worth it", ie, is it a lot more than basic first aid ?



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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby nazdarovye » Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:07 pm

The Other Tom wrote:Has anyone taken this type course and is it "worth it", ie, is it a lot more than basic first aid ?


I can't answer that for you or your son...but I found it one of the best course experiences I've ever had. I took a WFR course in December 2004 from WMI/Nols, through an instructor named Pete Walka in Flagstaff, AZ.

The instructor, the class, and the materials and supplies were universally excellent. We spent much of each day outside (in 3°-20° weather, and twice in a snowstorm), got lots of practical experience in not just first aid, but also scene safety and management, group dynamics, environmental effects, improvisation in the field (a big thing, in my opinion) and so on.

This is a 9-10 day course, and so not for everyone. Keeping the certificate valid requires recertification every 2 years. If you define "worth it" in financial terms...I guess the value depends on what you intend to do with the rating. If you define it in learning and experiential terms (as I did), then I think it's worth a lot. It most certainly is a lot richer than any weekend first aid class, and the Wilderness aspect of it is fundamentally different from what you get in regular first aid (in that you learn to manage many things that would just involve stabilization and immediate transport in the front country).

Glad to answer other questions if you have them.

- Steve
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Wilderness First Responder

Postby gdurkee » Sun Apr 16, 2006 7:42 pm

The short answer is yes, it's worth it. I've never taken WFR, but I like the idea it's specifically tailored to wilderness/remote situations (I'm an EMT and former Park Medic; also taken both Advanced First Aid & the Basic course). So that's all to say taking anything is good. It's more than likely he'll never need to use it. I think the main thing is he starts learning to consider and be prepared for When Things Go Wrong; to start being (jargon ahead) situationally aware.

That said, it's also worth remembering that the basics of first aid are not any different -- WFD just throws more realistic situations at you.

So, if you (and he) can afford it, yes. Take it.

George
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Postby The Other Tom » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:07 pm

Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, my son cannot re-arrange his work schedule this year to take the course. Maybe next year. He will have a friend taking it, though. I told him to take his friend on all his trips.
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:51 am

I'd love to take one of these courses, but they do seem awfully expensive (and hardly ever any place where I am at the right time). Anybody know of less-expensive alternatives? I'll be in northern Vermont (Burlington area) for the next year or so, and most of the opportunities I see in that area involve staying at some kind of camp for a week or so, usually for many hundreds of dollars.

-B²
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby gdurkee » Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:52 pm

It's a bummer those WFR courses are so expensive. My answer above aged well and still stands (he said in all modesty). The only thing I can think of is an online EMT course or one at a community college. Those at least get you in the mode of thinking about evaluating emergencies. An EMT course, though, is a huge commitment in time, though I think they've got compressed ones -- all done in a couple of weeks, rather than 2 hours per week over a semester. I don't know if Red Cross Advanced First Aid even exists anymore, but I found those to be kind of useless in the past.

That's a rambling way of saying there's not many good alternatives.

"Cause I'm here, I'll also add another thought about both EMT & WFR courses. Although they're definitely worthwhile, I think there may be too much emphasis on diagnosis and even physiology and not enough on evaluation and triage: how sick is this person (not necessarily what he has) and will he get better here or do we need to get him out. How fast? Do we need help to do it?? People always wait too long to report a sick person, usually only when it becomes obviously critical and is becoming authentically dangerous.

With all due respect to my highly trained colleagues, we spend way too much time evaluating a patient when, with a helicopter, we can have them to an ER in about 20 minutes, where someone who knows what they're doing -- and has the equipment to actually help -- can figure out what the problem is.

If anyone comes across something semi-cheap, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby rlown » Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:24 pm

gdurkee wrote:With all due respect to my highly trained colleagues, we spend way too much time evaluating a patient when, with a helicopter, we can have them to an ER in about 20 minutes, where someone who knows what they're doing -- and has the equipment to actually help -- can figure out what the problem is.


Well, as i abalone dive as well, on the "left coast" out of sonoma, we have Henry 1. Our rescue helicopter. Invaluable when someone either gets smashed against the rocks or has a problem. It's a good thing. Even if we didn't have that, the buddy system prevails. Still, you need to be prepared in the backcountry on an emergency plan, and how you get help. My friend went into a cardiac arrythmia on our last trip. it was scary and he ended up in the ER until they found a drug to calm his heart. scary, but successful.

At least take the basics.. I've taken the basic first aid and the advanced course. still not much to help if things are really bad.. it's best to notice symptoms early and get out.. Broken bones are a whole different game.

Russ
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby oldranger » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:03 pm

George is exactly right about too much emphasis on diagnosis. In my experience as former EMT basic and NSP Winter First Aid provider. I have found many "first responders" to get tied up in determining exactly what the problem is. I firmly believe in the KISS principle, especially in remote settings. I've seen a park medic waste time trying to establish an IV when symptoms suggest getting the person to lower elevation being the critical element. I've seen ski patrollers try to determine the extent of the injury when regardless of the injury (it wasn't bleeding) the proper treatment was splint and transport. The hardest decision to make is when the person has not been injured but has internal symptoms. A good history might save a helicopter ride or, on the other hand cause an expedited evacuation. A wilderness first responder class can help you make informed decisions.

Finally, just to vent a little one of my pet peeves when I was a ranger was the large group of unafilliated people, e.g. Sierra Club group, that had an individual with a minor injury. Invariably I would be left with the responsibility of arranging an evacuation with the local pack station. A family would never say "We need to get Jimmy out so we can continue on our vacation, please get him out." It always seemed to me reasonable to have the group take responsibilty for its members by changing their itinerary and sharing the injured person's load. What would they have done if they were in real wilderness and there was no ranger?

mike
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby BSquared » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:24 pm

gdurkee wrote:If anyone comes across something semi-cheap, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Well, the Green Mountain Club out here ("here" is a relative term...) offers what they call "Wilderness First Aid," a two-day course for $180, so I signed up for it in June. I'll let you know whether it's worth it or not. I took Red Cross basic first aid and CPR through my college for free last year, and aside from being able to practice CPR on dummies—oh, yes and some hands-on time with a defibrillator simulator—it was pretty much a waste of time.

-B²
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby gdurkee » Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:50 pm

Finally, just to vent a little one of my pet peeves when I was a ranger was the large group of unafilliated people, e.g. Sierra Club group, that had an individual with a minor injury.


Sierra Club. Arrrrrrghhh. Don't get me started. Jeez, those guys would (and have) abandoned people all over the place, maybe telling another hiker to "find a ranger." Two years ago, they sent an emergency message to LeConte about a sick hiker. Well, the guy decided he was OK and kept hiking. LeConte ranger scurries all the way to Muir Pass on an "emergency." SC bozos didn't even bother to send another message canceling the medical call. Those people are awful and it's been like that for decades.

Whew. Deep breathing. More coffee.

Bill: good luck with that class. If it's a good instructor with field experience of some sort, it might be really good.

g.
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby rlown » Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:56 pm

I actually talk some people out of a trip that i know they're not ready for. I explain what it takes, and what you'll encounter on the trail up (mental and physical.) Some don't listen, and i still refused to take them. Sure would be nice to decrease problems before they happen.
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Re: Wilderness first responder course ?

Postby BSquared » Wed Apr 22, 2009 3:34 am

gdurkee wrote:Sierra Club. Arrrrrrghhh. Don't get me started. Jeez, those guys would (and have) abandoned people all over the place, ...
Wow, that's really dismaying. And surprising. My experience with Sierra Club trips is old, admittedly, but I took a "basic mountaineering" class from the Loma Prieta Chapter back in the 70s and it was superb (though it would have been more accurately titled, "basic backpacking"). I was an experienced BPer by then but my spouse wasn't, and it was a good excuse to get outdoors together. Good outdoor philosophy, self-rescue ethic, emphasis on basic preparation, knowing when to turn around, not overestimating your skills, and of course basic practical things like cooking and pooping... all the good stuff. I've never been on any of their larger-scale organized trips, but I know some of the same guys who taught the class were perennial leaders of those trips, and I cannot imagine any of them passing an injured person off on "the ranger." That would certainly be worth a note to the trip organizers, at the very least!

-B²
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