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First aid for when help is going to take some time

Posted by on Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Most first aid training is based on a “rapid response” assumption. That is to say that you are less than 30 minutes from an Emergency Medical Service response. Scouts are often doing things in areas where that response is much, much further away. So what to do? Take an EMS team with you? Charter an ambulance? Wrap everyone in bubble wrap? Stay home?

As Scout Leaders we are supposed to manage risk, not avoid it. One of the ways to manage it is make sure we and our Scouts have training in outdoor-oriented first aid. The Fieldbook discusses it as part of risk management:

Outdoor-Oriented First Aid

Take care of yourself, and you will be far less likely to have trouble on the trail. You also will be much better able to help others deal with difficult situations.

We often go to remote areas to get away from it all, but among the things we are getting away from is quick access to emergency support and care. If someone has an accident in an American city, dial 911 and an emergency team will probably be on the scene in minutes, ready to treat injuries and to provide transport to a medical center.

The farther that group members are from medical facilities, the more important is their ability to deal with emergencies on their own. Responding to incidents during trek adventures can involve not only immediate treatment, but also evacuating ill or injured persons to the frontcountry, or stabilizing them and maintaining their safety for hours or even days until medical assistance arrives.

Those who intend to travel in the backcountry should prepare themselves with first-aid training, ideally including training in caring for injured and ill persons in remote settings. Among the training courses available in various parts of the country are Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic, Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and Mountaineering Oriented First Aid.

My wife and I spent two days in a course in Advanced and Wilderness First Aid put on by Aurora Medical Team. AMT provides a lot of the medical support for scouting events like Camproees and the Scout Show, and I found out they are also Explorer Post 525.


It was a lot of information, always moving and with a good mix of lecture (with loads of gross YouTube videos of accidents), hands-on exercises, and guided discussion. Sometimes work was individual, sometimes in pairs, and a few times we broke up into larger groups. The class was mostly Scouters, with quite a few Boy Scouts and a company from the Young Marines program.

During one of the CPR sessions I was paired up with the Scouter who sat behind me and I found out that his was the second car on the scene of the accident that killed three Scouts and their Scoutmaster on the drive home from summer camp last year. They performed CPR for 30 minutes until EMS arrived on the scene of the accident, so remote protocols aren’t just for the backwoods trail, sometimes they are just on the side of the highway. You could see the pain and hurt in his eyes as we talked about it, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.


Things we covered:

  • Basic life support for breathing and cardiac emergencies (CPR) with lots of information on airways, oxygen, bag-valve-mask, and advanced rhythms for different CPR situations
  • Controlling bleeding and managing shock
  • Safety and prevention issues
  • Bones and joint care, splinting and wrapping
  • Wound care and soft tissue injuries
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
  • Rescuing and moving victims
  • Cold and heat injuries
  • Poisoning and prevention
  • Primary and secondary victim assessment
  • Caring for special injuries and medical emergencies
  • Trauma management
  • Accident scene procedures and multiple victims
  • Special techniques for illness and injuries
  • Special situations, behavioral emergencies, pregnancy and childbirth
  • Advanced resuscitation techniques
  • Wilderness first aid and remote care protocols
  • First Aid Kits
  • Oxygen use and emergency airways

When it was all said and done we left with an admonition to make sure we practice these new found skills and certifications in CPR/AED (Healthcare Provider/Professional Rescuer) and Advanced/Wilderness First Aid. I thought it was a very worthwhile course and I learned a lot of things. While I hope I never have to use them, I feel well prepared for the sort of things I would be likely to see out with the Scouts. At $80 for the course, it wouldn’t break the bank to take it every few years, either.


If you have lots of time you can read through all our slides here. It’s 54 MB, so it might take a bit to download.