Wilderness First Aid Useful Tool


Patrick Kinmartin | | Friday, December 7, 2007

CHICO, Calif.-- Thoughts about snake encounters can jangle the nerves, and fears of being lost with no direction are nightmarish, but the Wilderness Medical Institute reveals perhaps the harshest reality of experience in the great wide open on its Web site.

When 9-1-1 is not an option, a statement reads, the rules change ... plain and simple.

WMI has become the lead name among wilderness professionals and enthusiasts by championing preparation as the prime way to square with the threat of emergency. This weekend, beginning Saturday, WMI makes its semiannual appearance on the Chico State campus for the first aid course that is a more refined version of the rigorous first responder class taught over 10 days in spring.

Areas like Butte County, where hiking trails and outdoor adventure opportunities abound, are ideal for WMI s cause.

All classes run by the organization, which is funded by the National Outdoor Leadership School, emphasize a teaching philosophy centered around treatment principles and decision making in wilderness-specific environments, not the memorization of lists. Learning every lesson is key, but applying them in a live situation is the heart of the program s purpose.

Working inside a warm, carpeted classroom and trying to recreate what s going on in a wilderness setting just doesn t work, said Todd Schimelpfenig, WMI s curriculum director. We try to make it 50-50 instruction-demonstration 50 percent going over the basic concepts and 50 percent hands-on going through the actual scenarios.

That s really the point, being able to use the concepts for your benefit and the benefit of the others around. It s about learning, but more about grasping the knowledge and understanding when and how to utilize it.

The program can be best utilized by professional outdoor educators, urban emergency medical service providers, remote researchers and military special operators opportunities.

WMI s local stops usually attract a broad range of members from fields within the wilderness industry, said Martin Roland, the assistant coordinator of Chico State s Adventure Outings group, which sponsors WMI classes on campus.

Ski instructors, EMT students, recreation directors, all kinds of folks really, Roland said. It s pretty much basic (wilderness) first aid, so it s real wide-ranging and can cover just about anyone in need of it.

Nevertheless, WMI remains a big proponent of individuals using its courses as merely a proactive approach to being safe while enjoying what may only be a hobby.

We have research covering 22 years and over three million people, and most of it illustrates how it s just the smaller stuff lots of cuts, lots of sprains are most prevalent, Schimelpfenig said. It s bound to happen and can be dealt with easily after a basic first aid lesson shows you the proper technique.

Still, Schimelpfenig points out it is the big things, more serious injuries that in normal circumstances would be dealt with by an emergency expert, that the course can be especially valuable for. WMI regularly queries former students for feedback on how they were able to apply material from courses during an actual adventure, and Schimelpfenig said six former students were able to treat a fellow traveler s severe leg injury overnight until an emergency medical crew came to airlift him to a hospital.

They applied all the principles, all the way down to knowing their whereabouts so assistance can find them in the proper place when contacted, Schimelpfenig said. That s what we like to hear. It s a matter of steps and being confident enough to go through them when they re called upon.

For more information on this weekend s course, contact Associated Students Adventure Outings at 898-4011.

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