Mariton: Wilderness First Aid

November 17, 2014

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Back in 2008 several Natural Lands Trust staff members participated in a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course.   The course was conducted by Wilderness Medical Associates at our Hildacy Farm headquarters.  This is an intensive two day/16 hour course, with about half of the time spent covering how our bodies react to an array of injuries that one might encounter in places where help is not a quick call to 911.  The other half of the course is spent outside (rain or shine, cold or hot) analyzing a number of mock scenarios, and treating patients for everything from lightning strikes to bad falls.   It was a wet and cold November weekend, so if you were a patient in one of the scenarios you could be lying on the ground for some time while your “rescuers” figured out what the problem was and came up with a course of action.  We usually conducted our analyses of the various scenarios outside also.  (We froze.)

I was enthusiastic about taking the course, because emergency personnel would have difficulty quickly reaching some areas at Mariton and other NLT preserves in the case of an accident.  The fact that I spend a bit of free time in remote places with friends and loved ones made taking the course even more relevant.  Quite frankly, the course was intimidating and I left feeling concerned about my abilities.  The class was great and I did very well, but I felt a little overwhelmed by all the circumstances that one needs to take into consideration when assessing a patient.

Still I thought it was important knowledge, so I decided to recertify in 2011 at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake Center.  I felt much more comfortable after taking the class a second time.  I was still nervous, but I felt I processed the information better the second time.  The instructors were fantastic and brought real world scenarios into the classroom that made understanding the materials easier.  The weather was challenging during that class also.

This past weekend I returned to the Adirondacks for a recertification course.  (The course is offered all over the world, but this was the only course that worked with my schedule.)  It was cold and snowy, but I knew the drill and came prepared for the situation.  (Saturday started in the teens and reached 30F.  Sunday was a balmy 38F, but there was still snow on the ground.)  Well, the third time was the charm.  I came away with much more confidence.  The information really clicked this time.  I did really well in the scenarios; quickly analyzing patients’ problems and formulating treatment.  Again, the instructors were great at making all this information understandable.

One of the things that kept coming up (and has guided me for many years during my work and play) is that prevention is key.  Being prepared for anything prevents a lot of accidents.  Preparation also keeps those minor accidents from becoming life threatening situations.  Donning a life jacket before getting into your kayak, or wearing micro-spikes when it is icy are two examples of simple things that can protect us when we do what we love outdoors.  So, be careful out there.  (Sorry, no photos.  As I said this class is really intense.  There were opportunities for the camera, but I stayed focused on the class, not photo documenting it.)