A report from one of our recent North Wales Outdoor First Aid Courses
Something we wanted to offer from the very beginning were outdoor first aid courses. I have done many hours of first aid training in a variety of different fields – but to run the Original Outdoors first aid courses I wanted to link up with somebody who came highly recommended to me from a variety of sources.
Wayne Thackray of Blackhill Training came to my attention as one of the folk behind the famous Woodhead Mountain Rescue first aid course, and later through working together on mountain rescue training courses. His company, Blackhill Training, is based over in the Peak district but we soon agreed that we ran our companies with similar values – important knowledge, properly delivered in an appropriate setting – and that we should work together to deliver first aid courses in North Wales.
This past weekend Wayne ran possibly the toughest course we have had to deliver. A devastating winter storm brought huge amounts of snowfall to North East Wales on Friday morning, creating drifts over 2m high and quickly stranding isolated communities. The main roads – including the minor road that serves our training site near Clawdd Newydd – remained clear thanks to snowploughs, but large parts of the area were quickly cut off. North Wales Mountain Rescue teams sprung into action, responding to dozens of callouts ranging from stranded motorists high on the moorland roads to medical emergencies at remote farmhouses, including NEWSAR, the local team. The carefully-laid plans for our first residential course of 2013 were quickly put aside as most of our facilities were now flattened below snowdrifts taller than ourselves! We needed a training venue, toilet arrangements and somewhere for the clients to camp – quickly!
The first four delegates arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, having driven all of the way from Birmingham. They reported that the road conditions weren’t as bad as expected, and they only really had difficulty on the last mile or so approaching the site. A little bit of digging and some creative thinking got their vehicle all of the way to a camping spot next to the river, and only a few hundred yards from our temporary training venue – the barn!
I left them to it and went off to respond a mountain rescue callout with Lisa. The last thing we saw was them building an entire living room worth of furniture from logs and banks of snow. Suddenly all concerns about these folk spending the night camping in the snow melted away – they would be fine!
On our way out we met the other three delegates, three instructors from a local outdoor education centre. They had a similar setup alongside their van in a layby, with a tarpaulin and roaring fire on the go. The level of improvisation, adaptation and all round resilience of these folk really impressed me – we would be learning as much from them this weekend as they would from us.
On Saturday morning Wayne arrived, complete with a grumble about how the back roads were better here than the dual carriageways in Yorkshire. We quickly got everything set up, and Wayne went into delivering the same high-quality training that I’ve seen from him time and time again.
Part of the reason we think this is one of the most realistic 16-hr outdoor first aid course in North Wales (or even the U.K.) is the fact it doesn’t take place in a carpeted, centrally heated village hall or community centre. It relies on quickly getting to grips with the important, life-saving skills in the environments they will be used. In my work as an instructor I have yet to come across a casualty who is lying on a bit of commercial-grade carpet in a warm room with a stack of chairs nearby being the only hazard. They have been in woodlands or on tops of mountains, with mud and cold weather getting in the way. From the moment you approach the casualty you need to have a strategy for managing the casualty forming in your mind, including how you will protect yourself, your other ‘rescuers’ and the casualty from the environment. This course isn’t aimed purely at instructors, but at outdoor enthusiasts, climbers, hillwalkers, MTBers, boaters and bushcrafters who want to learn lifesaving skills to help themselves and others in the great outdoors. Most who come on the course already understand the importance of looking after themselves in cold or wet weather, but by running the training in realistic environments this message is reinforced over and over.
As the weekend progressed the delegates showed some good personal admin and teamwork skills, looking out for each other and ensuring that nobody was too cold or unable to cope. We modified the course where appropriate but Wayne did a sterling job making sure that everybody learnt what they needed and that the ‘basics’ or DRABC were revisited again and again. Ann kept everybody topped up with warm drinks and ran around sorting out lunch, in between acting as a casualty and assisting elsewhere when required. The Original Outdoors team as usual spent as much time ensuring everybody was having a good time as they did delivering any tuition!
The final part of the course involved a series of practical scenarios, in the snow, with Pete the casualty. Pete deserves a special mention – mountain rescuer and SARDA navigator he worked tirelessly as a casualty, complete with fake injuries and symptoms identical to real medical conditions. He lay out in the snow for hours, spent far too much time covered in fake blood and was an absolute star!
We’re now planning the next North Wales outdoor first aid courses, and dates will be announced shortly. The course price includes all course content and learning materials and certification, plus lunch (sandwiches) and hot drinks throughout the course. Camping is available on site, please contact us for details.