Who needs first aid?
This evening I’m revising for an exam (well, right now I’m writing a blog post but you get my meaning). I’m a member of the local mountain rescue team and every three years the in-house first aid qualification (Casualty Care Certificate) is due for renewal – tomorrow is my third time taking the exam.
I joined mountain rescue in 2006 and, as you would expect, it has given me a good appreciation of why having even basic first aid skills is invaluable in the great outdoors. If you are in need of medical help in the mountains of the U.K. then chances are that a team of trained volunteers or an RAF/Royal Navy paramedic will be the one coming to help – but they may be hours away. What do you do in the meantime?
So far (touch wood, grab a rabbit’s foot and stroke a black cat and all that) I haven’t had to deal with a serious injury to one of my friends or clients whilst working or playing in the great outdoors. Small cuts, sprains, strains and minor medical problems happen from time to time but nothing serious or requiring outside help or ‘bailing out’. I have had to give aid to other people on the mountains or elsewhere whilst working though, even CPR on Snowdon and helping to splint a broken leg before carrying to a waiting helicopter. Each time I’ve realised that I would have been unable to help in any significant way without having had some basic first aid training.
A phrase I use a lot when teaching outdoor skills is ‘knowledge weighs nothing’. Simply put, if you learn to do something properly you can carry it around with you and whip it out when needed, with no cost to yourself. First aid skills are one of the best examples of this. Even if you are without any equipment you can still assess a casualty’s state, open an airway, begin CPR and put any number of other techniques into practice.
The other asset that learning a set of skills properly brings is ‘knowing what to do’. When suddenly faced with an unexpected situation requiring your help you will be able to calmly (well, calm-ish. It will still raise your adrenaline levels and heart rate etc) go through a process – check for Danger, check for a Response, check that the patient has a good, clear Airway, assess Breathing and Circulation. Going through a checklist like the above helps structure your thoughts and keep any panic from rising to the surface. Your ability to ‘deal’ with the situation will also help those around you in a vaguely calm state – preventing you from having further casualties to take care of.
Next month we are hosting a 16hr outdoor first aid course run by the excellent Blackhill Training. Most of the folk who attend these courses are either aspiring or existing outdoor instructors – pretty much every outdoor instructor qualification requires a 16hr outdoor-relevant first aid course every 3 years. The rest are normally first aid ‘virgins’, at least in the outdoor environment. They are coming because they want to fill a gap in their skills, they want to be able be the person who can ‘do something’ when the worst happens. The course is designed to be accessible for us mere mortals and mainly takes place outdoors, using realistic scenarios as training methods. This means that less time is spent sat on a chair or bench in a classroom, and more time practicing and developing the practical skills and knowledge that you could be using to save somebody’s life.
We still have a couple of places left on the upcoming course: