Every few years, I decide that I should renew my Wilderness First Aid certification and CPR training. So this past weekend, I went down to Nantahala Wilderness Center and spent two days learning and practicing what I should do if a terrible thing happened on a hiking trip.
SOLO was the pioneer of wilderness first aid – which is easily defined as “what do you do if you can’t call 911?”
When I first took the course, it was twenty hours of instructions and we started our intensive weekend on Friday evening. Now it’s 16 hours of lecture, discussions and scenarios. We learned what to do if we come upon a hurt hiker on the trail, sprains and fractures, wounds, hypothermia and possible allergic reactions.
Randy M., the instructor, kept it lively and moving. He emphasized several important points – it’s not first about the patient. You need to assess the scene:
- Is it safe for you, the first responder?
- Is it safe for the rest of the group?
- Then, can I help the injured person?
One of many fascinating thing I learned was the rule of three (3). You can live
- 3 seconds to make a decision and not panic
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment (not icy water)
- 3 days without water. Ouch!! That would be tough for me
- 3 weeks without food – if you have water and shelter
- 3 months without companionship. Our instructor referred to “Wilson” but I don’t think most got the reference from Castaway.
On Saturday, I found out that I could also take the two-hour CPR course that evening. Shelby, the instructor, had a tough job.
All the students were fried from eight hours in various WFA courses. But she made it fun and memorable and I now feel better prepared than I’ve been after other CPR courses.
I stayed at the NOC base camp, several small cabins around a base kitchen and bathroom building. On Sunday morning, we discovered that the water wasn’t running. Not a great thing to find out before eight more hours of class, but somehow we all managed.
There are other ways to get your WFA certification, but SOLO to me is the gold standard. If you’re in the woods a lot, take a weekend to take this course – and hope you never have to use it.