Thursday, April 7, 2011

SAR Medical Protocol, Safety and Risk Management: The Best First Aid Kit is a Brain that Works

In training for Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) we spent some time going over Medical Protocols, Safety and Risk Management.

True to form, the general public is naïve. When an individual steps out a hike, he or she assumes the risks of being in the woods. At this point, no one should suppose anyone is responsible for them except themselves and no one is obligated to help. Lions, tigers (rattle snakes), and bears ARE out there lurking but chances are that the hiker/outdoors (wo)man will be the cause of their own misfortune or even demise.

As I listened to our protocol and reasons for such, I was shocked to hear how much care SAR members are limited to giving…even those who have Wilderness First Responder training. The ONLY medicine we can give a victim without doctor’s orders is oxygen. This brings up another topic – first aid kits. As a BASART and hopefully eventual LCSAR member, the first aid kit that I will be carrying will be for my personal use. As my class brainstormed different things we carried in our personal first aid kits, it occurred to me that since we are very limited as to what care we can give search victims, if one would want drugs in an emergency they would have to bring them and take the medicine themselves. A.K.A. if you want Benadryl, carry it. SAR members can’t even give an EpiPen without a doctor’s orders. That’s not to say doctor’s orders are impossible, but if it’s a needed item, it should treated as a needed item and on the hiker at all times, especially when the trailhead is not a common place for a hospital.

Not to make it sound like all the help a rescue victim would get from a SAR member would be company on the hike out, however I also learned that a hiker may have better chances of survival if they assumed so. One of the common factors in survival is that the person in need assumed they were alone and they had to help themselves. In addition to medical protocol, we learned about survival statistics and why some people live and some people die. Misfortunes in the mountains are referred to as “incidents” not accidents because rarely does something happen that was truly an accident. Most of the time incidents occur because of a poor decision or neglect, and they happen to novices and experts alike. Deep Survival, Who lives, Who dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales is definitely next on my reading list and I may dedicate a whole blog post in the future to this topic.

I make reference often to the 8th Edition of Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills book published by The Mountaineers Books. I’ve been reading the corresponding sections to the topics we’ve been covering in my BSART training. In the Emergency Prevention and Response section, the last piece says “Stay Alive and Return Home Safely” under which it gives five main guidelines. “Know the hazards, know your acceptable risk, have a good state of mind, use good decision making, and return home safely.” 

1 comment:

Lila Hickey said...

"When an individual steps out a hike, he or she assumes the risks of being in the woods."

so true, and so ignored!!