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It’s a Saturday morning at 7:35 am and I’m traveling eastbound on the US60 at 80mph desperately trying to make it to the Red Cross Wilderness First Aid class. Large coffee in one hand, fingers gripped tightly around the steering wheel with the other, I’m passing cars like they were standing still. I’m sure I got a few “why is this guy going so fast so early in the morning” looks as I left the rest the of traffic in my rear view mirror. I hate to be late.

As part of Arizona’s guidelines each hunting and fishing guide must complete this course before obtaining a guide license so I wanted to check it out. I made it there just minutes before the class started and was greeted by Albert Abril my instructor for the weekend.

After some paperwork, meeting formalities, and a refill on coffee we were knee deep into the coursework. Before we get any further, I need to explain that this is in no way a replacement for taking the course and learning this stuff on your own via a trained Red Cross professional. I recommend this course to anyone who hikes, boats, hunts, fishes or spends any amount of time in the outdoors. Take this class!

Visit the Arizona Red Cross website or call them at 1-800-842-7349 for details about the course. If you live outside of Arizona go to the National Red Cross Website, find your local chapter and see the availability of classes they offer.

As we progressed through the sections in the book I began to realize wilderness first aid has more to do with decision making then the actual care given to an injured individual. The whole basis of the course is “When help is delayed”. There is focus on treating a multitude of traumas but what I took from the course is how to properly check a scene, evaluate a patient and then make a determination for the course of action needed to protect the well-being of that patient.

The first step taught is to evaluate the scene. Is it safe to approach the injured person? Next, check the patient. Are they conscious, are they breathing, are they bleeding, are they in shock? Do you need to move the patient to avoid further injury? Is it safe to move the patient and if so what is the best way to move them based on their injury?

Once the patient has been evaluated and is safe you now need to perform treatment and make decisions about how to care for that patient. Each injury needs a different treatment and this was the subject matter of the rest of the two day course. While a great deal of this class was a refresher, I did come away with a lot of practice in how to effectively perform in a multitude of emergency situations.

The best part of the course was the scenarios we ran through. Half the class would act injured and the other half would act as first responders to the scene. This was great because you really got to experience the chaotic nature of approaching a scene with multiple injuries, varying degrees of knowledge and helpfulness from your peers and then have to perform first aid. Overall great practice for when it happens in real life.

Let’s say you and a friend come across a hiker, a mile from the trailhead, who has fallen down a steep slope and appears to be completely fine except for a broken wrist. You cannot get down to the injured hiker safely without putting yourself in danger. There is plenty of daylight left and the weather is warm. Do you send your friend for help while you stay with the patient until trained professional help can perform a rescue?

Or, while returning to camp you hear a loud explosion and learn that the camp stove exploded leaving several members in your party with varying degrees of injuries. Who do you treat first? Who is ok to wait for treatment and who needs immediate medical attention? Is that a first degree burn or a second degree burn?

The Red Cross Wilderness First Aid class answers these types of questions and teaches you the skills needed to make these kinds of decisions on the fly, in an emergency situation while away from proper medical facilities. Please take the time to sign up for this class, the knowledge and practice is invaluable.

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