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First-aid training planned for those who frequent remote areas

Mary Pickels
| Friday, April 27, 2012, 2:22 a.m.

For three days this month, a wilderness first aid basics course will teach participants how to care for people who become ill or injured in remote areas, far from a quick response by emergency medical providers.

Sponsored by the Westmoreland-Chestnut Ridge Chapter of the American Red Cross, in conjunction with Ligonier Camp and Conference Center, the program will include instruction in long-term patient care, assessment and recording, caring for injuries including to the head and spine, and controlling bleeding.

Certified instructor Jim Paul, conference center adventure education director, said the course is ideal for backpackers and hikers, utility workers, forest rangers, hunters and Scout leaders.

Participants must be at least 15 years old and should be or plan to become CPR certified. The 16-hour course will be held Friday to Sunday at the conference center.

"It's for people who desire to learn some neat new tricks and play outside a little bit, despite the weather," Paul said.

The class was first held last year and included backpackers, teachers and an engineer.

"They wanted a few more tools for their belts," Paul said.

Course participants will learn wound maintenance, and how to treat hypothermia and immobilize someone with improvised means.

"Rather than modern technology, you may create backboards or splints from what you have or find," Paul said.

Suzy Leonard works for Bradford Woods' adventure education program at Indiana University in Martinsville.

She formerly worked at the conference center with Paul and completed the wilderness first aid basics course last year.

"Taking the course enabled me to get my job," she said.

Leonard said she often works "out beyond a 10-minute walk" to medical care.

"I think the big difference between basic and wilderness first aid is that basic gives you the exact steps of what you do. Wilderness lets you learn as much information as you can so you can make good decisions to take care of people when you don't have an EMT running in in four minutes to take over," she said.

The Boy Scouts of America requires at least one member of each crew at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico be certified in the American Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic course or its equivalent.

A BSA Web site notes that, following notification of the nearest staffed camp, it could take hours for Philmont staff to reach remote backcountry sites. Crew members trained in wilderness first aid and CPR can ensure injuries or illnesses receive immediate attention.

Delmont attorney Ross Bash chairs the high adventure committee for the Westmoreland-Fayette Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Several years ago he completed both wilderness first aid basics and wilderness first responder courses.

"If you are in backcountry, with no immediate access to medical services, the nature of emergencies might be different," he said. "The aid that can be rendered might be different."

Bash said he and his son completed a wilderness first responder course together. Recently, he said, his son and a friend were in Colorado backcountry skiing in a remote area.

They encountered a group of skiers who later got caught in an avalanche. One man broke his leg, Bash said.

His son's training allowed him to help the skier.

"It was not just the broken leg," Bash said. "There is risk of shock, risk of hypothermia. All kinds of things can injure or kill you."

Paul, also a certified wilderness first responder, said someone certified in wilderness first aid basics would have been able to provide aid in that situation.

"The biggest thing is decision-making skills. Making a plan and executing a plan," Paul said.

Skills learned through the course benefit everyone from campers to motorists, Paul said.

"Lots of people on their daily commute will come across an accident," he said. "In our day-to-day life, these are tools we can use. We may be put into a situation where we have the option to help."

Additional Information:

To sign up

The cost of the course is $200, which includes lodging, or $175 for the day program only. For more information or to register, contact instructor Jim Paul at 724-238-6428, ext. 102.

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