As an outdoor education and activity organization, COP is very involved in training members in activity specific skills and leadership skills. Activity groups provide various opportunities for developing skills either through formal classes or informally during activity events. Recently, the Bicycling activity had a Bicycle Leaders training event to provide an opportunity for leaders to refresh knowledge of COP leader expectations and to share knowledge with fellow leaders.
During this event, discussion arose concerning COP's requirements concerning first aid training and trips. The COP Trip Leaders Manual states on the inside cover (under requirements for trip leaders) "Be trained in first aid to the degree appropriate to the activity or have someone on the trip that is." On page 6 where risk issues are addressed, the Duties section indicated that leaders have a duty to "provide healthcare/first aid (within your level of training, but to a level appropriate for what you are doing." While these statements are accurate as far as they go, they do not include any context that provides guidance to leaders as to what level of first aid training would be appropriate on a given trip. Therefore, this issue was referred to the Risk Management committee. After some discussion, we developed the following text as an expansion on the existing Trip Leader Manual statements:
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Providing healthcare/first aid is different than personally performing healthcare/first aid. Based on that, one needs to look at the environment the activity is being pursued in along with how that environment affects access to - and response by - community/area emergency services.
In the case of bicycling, the event (we’re assuming a typical weeknight or weekend ride here) is on public roads that provide quick response and direct access by emergency vehicles to the incident requiring medical attention. Given the populated areas we ride in, even if no one at the scene has a cell phone handy to call for assistance, someone can quickly ride to a nearby residence or business to make an call for emergency services. Additionally, these bike groups – though massed at the start – tend to string out and disperse in the course of the ride. There is no guarantee that the leader or other person on the ride that has suitable first aid training will be with any given part of the group in the case of an incident. Even if they are behind the incident, changes in route choice may mean those persons will not happen on the incident to provide their assistance. This means that those on the scene still need to address the incident (including any medical needs) in some fashion which may well be to call for help. An urban neighborhood walking group would fall in this same risk category.
Therefore, this means COP does not need to require bike leaders to personally have first aid training nor do they need to insure that someone on each event has such training. We think it is a good idea to have first aid training. COP encourages leaders and all members to get first aid training, but it is not absolutely required for this class of event.
For other kinds of trips that venture away from quick, easy phone and road access to outside assistance, it is essential that leaders and/or other trip participants have suitable first aid training. Hiking and backpacking trips, flatwater and whitewater paddling trips, climbing trips and other trips into more remote areas would fall into this category.
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This text will be added to the latest revision to Trip Leaders Manual as a supplement to the existing statements.
As a long time outdoor activity enthusiast and leader, I have taken many first aid and rescue classes. I consider them to be a small investment in being able to understand and manage risks whether I am a leader on the trip or one of the trip members with another leader. As a leader, I appreciate it when other trip members have taken first aid and rescue training. Their training provides me some of the same benefits that my training provides for others. Sometimes, the trip leader (or primary first aid person) is the one in trouble or is the injured one. Having more than one person on the trip with rescue/first aid skills makes it more likely that every member of the group has someone to help them if needed. Your fellow trip members are your friends; it’s good to be able to help your friends if they need assistance and to know that they can assist you if you need it.
Another part of providing assistance (besides the knowledge part) is having a basic first aid on hand. It doesn’t need to be a big one to provide value. At a caving convention many years ago, I attended a session on first aid that advocated a minimalist four-item first aid kit: 4x4 gauze pads(cut or fold if smaller one is needed), duct tape (or first aid tape), zip lock bags (irrigation, occlusive dressing, bio-hazard gloves) and safety pins (pin sleeve to jacket to improvise sling). Supplemented with the items in your day pack, bike bag or dry bag, this minimalist kit provide just what is needed with minimal bulk. The only things I would add are vinyl or nitrile gloves (the bags are awkward) and a COP incident report form http://www.outdoor-pursuits.org/downloads/forms/incident.pdf and ballpoint pen. Liability waivers and other forms are also available on line at http://www.outdoor-pursuits.org/leadershiptraining.php or on the COP home page, click ‘About COP’ in the menu, then click ‘Leader Training’ and scroll down a little.
Thank you to Bicycling Activity Chair Suzanne Burke and the Bicycling leaders for forwarding this issue for further discussion and expansion. Many thanks to all COP leaders and members who have taken first aid and/or rescue training in the past or plan to in the future. If you are interested in taking first aid or other training to develop your skills as a COP leader, there are Leadership Development funds that can offset some of your costs. Contact your activity leader for details.
See you out there,
David Seslar, March 2011