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Guide to Managing Risks in Wilderness Education

Bob Baird, Brent J. Bell, Drew Leemon
September 2008

Why Read This

Because of their nature, wilderness education programs pose unique risks such as the unexpected illness of a leader during a trip, a transportation breakdown en route to a trail head, or a flood that threatens a campsite. This guide covers risks unique to wilderness education and ways to mitigate them. It addresses:

  • How to choose effective, responsible wilderness education leaders
  • Strategies for developing emergency and medical protocols, including effective emergency communication and crisis management
  • Selecting and hiring appropriate staff
  • Ways to identify and mitigate transportation risk

Key Takeaways

  • Risk management is an essential component of all wilderness experiences and should be incorporated every time an expedition occurs.
  • Four main ways to address risks include: Avoid a risk because it occurs too frequently, or when it occurs, the consequences are too severe; mitigate risk to an appropriate level through the use of controls; retain the risk because it is unlikely to occur, isn’t severe, or is at an acceptable level; and transfer the risk to someone else.
  • The process of becoming an outdoor leader generally requires a dedication to learning technical and interpersonal skill.

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