Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Snakebite – Find the Snake or Not?

Snakebite - Find the Snake or Not?

One of the treatment issues in wilderness medicine that seems to generate the most amount of debate, even confusion, involves how to best care for a patient in the backcountry who has been bitten by a venomous snake.  In particular, the general consensus, including some popular first aid manuals, is that it is important to find and identify the snake, whether to simply eyeball it, or take a photograph, even to kill it in order to transport it to the hospital.  Sounds reasonable, right? … It is only logical that physicians would want to know the exact snake so that they can administer the exact antivenin, right? Wrong on both counts. The initial reason is that of simple scene safety.  First off, if you are the victim of the bite, there is no sense risking the increased spread of the venom through your system as you exert yourself, not to […]

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Survival Kit – A Suggested Starter List

Survival Kit - A Suggested Starter List

I am often asked by students or those with whom I am engaged in general conversation, “What is the best survival kit that you recommend?”  My response is typically, “There are no ‘best’ survival kits … In fact, I can’t recommend any.”  This almost always generates a quizzical look so I then must follow with a more detailed explanation.  The short of it is that the “best” survival kit is one that you make that best reflects your intended activities, level of training, and budget.  Thus, no off the shelf survival kit can suffice. For example, someone who typically hikes in the desert likely needs a different inventory than someone who typically hikes in mountains; or someone who skies the backcountry will have different priorities than someone who sea kayaks.  Besides, how many survival kits come with such important items (for those, like me, with terrible vision) as prescription eyewear? […]

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Test Yourself — Wilderness First Aid Scenario

Test Yourself -- Wilderness First Aid Scenario

On a sunny, very hot and humid day in early August, you are hiking along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail when, at about 3:30, you spot up ahead two hikers who look to be resting in the shade.  As you approach them, one of them asks if you have any medical training.  Hesitantly, you acknowledge that you are Wilderness First Aid certified (and you suddenly begin to perspire a bit more heavily than you did a minute before).  She then explains that her companion, Robert, has grown increasingly ill over the last hour and she isn’t sure if he should be evacuated or if he can continue to their planned shelter site. You introduce yourself to Robert and with his consent you begin your assessment of him after putting on your blue nitrile gloves.  Robert, who is 42 years old, complains that he is feeling nauseous and even vomited 30 […]

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Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Yesterday, at Hartwood Acres County Park, I spent the day teaching “Basic Wilderness Navigation.”  The main goal of this course is twofold.  First, of course, is to provide our students with the fundamentals of using a compass and map so that they can begin to feel more confident as they prepare for, and engage in, their chosen outdoor activities.  But, the second, and arguably the most important goal, is to provide each student with a solid foundation of understanding for their continued self learning.  That’s because, as I stress at the conclusion of our various land navigation courses (not to mention many of our other courses, like wilderness first aid), their training hasn’t ended, rather, it has only just started.  In short, and in common parlance, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.  So, I very often recommend the book, Be Expert with Map and Compass by Bjorn […]

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Survival Skill: Lightning Safety

Survival Skill: Lightning Safety

Now that the warm season of Spring and Summer is upon us, so is the season for thunder and lightning.  The Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) reports that an estimated 400 lightning injuries occur annually.  Still, the chance of death is quite low as the WMS reports, at roughly 40 deaths per year (as compared to approximately 70 flood-related deaths and 30 avalanche-related deaths which occur yearly). Still, who really wants to be struck by lightning?! Whether it is a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or wilderness survival course, True North likes to believe that prevention is the best form of medicine.  So, since many of us will be spending much time outdoors, especially hiking and camping along the Alleghenies or paddling the Three Rivers and surrounding waterways, and even quite a few of you will be leading groups outdoors and so will be responsible for their safety, I thought that I would share […]

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First Aid Tip: Burns

First Aid Tip: Burns

Now that Summer is almost here, many of us will be spending more time in the out of doors.  That often means either camping, hiking in a local park, or even just lazing around in the backyard (which I fully hope to be doing).  While, certainly, the risk of injury in any of these situations is low, problems can manage to arise.  So, a little knowledge and preparation can go a long way should something happen.  One type of typical outdoor injury is burns, and, in fact, the most common cause arises from cooking accidents. Whether it is caused by your backyard grill or your camp stove, minor burns to your hands may be caused by inadvertently grabbing hot metal; and potentially major burns may arise from stove flare-ups and scalds from tipping over pots of boiling liquid.  In fact, these kind of burns can be more serious than that […]

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Survival: Primitive v. Practical

Survival: Primitive v. Practical

In all of my survival courses at True North, one of the priorities that I most stress is shelter craft, and, likewise, the skill on which I most focus is the ability to quickly make a windproof and waterproof shelter.  This probably wouldn’t surprise many.  However, periodically, I have a student in a course that clearly seems dismayed, even disappointed, when I don’t show them how to make a primitive shelter — You know, the typical “debris hut” made out of sticks and leaves.  In fact, it’s bad enough that the student feels gypped that I didn’t do so, but, worse, she or he sometimes is offended too when I criticize (though, I think “critique” is more fair) such shelters and the instructors who emphasize them.  After all, as I remind all of my students, at True North, our mission, and our passion, is not to foster romantic, idealized notions […]

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Preparation: The Key to Survival

Preparation: The Key to Survival

The key to being best able to get through any emergency is being prepared before it even happens. Learning new skills, and practicing them, then, will help you better and more safely respond when the moment counts. That’s why Pittsburgh firefighters, police, and EMS volunteered yesterday to train along Slippery Rock Creek in McConnell’s Mill State Park yesterday.  Why?  In the wake of the flash flood in August 2011 along Washington Boulevard in the Highland Park section of Pittsburgh that killed four people and stranded many dozens of others, they wanted to be better equipped to handle urban flooding should the same situation ever arise. To learn more about what they did, check out the article in the Tribune Review and their additional photographs: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/4192672-74/rescue-creek-park#axzz2WK7CvgAP Would you, too, like to be better prepared the next time that you had out on your next outdoor adventure with friends and family — […]

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Let’s Not Forget the Rescuers

Let's Not Forget the Rescuers

Yesterday marked the end of a rescue story in Southern California that gripped much of the nation this week.  In Cleveland National Forest, which boasts 720 miles of rugged mountain wilderness, two young adults parked their vehicle on Sunday at a trailhead not more than a handful of miles from suburban housing tracts, shopping malls, and a Starbucks.  While the details have yet to fully emerge, it looks like the pair set off for a day hike without proper equipment or clothing, including water, and then, at some point soon after their start, ventured off the well blazed trails to try to get a better view of the area’s waterfalls.  They soon, though, became lost and then, somehow, became separated.  As a Sheriff’s spokesman stated to the Associated Press, “I have no doubt that they came out here with the best of intentions … but this is a complicated environment and […]

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Preparation is Key

Preparation is Key

Whether it is preparing for an unexpected survival or medical emergency,  a common misconception exists.  That is, that one can effectively deal with the emergency with only the barest minimum of equipment.  For example, some people believe that they should be able to survive if they were suddenly blindfolded and dropped into the wilderness, in winter, dressed only in their underwear and equipped simply with a knife (Don’t laugh, I have actually heard this).  Perhaps this might work on a television reality show, but I doubt that it would work in actual reality.  This misconception can potentially be deadly. Consider the heroic rescue reported by The Salem News this weekend in Peabody, Massachusetts: A snowplow driver, who was parked in the break-down lane of Interstate 95 on Friday, watched a Jeep Wrangler slam, at roughly 60 miles per hour, into the back of a front-end loader being operated by a co-worker. […]

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