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Wilderness First Aid Workshop: Training to Save Lives in the Outdoors

Wilderness First Aid

You are happily trekking with your team deep inside a jungle-covered mountain. Suddenly, you hear a horrible scream! One of your teammates has slipped and fallen into a deep ravine. He lies in a heap, and you can see blood soaking his trekking pants. He seems to be drifting in and out of consciousness. With the exception of your team, there’s no help available, and civilization is many miles away. What should you do?

Knowing what to do in emergencies like the scenario we just described is absolutely crucial in the world of outdoor adventure. You always have to keep in mind that Mother Nature, even if she is beautiful, can be indifferent and cruel. Proper medical assistance may be unavailable or very far away. Rescuers may take some time to reach your team. Thus, your knowledge of wilderness first aid and rescue techniques can be the key to you or your team member’s survival.

Outpax, our outdoor adventure partner, knows the importance of knowing how to treat injuries and ailments in the wild. Thus, with the cooperation of Base Camp Emergency Response Team, Camp Red, and the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, they conducted a special wilderness first aid and rescue workshop for outdoor enthusiasts.

At the appointed time, we had a short briefing and introduction of participants in Banawa’s Celestial Gardens. We were quite happy upon seeing several participants bringing family members along. There was a mother-and-son team as well as duos of sisters.

We are strong advocates of bringing family members to experience outdoor activities. They will learn to work as a team, appreciate nature, engage in exciting adventures, and establish strong bonds with each other. Based on our experience, an outdoor-oriented family is a happy one.

Wilderness First Aid

After the briefing, we headed to our outdoor “classroom.” Supposedly, Outpax planned to hold the workshop in the depths of the Buhisan watershed to simulate a wilderness environment. However, they realized hiking there would shave off few precious hours of the actual workshop schedule. So they decided to hold the workshop in a much nearer venue, about 15 minutes from the gate of Celestial Garden.

Wilderness First Aid

Now, that is truly a celestial garden, isn’t it? The short hike afforded us stunning views of the metropolis and the surrounding areas.

Wilderness First Aid

After 15 minutes, we arrived at our venue, a cool trellis with a thick network of bougainvillea vines as a roof. We had uninterrupted views of the hills and mountains of Cebu’s spine, and a constant airy breeze kept us comfortably cool despite the searing morning.

Wasting no time, we began our wilderness first aid workshop. We initially discussed about the importance of knowledge in first aid, preparing for adventures, best safety practices, and first-aid kit creation.

Wilderness First Aid

Mr. Christopher Ngosiok of Camp Red, the Philippine’s premier bushcrafting guild, handled the workshop. He is a registered nurse, an emergency responder, and an active member of Camp Red. He is also a part of the 5th Civil Military Affairs Group (CMAG) AFP Reserve force. Needless to say, with all his qualifications, he is definitely the right man for this workshop.

Wilderness First Aid

Included in our workshop is this easy-to-use module that serves as a handy first-aid guide that we can bring anywhere. Compiled by Christopher, the module is customized to fit wilderness conditions and common emergencies in the Philippines. In other words, the module contains situations, remedies, and advice that are practical.

This module is for sale at P70 each (minimum of 5 orders). To acquire your copy, get in touch with Eric Tuñacao or Outpax. Contact details are at the bottom of this blog post.

Wilderness First Aid

CPR, or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, is a life-saving procedure of restoring respiration and blood circulation in a non-responsive victim. Christopher showed us the proper way, including positioning ourselves in relation to the victim, on how to do CPR. CPR should be administered within 6 minutes after the blood flow ceases.

Dan, one of our coolest adventuring buddies, volunteered to be the “victim” in all demonstrations. He is a certified Base Camp Emergency Rescue Team (BCERT) first-aider and emergency responder.

Wilderness First Aid

He also showed us how to provide artificial respiration to victims who are unconscious and not breathing. Do not provide artificial respiration to a breathing victim as it can be injurious or even fatal.

Wilderness First Aid

While trekking down a beautiful mountain trail, you encounter an injured hiker on his back. He seems to be in great pain, and his body is twisted in an unnatural position. Did he sustain broken bones? Is there internal bleeding? Should you move him right away knowing that the slightest movement may aggravate the injury?

Before doing anything, you should first assess the body for injuries. Christopher demonstrated to us how to do proper emergency head-to-toe assessment without changing the position of the victim. Dan’s body position in the photos below is deliberate.

Wilderness First Aid

Choking is a common hazard not just in the outdoors (you greedily eat the adobo in your packed lunch) but in urban places such as restaurants and fast-food joints. Don’t laugh but a lump of unchewed food can obstruct one’s air passageway. If the passageway is not cleared, the obstruction becomes fatal.

To get that chunk out, one needs to use the Heimlich maneuver, or abdominal thrust. Properly done, the maneuver exerts pressure on the diaphragm and compresses the lungs, hopefully expelling the lodged object. Our workshop master demonstrated to us how to do the Heimlich maneuver properly.

Wilderness First Aid

We discussed about common ailments in the outdoors such as fainting, hypoglycemia, cramps, dehydration, asthma attacks, and how to treat them. When we covered half of the 40-page module, we took a break to eat a picnic-style lunch.

Wilderness First Aid

After a short after-meal break, we resumed the wilderness first-aid workshop and identified common medicinal plants in the country. It was quite a surprising revelation knowing that the humble fruits, leaves, roots, and barks of common plants such as garlic, guava, horseradish, and more have effective and powerful curative effects.

Wilderness First Aid

How do you treat a team member stricken with seizures and epilepsy? Christopher showed us the way to steady the patient’s head and to roll him over to the side. This position is important so that the drool, which accumulates to a significant amount of froth on the mouth, drains effectively. Without draining, the patient might choke on his own saliva.

Wilderness First Aid

Next, we were shown the many various ways of bandaging the head. The style of bandaging depends on the nature of the head or face injury.

Wilderness First Aid

The “donut” is a little bit more complex, requiring the use of two cravats (strips made of folded triangular bandages). The donut bandage is useful for dressing up wounds with impaled objects sticking out.

Wilderness First Aid

The workshop comes with actual practice sessions. All participants tried the various bandage techniques they have learned on their partners.

Wilderness First Aid

We also bandaged simulated serious leg and thigh wounds.

Wilderness First Aid

A large wound or burn to the torso must also be carefully bandaged to protect it from infection. Our workshop master showed us how, and we simulated it on our partners.

Wilderness First Aid

“Here’s how to bandage injured, burned, and wounded shoulders,” Christopher demonstrated. He used two triangular bandages to create a shoulder-armpit cravat.

Wilderness First Aid

Sprained, broken, and dislocated arms are common injuries in the wilderness. Christopher taught us how to make binders and arm slings to support injured arms.

Wilderness First Aid

For first timers like us, the process of fashioning bandages, slings, and binders were a little bit complex. So, we had to consult with patterns shown in our module. Don’t worry, with practice, we will be able to do this like the back of our hands.

Wilderness First Aid

Injuries to the hand and foot can be bandaged quickly and easily.

Wilderness First Aid

Christopher also taught us how to create splints from branches, twigs, and other readily available materials. Splints are useful for stabilizing dislocations and limbs with broken bones.

Wilderness First Aid

Getting injured people off the danger zone and bringing them towards medical help are of primary importance in an emergency in the outdoors. Injured people may be incapable of bringing themselves out of the wilderness, so Christopher shared various one-man carry techniques so team members can assist in bringing the victim to safety.

Wilderness First Aid

Transporting a victim with the help of multiple individuals is even better and safer.

Wilderness First Aid

There are situations when carrying an injured person is not feasible. The only way to do that is to drag him. Christopher demonstrated several ways of dragging a person without causing back injury to the rescuer.

Wilderness First Aid

Our workshop master also showed us how to make an emergency, weight-bearing harness out of webbing. This is an important skill to master, especially if one needs to descend or climb a cliff, cross a raging river, suspend himself on a ravine, and more.

Safety organizations all over the world recommends the use of a real rated harness. Thus, improvising a harness should only be used as a last resort.

Wilderness First Aid

A full-body harness is sometimes required to safely move a victim off a mountain or transport him to safety. Since we don’t normally bring full-body harnesses, Christopher showed us how to improvise a body harness using a rope.

As mentioned before, improvising a harness should only be used as a last resort.

Wilderness First Aid

Sometimes, a litter is needed to safely transport a person out of the wild. But we don’t normally carry litters when we go out adventuring. Thankfully, Christopher showed us how to improvise a daisy-chain litter using items we normally carry such as ropes, earth pads, carabiners, and even water bottles. We didn’t even know that a backpack can be made into a headrest, with its waist belt as an improvised strap to stabilize the head.

Wilderness First Aid

A Simulation

Sometime during a short break, Christopher, who went out for a little while, came running back to our venue. His face was haggard, sweaty, and panicked. He revealed that one of our team members had an accident. He fell into a ravine and broke his leg.

Right away, our team ran to the scene of the accident. The victim was in agony and was about to lose consciousness. He has an open fracture on his leg, which makes the situation more complicated. An open fracture happens when the bone protrudes out of skin through a wound. This is quite serious as the open wound is prone to infection.

A personal note: We have to admit that seeing an injured person at the most unexpected of moments truly shocked us! It took us a few minutes to gather our wits and senses, and recover from confusion and panic. Those precious minutes can be the difference between life and death. It’s not easy, but we need to be calm when confronted with emergency situations. Only when we are calm and composed can we think properly.

Wilderness First Aid

After the initial shock wore off, the team sprung into action. People immediately looked for splints and opened their first-aid kits while others assessed the injury and created splints.

At one time, the victim lost consciousness and respiratory activity. We had to administer CPR so we could restart blood circulation and respiration.

Wilderness First Aid

While half of the team tended to the victim, the others prepared to create a daisy-chain litter using a rope.

Wilderness First Aid

With the victim conscious and the fracture stabilized, it was time to secure him to the litter and transport him. One of the problems we encountered this time was that our litter was too short, and the rope was bundled in a confusing coil that took ages to unravel. That was part of the situation, and it can really happen in the wild.

Wilderness First Aid

One, two, three, lift! We lifted the victim to an extraction point about 50 yards from the accident site. Once we reached the extraction point and lowered the victim, Christopher declared, “Mission accomplished!” Good job, everyone!

Wilderness First Aid

Of course, the accident was just a simulation, but it was the closest to the real thing. Everyone’s heart is pounding, and panic and doubt—and adrenaline—set in. Thank goodness Christopher trained us on how to handle these situations. According to his chronometer, the entire rescue took 17 minutes from the arrival of the team to the successful transportation of the victim to the extraction point. That is still way too long, but considering that this is our first time to handle such a simulated emergency, it was actually pretty good.

As the sun worked its way down the horizon, we had a short debriefing where every member shared what they learned during the workshop.

Wilderness First Aid

The Wilderness First Aid Workshop was a remarkable success. The knowledge that was imparted upon us will help us become stewards of life. It helps us become more confident of ourselves for not just being responsible outdoorsmen but for being compassionate lifesavers.

Special Thanks

We would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Christopher Ngosiok for sharing his vast knowledge of wilderness first-aid. Thank you to EMT, first responder, and outdoor buddy Joseph Inosante (guy in green) of BCERT for augmenting the workshop with his knowledge as well.

We would also like to thank Outpax founder Eric Tuñacao for inviting us to this information-filled event, and BCERT first responder Dan Leo Plaza for volunteering to be the “victim” in various scenarios. Sorry, Dan, no one brought a medical-training mannequin. Hehehe!

Wilderness First Aid

Thank you too to all the participants of Outpax’s Wilderness First Aid Workshop. You made the event fun and successful. The participants now have full confidence and knowledge on what to do when the unthinkable happens. We hope to see you in more outdoor adventures!

Wilderness First Aid
(Photo credit: Josephine Molo Tamayo)

We highly recommend all outdoorsmen to take this workshop to make your outdoor adventures and sojourns safer.

This event is powered and organized by Outpax, Camp Red, PBIC, and BCERT.

For more information and details on Outpax events, get in touch with Eric Tuñacao (OutPax) at 0922-7721552. You can also send him a personal message on Facebook.

Check out other exciting events and communicate with other outdoorspeople by visiting the Outpax Facebook Page.

Here’s also a useful article about First Aid for Emergency Situations. Thank you, David Peterson, editor of the ACLS Training Center, for sharing this article.

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About Adrenaline Romance

Rock climbers. Mountaineers. Sweethearts on adventure. Adrenaline Romance is a photoblog that belongs to a loving couple who has an eternal lust for adventure. The blog contains experiences, tips, itineraries, and other useful information regarding adventuring in the Philippines and beyond.

14 comments on “Wilderness First Aid Workshop: Training to Save Lives in the Outdoors

  1. Reading your post about all these unexpected emergencies when we do outdoor activities is a big help. Every sentence, every paragraph, I’m learning. The trainer must be very proficient enough on that. Thank you for sharing all the possible emergency situations, when it arrives, what to do and a proper direction of doing rescue.

    • Hi Littlelai,

      Yes, it is very important that we know wilderness first aid, especially for outdoorspeople like us. Accidents can happen anytime in the outdoors, and we need to know how to deal with such mishaps. By gaining such knowledge, we have a chance to save a life.

  2. Indeed, outdoor adventure is not just going into a happy go lucky trip into the wilderness because we’ll never know what will happen. This blog is very informative and would give the readers an idea where to find training useful for their next outdoor adventure.

    • Hi Christopher,

      Thank you very much, sir, for sharing your knowledge with us. It’s very useful, and it builds confidence.

      Mother Nature, while stunning, is indifferent and does not cooperate. We agree with you that while outdoor adventures are fun and exciting, we should also be prepared for unfortunate mishaps that could happen.

  3. Thank you for sharing this very informative blog. This will help a lot especially for those adventure-seeker out there. Emergency situations are unexpected and thus, we should be prepared and know how to make a response out of it. 🙂

  4. Copies of the Wilderness First Aid module are available at P70 apiece for a minimum order of 5. For orders, get in touch with Eric Tuñacao and/or Outpax. Contact details are at the bottom section of the main blog post. Thanks!

  5. That’s very important and useful!

  6. This is so cool! Like Red Cross trainings but tailored for outdoor adventures. 🙂

  7. Yup, wilderness medical training is awesome!!! Well done, and well written.

    “Do not provide artificial respiration to a breathing victim as it can be injurious or even fatal.” Never heard this before, if you have any more info or sources I’d be curious…if not no worries though.

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