Two Letters Re: TEOTWAWKI Medical Skills: Thoughts on Becoming a “Woofer” (Wilderness First Responder)

Richard B.’s post is dead-on about how awesome Woofer training is. I’m WFR-qualified, and I agree that it is a great 10-day/night training program. However, there are a few things that WFR training targets that doesn’t quite cover TEOTWAWKI situations. I’ve also taken Medical Corps (the makers of KIO3 and one of your advertisers) “Care in Extreme Situations” course, and two different tactical medicine classes through Suarez International (their TC3 class includes live fire).

One key phrase in the definition of Wilderness Medicine is “more than one hour from definitive care,” and many of their techniques are designed around patient stabilization and transportation. A few of their techniques are advanced, in-field treatments, but the expectation of their approach is that the hospital will provide much needed care sometime in the future.

The Medical Corps class provides some amazing additional “I’m the only available medical care that you’re going to receive” type of medical information, that supplements the more basic care that WFR provides. One example they brought up on the class were a group of American who ended up on a Tsunami ravaged island in Indonesia, and because they were the most educated people there (i.e., they could read and they had seen episodes of the television show ER) they were most advanced medical care available on the island, with no training whatsoever. That class is geared towards that sort of ‘extreme situation.’ They also provide an amazing amount of information regarding supplies you can keep on hand to assist with mass casualty events, long term events, what’s good to have in the event you have to be the medical services for ‘your village.’

A Tactical Medicine class provides the much needed technologies for those first couple minutes after an injury occurs (normally from the point of view of ‘I just got shot’ or ‘My pal just got shot,’ but the techniques are applicable to “I just cut my leg off with a chainsaw at my Idaho retreat after the collapse and no one is coming to rescue me… ever … so I need to do something now.”) Live fire medicine is exciting. They also provide a lot of good information regarding the pro’s and con’s of various items in your ‘blow out’ kits (and its amazing to hear the points of view of various instructors … some approach it from a “This is what you carry” and others from the point of view of “this is what makes a good device, so if you need to improvise, here’s the characteristics you need to target.”

Here is how I categorize my three levels of training:
*Tactical Medicine: * The Ambulance is five minutes away, you’ve got 90 seconds before you bleed out. Return fire as needed.* You’re the ER doctor* now, the real doctor will help you later.
*Wilderness First Responder Training: * Help is an hour or a day away. The victim needs to be taken to the doctor or might just need a Band-Aid, that’s for you to figure out and decide what do with them (*sometimes you treat, sometimes to make sure that they can make it to treatment*). You evaluate and stabilize the patient, and if necessary move them so they can get to the real doctor.
*Medical Corps:* “Care in Extreme…” You are the only doctor that the victim(s) are ever going to see. Do your best with them to keep them alive, do your best to keep other people from becoming victims, and do your best to treat them for the long haul …. *You are the doctor (dentist).*
The more medical classes that I get and the more classes with ‘hands on the patients’ sort of interactions, the more I realize how much I don’t know and the more courses I want to take.
– C. in Fort Collins


I just wanted to pass on an additional direction that the general public can take advantage of for excellent medical emergency training with an outdoor focus. The Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) classes, put on nationwide by the National Ski Patrol, are nearly identical to the description of the recently-posted Wilderness First Responder article. The National Ski Patrol opens their classes to skiers and non-skiers of all stripes, including those who just wish to know more about first responder emergency medicine. The course is around 100 hours of class time – significantly more independent study time – and is completed with both a written and practical examination and OEC Certification. (It is recognized nationally). Refreshers are required each year to maintain certification. One of my main reasons for posting this alternative is availability of class offerings is wide and duration is usually set to a much longer period of time than the concentrated 9 or 10 day of the Woofer class as described in the posting.
More information can be found at the OEC Zone website or at National Ski Patrol website. As an aside, the curricula for OEC Technician is basically designed with and to be nearly identical to a Basic EMT certification following near identical study guides and standard of care protocols. Regards, – Rick S.