Letter Re: Officer Survival Initiative First Aid Materials


I enjoyed your article entitled Product Review: Officer Survival Initiative First Aid Materials. I am a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School and a three-time graduate of the Wilderness Medicine Institute’s Wilderness First Aid Course (a re-certification is required every two years). I have three points:

First, Wilderness First Aid has a different orientation than regular Red Cross First Aid courses. The latter are quite practical for most of us who live in cities and towns and focus on assessing and stabilizing a victim, while an ambulance is on its way. In the back country when help is days away and climbers or backpackers have only the weight-limited gear that is with them, WFA requires more effort to stabilize and, to a limited extent, treat injuries. Think of two hikers three days into the wilderness. One falls and breaks a leg. It’s probably not life-threatening in the short-run, but it makes the hike home rather longer than planned, and they have no radio to call for help. How does the First Aid provider use the limited materials at hand to splint and maybe even reduce the fracture, so the person can hobble towards civilization before their food runs out? I have taken this course with EMTs, emergency room nurses, and doctors. While they have vast knowledge, they are used to all of the equipment of a well-stocked ambulance, emergency room, or doctor’s office. The challenge to them is to use their knowledge with extremely-limited resources. The medical professionals I studied with absolutely love the challenge of figuring this out, but it certainly is sobering to them to think of doing medicine that way.

Second, Wilderness First Aid courses may not require as much travel as you suggest. As an example, in my area near Pittsburgh, Venture Outdoors (a local outdoor adventure organization) conducts two weekend Wilderness First Aid courses annually with instructors from NOLS/Wilderness Medicine Institute. About half of each class is conducted outdoors, regardless of weather, to add reality to the situation. I enjoyed the winter sessions. Not only do the aid givers need to deal with a fracture, but they also need to keep the victim from freezing to death– a real dose of reality.

Third: You are so right about two days being insufficient for detailed training, though it sure can help with the limited resources mindset. A prepper might say the shorter courses have some holes in them (no coverage of gunshot wounds, for example), but there is something for everyone. In addition to the two-day WFA course, the Wilderness Medicine Institute has a one-week Wilderness Advanced First Aid course, a two-week Wilderness First Responders course, a month-long course for Wilderness EMTs, and even a Wilderness Medicine and Rescue semester-long course. The shorter courses are taught across the U.S. and in various places overseas, though a trip to WMI’s beautiful new campus outside of Lander, Wyoming, in the shadow of the Wind River Range, is well worth taking! Also, there are numerous books available from WMI and Amazon such as “Wilderness & Travel Medicine” and “Wilderness Medicine”.

Regards – Walks With Cats

SFE Replies: You nailed the reason why I think wilderness courses are what preppers need– we may not be able to get help. My comments on finding classes nearby were based on my own location. Other than the Red Cross Wilderness First Aid class, the closest ones I’ve been able to find involved eight hour drives. I hope that changes!