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WFR training helps keep guests safe in the backcountry

Though injuries and medical incidents are rare on our trips, Wilderness First Responder training gives us confidence to share remote desert settings with thousands of guests each year.

Imagine the following scenarios: 

  • A child is stung by a honey bee in the backcountry. How serious is it?
  • It’s 94 degrees and sunny. Three hikers are sweating profusely and their faces are turning red as they hike up the last sand dune to reach the Wave. Is it safe to push ahead, should they hunker in the shade or turn back?
  • A man who has had two prior heart attacks experiences shortness of breath while hiking. Is it a myocardial infarction or is he just out of shape?

These are just three of a myriad of real-world scenarios that may occur at some point while you are adventuring in the outdoors, and that a Wilderness First Responder would be more adept at handling. All guides are required by land managers to be CPR and first aid trained, but almost all Dreamland Safari Tour guides have chosen to go above and beyond these basic skills to earn a WIlderness First Responder certification. All of our backpacking guides are WFR certified, and we make sure there is at least one WFR on all of our overnight camping trips.

The course provides training in wilderness medicine, leadership and critical thinking for professionals in outdoor, low-resource, and remote environments. Most of the places we tour are way off pavement and hours from a hospital. Correctly assessing medical issue that arises and making smart choices becomes more important the farther you are from a medical facility.

The WFR class requires a minimum 30 hours of pre-course work and an intensive week of 45 hours of classroom study, outdoor simulations and testing, so it’s not an easy certification to obtain. Students practice all sorts of skills including: CPR, dressing wounds, taping tired knees and injured ankles, using epipens, making slings, learning techniques for reducing some dislocations and a lot more. A few of these practical skills have actually been used on a Dreamland tour. And beyond the basic skills, guides learn to think diagnostically about a patient to assess the seriousness of a medical incident and treat the most urgent problem first. They also learn how to spot some issues early, or prevent them entirely.

Like avoiding heat illness. We approach the summer heat with common sense (Learn tips for hiking in the heat) and a strong dose of caution. We also keep a close eye for any early signs of heat exhaustion and treat it before it escalates. Our WFR guides are taught to differentiate between heat exhaustion and the more serious heat stroke, which requires immediate evacuation for medical treatment. If a Dreamland guide comes across anyone on the trail who is struggling in the heat, they will know what to do. Kane County Search and Rescue performed 65 helicopter rescues at the Wave in 2022, many heat related. It is helpful for everyone, not just our guests, to have WFR guides who carry satellite communication out on the trail.

 Dreamland guides are passionate about remote, outdoor spaces, so it makes sense they would be invested in looking out for folks who want to enjoy those kinds of places. Some of our guides practice their WFR skills regularly as members of the Kane County Search and Rescue team or as Wave safety patrol volunteers. Helping others stay safe and healthy isn’t all we do, but it is certainly an essential component of being a professional guide in the backcountry.

Want to become certified as a Wilderness First Responder yourself? Dreamland Safari Tour’s Wilderness First Responder Training courses in Kanab are open to the public. 

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