Reasons you should attend First Training's Outdoor First Aid Course.

Posted by on November 02, 2017

Reasons you should attend First Training's Outdoor First Aid Course

Providing first aid in remote settings presents a number of challenges in terms of the knowledge and skills required and the systems needed to respond to potential injuries or medical emergencies. In this first part of a two part article, we discuss and present reasons you should attend specialised training in the outdoors. If you're responsible for the care of others venturing into remote or austere environments, ask yourself this:

"Do I have the right first aid knowledge and skills for a remote setting?"

Here’s a scenario:

You’re a school teacher and this weekend, with some colleague’s you’re taking a group of teenagers on a geography field trip into a fairly remote area.  Its winter so light fades fast around 5pm. The trip is going well until one of the students slips on the track, hears a loud crack as they roll an ankle. They’re fine, but the ankle hurts and he/she can’t walk. Your group is still an hour from the hut and light is fading fast. Two of the group are getting cold while you sort the situation….

Under normal circumstances a badly sprained ankle doesn't sound like a calamity and most of us would do the usual things that make sense and we’ve been trained to do on a standard first aid course. Yes, rest the ankle, apply an ice pack, elevate the ankle and eventually get them to a medical facility for x-rays and a diagnosis.  However, as this hypothetical scenario exemplifies, the outdoor environment creates abnormal circumstances. We can see due to fading light, the distance from shelter and the fact two of the group are getting cold are compounding and contributing factors to the complexity of providing care in remote settings. Relatively minor issues can present significant challenges due to the environment, distance from normal services (like an A&E department) and uncontrollable factors such as weather, terrain and time all amplify the severity of what would otherwise be a simple matter.  There’s also the group to consider. One person injured is one too many problems, and as the above scenario highlights, more problems lay in wait if poorly planned actions are executed.

While standard first aid courses are great for the everyday world, and we recommend everybody should receive basic first aid training to be equipped for life, we ask a deeper question:

"Do standard courses adequately prepare those tasked with providing care in a remote setting for the wide range of problems that may present?" 

We propose: No. Here’s three reasons why.

  • Standard first aid courses are designed assuming emergency medical services are just a phone call away.
  • Standard first aid courses teach the responder to deal with a single patient, there is little attention paid to the knowledge, skills or equipment required to cater for the health care needs of a group in remote or potentially austere environments.
  • Standard first aid courses assumes we only need to provide care for our patients for minutes or hours versus potentially hours or days.  

"So how do you prepare effectively for deploying to a remote or austere environment with healthcare in mind?"

Providing healthcare or first aid in remote settings is sometimes an afterthought. ‘Yep, were taking to the hills, first aid kit: check.’ 

OK, having a first aid kit is a great start, however further questions need answering:

  • What’s in the first aid kit, does it cover the needs for likely events?
  • Is there enough kit to take care of the group if needed?
  • What type of environment am I going into- is mountainous or dense bush?
  • What skills and knowledge exist within the group?
  • Do any of the group of pre-existing medical conditions that may be a problem if they develop in a remote setting?
  • Do I have enough training to handle any possible situation?
  • Do I have contingency plans in plans in case of emergency?
  • How do we call for help-who do we call for help?
  • Where is the closest hospital or emergency medical service? 

In part 2 of this article, we'll provide a framework to help you answer these questions, including our recommendations around what should be in a remote setting first aid kit and methods for assessing the healthcare needs of a group.

Planning Care for Remote Settings

In general terms we can plan healthcare for our group in a remote setting checking three key areas of preparation:

Knowledge and skills: Do I have the necessary knowledge and skills?

  • We recommend everyone who ventures into the outdoors undertakes specialised outdoor first aid training.

Equipment and resources: Do I have enough equipment and resources?

  • We recommend comprehensive check-lists to aid planning to ensure the right equipment and amount of resource is deployed for the right environment. In the next part of this article we’ll provide what we believe are good examples of such check-lists.

Risks and risk treatment: Have I appreciated all risks and have plans in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise the impacts of these risks?

  • We recommend all deployment plans are assessed for all risks and plans are developed, tested and reviewed frequently before and during venturing into the outdoors.

Specialised Outdoor First Aid Training

Outdoor First Aid facilitated by First Training is a two-day course or a one-day refresher course that covers all the usual first-aid topics but the main difference is each is delivered within the context of a remote setting and the usual management plans for injuries and medical problems are extended to provide knowledge and skills on how to:

  • Manage patients for extended periods of time.
  • Assess risks 
  • Manage a group in the outdoors 
  • Handle stretchers 
  • Use EPIRB and GPS location equipment.
  • Develop solid MEDEVAC plans in case of emergencies.

"...but I've never done a first aid course before."

The course is designed to build on people’s pre-existing first aid knowledge and skills but don‘t worry, if you’ve never completed a standard first aid course, you’ll be surprised what you inherently know and understand and completion of a previous standard first aid course is not a prerequisite. All you need is the motivation to learn new things. Here’s some of the medical topics you won’t find on a standard first aid courses but are covered on an Outdoor First Aid Courses (in addition to standard first aid topics) delivered by First Training:

  • Pre-deployment risk assessment and management
  • Pre-deployment equipment
  • Use of trauma tourniquets
  • Use of haemostatic dressings (dressings impregnated with chemical to stop bleeding)
  • Management of accidental gunshot wounds (specifically hunters)
  • Use of SAM limb splints and pelvic splints
  • Preparing a helicopter landing zone for MEDEVAC
  • Managing dehydration with oral electrolyte fluids
  • Identification of toxic / poisonous NZ plants
  • Use of common over the counter medications for common conditions

Want to know more?

Arne from Hamner springs writes: "Love the hands on approach"


 In part two of this article we'll cover:

  • Planning healthcare needs for your group
  • What makes a good first aid kit for remote settings?
  • 5 top First Aid tips for remote settings


“Raki the instructor was the best component; she was amazing, very knowledgeable, easy to learn from her.”
- Henderson High School - FASE - July 2021, Auckland
More Reviews