Risk management is the most important factor in the planning and preparation of Wildlands Studies projects. We have a structured risk management plan that is tailored to each specific project itinerary enabling us to adapt to the dynamic changes of the natural and political world to both prevent and respond to risk quickly and soundly. Although we work hard to prevent incidents, wilderness travel does come with inherent risks. Injuries and accidents can happen. Participants should be aware of the potential for dangerous situations to arise. Our instructors are experienced backcountry field guides as well as academicians, and are certified in First Aid and CPR. As a part of our risk management strategy, we require standards of behaviour intended to maximize the safety of our students, our staff, our organization, and the local communities that we visit. Learning to identify and avoid potential risks is one of the most valuable skills that participants can learn in the field. Wildlands Studies provides an orientation and overview upon arrival of our projects, and our instructors work with students throughout the program to learn how to best manage risks that may occur in the project’s specific region. We expect students to acquire and use risk management skills on our projects, and as adults, accept responsibility for following our risk management protocols. We require all our students to sign a Participant Agreement and show proof of medical insurance before participating in our projects. Wildlands Studies provides exciting and unique backcountry field study experiences, and we strive to achieve our program and educational goals while preventing injury and illness.
Students should consult a travel nurse or doctor at least six weeks prior to participation on a project. They need to be sure to discuss with the physician the location(s) where our project travels, so the doctor or nurse can appropriately determine the inoculations needed. Students will want to keep inoculation records on-hand in case this information is needed to enter into the country or in case of emergency. Up-to-date information about travel, inoculations, and disease risk is available at www.cdc.gov, a site maintained by the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At Wildlands Studies, we refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website when reviewing vaccination requirements for travel and strongly recommend all participants read the information online about the project-specific location. It may be helpful to have your student print out the CDC vaccination information for the project location and take it with them to their travel doctor.
For most projects, but especially international ones, there is no ready access to Western-style medical care, although Wildlands Studies Instructors do carry comprehensive, backcountry-oriented medical kits. Students should bring their own basic first-aid supplies and any prescription medicines their doctor thinks they might need. Prescription medicines should be accompanied by complete pharmacological information, available on request when you fill the prescription – this information could be indispensable in the event of an emergency.
We include more information about healthy traveling in our Logistics packet, emailed to the students ten weeks in advance of the project start date, as well as the project’s program manual, available online on the project webpage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an authoritative source of information on travel medicine. Visit their website (www.cdc.gov) and then navigate to the pages that discuss the country or area where your project is located. They have special sections about a number of important diseases, such as malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) also maintains a comprehensive base of information about disease risk. The Pocket Doctor by Stephen Bezruchka M.D. (The Mountaineers, Seattle) is a good, concise source of information about traveler's health concerns. A more comprehensive reference is Medicine for Mountaineering, published by The Mountaineers, Seattle. We encourage everyone to educate themselves about medical concerns related to travelling in the area where they are headed.