Survivor 2001


This writeup is not meant to be entertaining. Just so much happened on this weekend course that I need to write it down to help assimilate the experience.


As more and more Gonzo events include getting out of cell range and including people of various skill and fitness levels, I have been getting more concerned that we aren't as prepared as we should be to handle accidents common in these types of sports. The past few years, I have been concentrating on my own gear, trying to find out what works and what I'm comfortable using.

If you're in the woods with 6-10 people and someone gets hurt, how you're doing and how prepared you are yourself may be irrelevant as far as dealing with the situation. I feel that we have been quite lucky so far and have been ignoring the fact that we need to be more aware of some of the potential risks and to spend some time ensuring that we have the skills required to deal with threatening situations like hypothermia.

In the past 2 months, I have taken a CPR and Emergency Procedures course, both to help upgrade my competency level and ability to deal with health risks in the outdoors. The Emergency Procedures course is one of the seven Outdoor leadership modules put on by NSOLDP it is designed to give you real-time experience in outdoor medical emergency situations. It took place in Annapolis Valley

Preparation included reading all their glossy stuff and buying a 10'x10' square of see-through 4ml plastic for emergency shelter usage. I also loaded every bit of of outdoor clothing I had into the car as we were going to be out all weekend in all sorts of weather, and getting wet was a requirement for the course.


Arrived in,camp. met everyone (Kevin, Bill, Mark, Scott, Gillian, Janet, Lorrie, Todd, Martin, Bernie, Charlie, Helen, Paula, Ken and Eric), including the 6 instructors (Gary, George, Darlene, Kathleen, Chris and Tyler), nice little chat about this and that and admin rules for the camp. Then at 8:00 (feeling tired after a day of work and all that driving), we were split into 2 groups and given 10 minutes to get ready for a little 45 minute night hike. Seemed innocent enough. No idea what to expect.

15-20 minutes into the hike, we come across a woman, obviously distraught and perhaps drinking. She's going on and on about her injured boyfriend somewhere behind her. It's obvious that this is a "SCENARIO" and we have to deal with it. There are 8 of us and it's pandemonium. Kevin and I were first on the scene, gathered some hurried data and took off looking for the boyfriend. The group naturally split into 2 groups and 5 of us took another 3-4 minutes to find "Eugene", who is face down on a steep slope, wearing jeans, sneakers and a fleece jacket, no hat, no gloves, ankle trapped between 2 trees. All we get from him is moans, unless we move him, then we get a stifled scream. Everyone is talking fast moving fast.

I break out my space blanket, Paula has a spare fleece. Bill, Eric and Kevin work on a splint for his broken ankle and we all decide to unhook his feet and swing him around face up on the hill, then perhaps ferry him to the woman. I run back to the first group to get info and reassure the woman (name lost) who just has a twisted knee. We a lot fo grunting and some yelling, we get Eugene out, around and down, then over to the woman, who is sitting under a blanket. Nothing to prop up the man on, so we hold him and finally get a hat, then some gloves on him and something under his butt. We decide to send 2 back for more help (Kevin and I) One of the facilitators (Kathleen) holds us up and asks what we know, what we should know and who we should have told, then we watch until the end of the Scenario, as the "victims' have become pretty cold and are shivering a lot.

While this is going on facilitator George has been dunked in a pond to be saved by the other crew and I gather they did about as well as we did. There is a bit of discussion on-site, but basically we head back to the cabin and everyone gets hot drinks and biscuits. We review the scene step-by-step with lots of side-arounds for what was missed, should have been thought of/done, etc. While there was positive re-enforcement for the good stuff, here is a list of what we did or missed:

- Rushed to boyfriend without any real info

- Rushed around in dark, no idea of terrain

- Rushed around with no plan and no way to communicate back to original group

- Some of the stuff we didn't do, I thought of (as I'm sure many others did) but there was no good way to get this info out or make it useful.

In essence, the "scenario" had a life of it's own

- Did not do an injury search on Eugene. Moved him without really dealing with the spinal injury concern

- The decision to drag him down to Darlene was more basically to keep busy

- We caused him a fair bit of pain during the manoeuvre

- Didn't get hat on him for 10 minutes (and we know how long 5 cold minutes are, don't we) and gloves for five more

- I think we used all our clothing resources, but we didn't have much

- I was pleased to have my fire makings and spare blanket, but that's really not the point

- Once stabilized, our 2 victims were not warm nor in any comfort and it would have been a minimum 2 hours for extra help

How should have we reacted:

- Spend 2-3 minutes with first contact and get everything possible out of her

- Assign 2-3 people to get her stable and warm

- Assign 3-4 people to do a quick scratch (Perimeter) search, and if required a more serious grid search

- Report back with info once we found him (need a coordinator)

- Assess all injuries (he had puncture in chest) and decide on them and spinal (given that this was not a first-aid course, the spinal was left out)

- Heat management for real, asap

- Getting victims together for a fire was good, but we had lots of time to pick a good spot and minimize movement

- Runners should have had more info and checked with everyone, then detailed how long they would be

- We didn't do anything for Eugene's leg much less anything else

-Man, that was ugly

So the de-briefing sounds bad, but really, that's why we are learn. The instructors are amazing. All positive, confident, and experienced. Since they take turns being victims, they learn as well, but from the other side. What a great way to learn stuff

Anyhoo, it's off to the sleeping quarters. Seven of the guys are associated with teaching cadets and are very military. between that and that 5? are Newfoundlanders and it was a loud weekend


Breakfast, some class work about scene management (control, plan, act, stabilize, ongoing) (Environment, Resources, People, Situation, Leadership), (Abcde - Environment, Disability) and it's out into the wilds again. We are split into 3 groups of five and our group (Lorrie, Mark, Janet and Bill) heads to a spot on the map where we encounter Kathleen and Chris. Chris is an a culvert, not moving, and Kathleen is unconscious across the stream, lying in the snow. Lorrie and I get across the stream and Lorrie does basic first-aid and we quickly get under my my big plastic tarp, on top of my little sleeping bag and under Lorrie's fleece blanket. Then it's hat and gloves and situation sort of stable. I check with the other crew and they have the guy sitting up, under a tarp and stable. Bill and Janet are sent as runners (a few feet away, but out of the scene)

There is a bunch of back and forth with info and some thought of moving everyone into the culvert, but the girl is throwing up (food poisoning) and perhaps recovering a bit, and there is the stream. Did I mention that it snowed all last night and now it's raining. Fun stuff.

We are in hurry up and wait mode, but stabilized. I "start" a fire, but really would have a hard time maintaining it. Lorrie convinces me under the, but no real decisions as to whether the fire or 3 sitters is better.Scenario stops and we hike back to cabin for de-briefing, which goes well.

The discussion about specific actions goes well. The tarps were a blessing. We didn't have a scene manager, but with 5 people and two split victims, we did OK. We perhaps could have decided to get everyone into the culvert and get an external fire...before the runners were sent (time hard to gauge). My fire would have been good for the support crew. It took us a long time to ask if the victims had any resources/food/clothes. I missed the fact that Kathleen's legs were wet and should have been changed. All in all it went MUCH better than Friday.

Lunch and more classwork about scene management, resource collection and search and rescue techniques. And of course, out into the weather for a few more scenarios.

We hike out to the river and watch buddy (Gary) on skis plop into the freakin' river bank and know himself out. We are on the other side, up a bluff. What do we do, but split in 2 and rush to left and right looking for a way over. I all over to tell buddy, but he's out, Janet offers to talk to him but scene is cut right there. Damn, I should have though to stay there, take control and get 2 teams to give me timeframes for coming back. We also should have discussed roping across the water. Once again, the scene speed ramped up and we lost control. Damn. Doing that one over with a clear head, we would have done well. @ runners each way, rest of us to maintain control and suss out crossing the water and what risks were involved. Damn

The debriefing is tough. we're not really getting the concept. Chris is nice about it, but we didn't do this one well. Very interesting discussion about what it would take to cross the river and under what circumstances. I was ready from the get-go, the missed the big picture...scene management.

Chris switches to showing us a pita-wrap on Janet (My now beloved plastic tarp. very cool

The second one was a really hysterical woman (Tyler) with 2 lost girls, one of them hearing disabled (not deaf....can likely read lips....duh), the other quite young. I did spend more time with the original victim but did not step into any organizational role. So, while I was pleased so far with my gear collection and concentration on getting facts, I was still missing the big scene/resource management concept)

Our scratch search (man, this is deep snow) yields nothing (we cut off 20 m shorts of the pines) and conduct a line search for 20 minutes and have to get a Broad hint to get back in the pines. I find Darlene, speaking too fast for hearing disabled, but we get her back as the other girl had been found on the other crew's scratch search

The de-briefing points out the lack of leadership, the mistiming on the scratch search (need more time in deep snow). One control in the center could have allowed resources to do a bigger scratch search (no need for pairs as we could all be seen) and we would have been done in 10 minutes. Our competencies are going ok, but the control issue is still a dud.

Back to the site for the first scenario and Chris is showing the other crew a pita-warp on Lorrie. This time with ropes so we can litter her out. Lots of discussion on technique and I basically convince the 2 crews that options 1 (walk 2-3 minutes, put her down, crew switch) and 2 (each carrier shuffles up the body every few minutes) aren't as good as one at a time replacements (keep moving, no risk of drops, no fancy organization). We get her back to the camp field and Chris re-shows the ropework for the litter and Gary convinces us all to strip a few layers and lie on the snow for 5 minutes, then get a pad for 5 more. Excellent lesson

Dinner and a promise of no night scenarios gets everyone to relax. The cadet guys head out for some beef, everyone else for salad and beans. Class work is a big "gear bare" with Chris doing the 100+ lb version (Hike of the pack), Gary doing the "Nawthin'" version (Hike of the head) and Tyler breaking down a fine leader's pack in great detail. Lots of ideas, many of which I already use. Some refined, some new:

- Big plastic, see through

- Waterproof bag - small sleeping bag

- Waterproof bag - BIG extra clothes, full set

- Great misc gear bag, fold-out, nice use of sucrets tins

- Need a metal pot, even for a fire

- Always a big candle (for heat)

- Knife on the knapsack belt

- Compass/whistle/watch on knapsack straps

- Full plastic rain gear

- Quality map case and 1st aid case

- Big garbage bags (2)

- Notepad/pencil/pen

- 50 ' flat band nylon webbing

- Foam pad

- Purify tablets

Basically, you need enough stuff to do basic first-aid, and handle a person cold and wet, immobile on the ground. (rope,pads, clothes, plastic, heat, water, food)


It's April Fool's and the 6:30 wakeup no one wanted to believe, but with all the instructors dressed, Darlene walking around as a victim and a emergency sheet detailing 3 kids out in the woods, we are into another scenario.

This time,we appoint a leader (Bill) and things get under control quickly (Paula writing stuff down), people assigned to Darlene. We fast-hike out to the culvert (missing some bloody detail on the bridge) and are split into 3 groups, as we can see Tyler already. That crew has a lot of fun trying to restrain him, but they get it done (talkie vs action). The 2 other crews do scratch search, then detail search, with Bill in the middle. The second crew finds george all bloody and spend a lot of time with him. We break into detailed search mode and finally turn up Kathleen. Frustrating checking everywhere with no results for quite awhile.

The debriefing goes well. We missed lots of stuff, but have obviously learned a lot on the weekend. Fun going around the circle with everyones impressions on the weekend.

Astounding weekend. The concept of scene management and organized resources plus specific details for search/rescue and hypothermia and a new term "Experiential Learning"





Emergency Contacts
Internal conflicts
Fitness levels
1st Aid skills
Fears & Anxieties
Medical issues
Group Composition


Weather & Duration
Daylight hours
Route hazards
Water access
Evacuation Plan


Role Model
Leader to Participant ratio
Organizational skills
Ability to delegate
Multiple leaders/conflicts


Can it be carried
Distribution and shred items
Pre-trip packing list
Avoid boots
Familiarity with gear
Food - enough/healthy


Timing - check points
Route risks
Planning incorporating all aspects
Safety plan
Reservations, Permits
Route card
Indoor planning vs Outdoor activity