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LEAD students get Wilderness First Aid training

A LEAD student practices cleansing a simulated wound on Buddy Program instructor John Brasier. Photo by Ken Pletcher.

A LEAD student practices cleansing a simulated wound on Buddy Program instructor John Brasier. Photo by Ken Pletcher.

Over the recent Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, The Buddy Program held Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training events for high school students in Rifle and Basalt. The training is a component of Buddy’s LEAD program, Leadership through Exploration, Action and Discovery.
This year-long program is run in collaboration with Colorado Mountain College (CMC), and LEAD teachers are also certified CMC instructors. Those completing the program receive both high school and CMC credit.
As the Buddy Program’s recruitment manager Laura Seay explained, “[LEAD] is a group, experiential mentoring program for high school teens that builds life skills through the lens of backcountry travel, and one of the program components is that students participate in a 16-hour [first aid] training and certification program.” This year’s training was divided into two eight-hour sessions in each location: Friday and Saturday in Rifle, Saturday and Sunday in Basalt.
Senior LEAD Program Coordinator John Brasier was in charge of the Basalt sessions. “We have eight students, all seniors, participating this year,” he said. He explained that usually the WFA training involves all LEAD students in the district — including those in Rifle as well as in Carbondale — taking the class together. “Because of COVID restrictions, we’re separating the groups this year.” Brasier noted that students in Carbondale will have their own training session later this spring.
The WFA classes in Basalt were taught by Becky Young, Operations Coordinator for Desert Mountain Medicine based in Leadville. She noted that the training being provided is not as intense or detailed as that offered by Outward Bound or the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), but, “It allows students to use and appreciate the outdoors” in a safer manner.
The sessions consisted of a combination of classroom-style discussions and hands-on practice. Brasier, a five-year veteran of the Buddy Program noted that this was his sixth WFA training class. “We started the day with the legalities of administering first aid,” including what constitutes consent and the scope of good-Samaritan laws.
Students next learned how to conduct a basic physical exam of a victim (head-to-toe assessment) to determine the type and severity of injury. Other topics covered included how to detect and treat various types of shock, learning the difference between arterial and venous bleeding, and responding to heat and cold maladies.
Much time was spent Saturday morning learning CPR techniques and then practicing on specialized dummies. Participants also practiced head-to-toe assessments on each other.
Young provided in-depth discussion Saturday afternoon on the various types of wounds one might encounter in the backcountry and how to treat them. After demonstrating techniques for applying pressure bandages and tourniquets to stanch bleeding, she showed the students how to cleanse and dress the wounds. Students were then invited to practice on Brasier, who had artfully created realistic-looking lacerations and abrasions on his limbs.
Much of Sunday’s session was devoted to determining the types and treatment of fractures, and students were able to practice basic splinting procedures. Time was also spent on how to conduct field evacuations of victims when necessary. In addition, students were taught what to do if a person is experiencing anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Recipients of WFA training are now certified to administer epinephrine — Brasier noted that EpiPens have become standard equipment in field first aid kits.
One student, when asked why she was in the LEAD program, responded, “I love being outdoors and in the backcountry. [The WFA course] is giving me that much more confidence to be out there.”
Brasier was visibly proud of his students. “They are working hard and taking [the training] seriously. I’m really happy with their progress.”
Because of COVID restrictions this year, LEAD program students will not be able to have their annual June campout in Moab, Utah. However, the Buddy Program has put protocols in place, including purchasing individual tents for students, to continue a limited number of backcountry weekend campouts.