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Becoming a Wilderness First Responder

Wilderness First Responder also known as WFR, pronounced “Woofer,” is a valuable skill I think all people who recreate outdoors should obtain. Kind of like an EMT except for one, it’s geared towards cases in the middle of the woods and two not as extensive of knowledge as an emt. This is a 90 hour course put on by NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). In the course we covered a wide range of topics including: Injuries, Environmental accidents, Medical accidents, Mental Health and Leadership. Some of my favorite subjects to learn about were shock (and how to treat it), the spine, hypothermia vs. frostbite (and how to treat), diabetes (and how to help someone), how to administer an epi pen, how to determine a brain injury and of course teamwork and group dynamics.

Online portion

I signed up for their hybrid class which means part online and 5 days in-person. I chose this because I felt I could learn the online material at my own pace in contrast to their 10 day in person course. Walking into the classroom on the first day I had a sense of confidence because I at least knew about the material thoroughly and I was ready to apply it in real life. The online portion prepared me by having chapters to read, videos to watch and quizzes to test my knowledge. All of which needed to be completed by the first in-person day.

In-person portion

First day of class was Wednesday, November 10th, a day that marked the start of my changed life. Throughout the course of the 5 days we worked through numerous scenarios, all curated by our experienced, trained and funny teachers. They taught us how to asses a patient we may find completely unconscious, completely freaked out, injured beyond belief and slightly hurt. The main thing we learned was to immediately determine any life threatening issues to someone within the first couple minutes of interaction.

The 5 days I was in Flagstaff honestly felt like 10! From 8 AM to 5PM and two nights going till almost 10 PM, we were filled with information and knowledge. I had to learn how to work with people I’ve never met in a high stress environment and hold my composure even when I was feeling like I was going to explode. I cried once before the start of the course because I didn’t feel prepared, but once I got there I learned I was right where I needed to be. I found solace in running on our lunch break to healthily release the tension built up from the day.

The knowledge we all gained, the information we obtained and the scenarios we went through all shaped my group to prepare for outdoorsy emergencies (hiking, camping, biking, rafting, heart attack, etc....). When you are in a remote area and there is no cell service how are you going to help someone? What are you going to do? This knowledge is invaluable for anyone that participates in outdoor activities and I highly recommend people to check it out. I AM A CERTIFIED WILDERNESS FIRST RESPONDER HEAR ME ROAR!!

More pics

Ways to use WFR certification

-Wilderness therapy guide

-Search and rescue team


-Outdoor leader

-Summer camp staff



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