Students unaware that Wilderness Remote First Aid program requires them to join Emergency Response Team

Students participate in Pomona College’s Wilderness Remote First Aid program. (Courtesy of the Pomona Outdoor Education Center)

Some Pomona College students who participated in the Wilderness Remote First Aid program were unaware of the requirement to join the Emergency Response Team that subsidizes the cost of the course for Pomona students.

The Wilderness Remote First Aid program run by the Outdoor Education Center started in 2013 and offers a Red Cross Wilderness Remote First Aid certification and basic CPR/AED certification, both valid for two years. It is a 16-hour, two-day course offered once in the fall and twice in the spring.

Students who take the Outdoor Leadership PE class are required to take the two-day program. The course is designed to prepare participants for “medical and emergency response within a wilderness context, which is defined as more than two hours to advanced life support,” said Martin Crawford, Pomona’s director of Outdoor Education.

The course description for the PE class does not include a mention of the Wilderness Remote First Aid program or the requirement to join the Emergency Response Team — just that the class includes some weekend field trips.

The requirement consists of being on a mailing list for the Emergency Support Team 4, though volunteering to assist in the event of an emergency is optional, according to Bob Robinson, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services at Pomona.

“Should we need medical staff, we would be able to contact them and ask them if they would assist,” Robinson said.

He said if students were unable to or did not want to assist in a crisis, that was no issue.

“We train as many people as we can in the hopes that we’ll get maybe 10 percent [to respond],” Robinson said.

About 60-80 students participate in the Wilderness Remote First Aid program per year, according to Crawford. There are tests throughout the course to determine whether participants will pass and receive their certifications.

All Outdoor Adventure leaders, Resident Advisors and professional staff are part of this Emergency Support Team 4, according to Crawford. The Emergency Support Team 4’s responsibilities are mainly medical care techniques taught in class.

Thea McAfee PO ’22 was not aware of the requirement, but said it was logical.

“It’s a mildly intimidating title to have, but I’m glad to be able to support the community in any way,” she said.

Jonathan Contreras PO ’21 echoed McAfee. “[The Emergency Response Team requirement] caught me by surprise but I’m glad I’m certified to help in any way I can, especially in the case of emergency,” Contreras wrote in an email to TSL.

“I don’t believe I’ve been given any formal instructions regarding the emergency response team,” Contreras wrote. “I just kind of accept the idea that if there’s an emergency, I should help if it’s within the scope of my ability.”

Participants in the WRFA course learn primary and secondary patient assessment, spinal injury assessment, reduction of dislocations, identifying medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart attacks), splinting, wound treatment, and wilderness hazards such as lightning, hypothermia or snake bites, according to Crawford.

Anyone can take the WRFA course, including members of the 7Cs for $145 and the general public for $180. However, some 5C organizations subsidize the cost for students. The course is free for students in the Outdoor Leadership class. For Pomona students, the course cost is only $20 because it is subsidized by the Emergency Response Team.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly defined Emergency Response Team 4 service requirement as mandatory emergency response participation rather than being on a mailing list for optional response participation. TSL regrets this error.
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