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le Voyageur

The Most Dangerous Word in a High Adventure Director Vocabulary...

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SMT224

Hi.

:)

I restate my earlier post Thursday, 3/29/2012: 2:19:05 PM addresses your question. I even put in the words Objective and Subjective as signals to what I was doing. Given the earlier direction of the thread your hypothetical seemed weird but I still tried to answer it also.

 

I am Sorry if I misread your intent! :(

 

But risk management starts before the trip starts, if you wait til events happen then you are doing incident management - a vastly different animal as no pre-planned resources are available, you just have to work with what you have or can get.

 

I'm having a bad run of people misreading my intentions today also, IRL and Online. Probably time to call it a day.

YiS, the Gunny.

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SMT224 - Subjective risks are those risks that we bring with us into the outdoors - the human factor. It is often impossible to separate objective from subjective hazards. We play a role in avoiding, preventing, or sometimes even causing many objective hazards. Human error, in one form or another, contributes to almost every accident in the back country. Often the error precedes the accident by a long period of time, with accidents having complex histories, the so called Sand Pile theory.

 

A short list of subjective hazards could include....

 

Unsafe acts, improper procedure, inadequate food, water, clothing, or equipment, and unrealistic travel times and goals. Also, errors in judgment, leadership issues, negative attitudes, the desire to please others, sticking to a schedule, the inability to cope effectively with unexpected situations, misperceptions, fatigue, and distractions, hidden or unreported allergies, and medical conditions, poor physical health for the activity

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Gunny -- Thanks. No worries. Now I better understand what you were saying.

 

leVoyager -- I appreciate the clarification of subjective risks. I too would appreciate more info on how this relates to objective risks.

 

Again my interest in this comes from my difficulties in getting our Scouts to fully understand the implication of how progressing hypothermia can cloud judgement. Would that be considered a subjective risk vs the objective risk of not being prepared in the first place?

 

At our February camping trip, the temps were in the low teens, it was snowing, and very windy. We were working on getting a fire going and everyone was engaged either collecting wood or focusing or starting the fire. Everyone was dressed properly and no one was in immediate danger, but it was noticeably cold. After the fire was roaring and were standing around roasting kielbasa on sticks we discussed really what impaired judgement meant and what you could do if you or a buddy were afflicted by it. I explained that you had to know and stick to certain rules (objective) no matter how you felt (subjective). I think the older boys understood this concept, but the younger ones had a hard time getting beyond reality not being what they felt it was.

 

Hence the discussion on objective vs subject risks is of significant interest to me... especially in relation to keeping the Scouts... "safe"!

 

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The objective risk is cold weather, and is an element that awaits us when we venture into the backcountry, and away from the safety of those enviroments, such as our homes, that we have direct control over. That is, we don't take the full weight of civilization's technologies of the modern world into the backcountry with us. In this case the heating system used to keep our homes, as well as ourselves warm and toasty. Nor do we take the house with all it's comforts.

In the outdoors, and away from this technology, the game changes and we must adapt and confirm to a different set of rules that we have little control over. Thus begins the subjective risks of judgement, preception, experience, and expectations. We have to revert back to the basics of shelter, clothing, fire, water, and food to survive in cold enviroments. Ignoring, or short changing any of those basics, we start the process of declining judgement. When we loose core body heat we get fuzzy headed, which begin the process of getting stupid. What I call slipping into the "umbles". The umbles are, we mumble, we stumble, and we bumble, with the last one being we crumble. When a person hits that last umble, they are unable to care for theirselves, and without help, they die (a great read here on this subject would be Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air", and Laurence Gonzales' "Deep Survival - Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why").

I highly suggest reading Deep Survival which will give you insights on the thinking, and actions of your young scouts...for myself, Gonzales' Deep Survival should be manditory reading for everyone who heads out into the back country....

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I explained that you had to know and stick to certain rules (objective) no matter how you felt (subjective).

 

Yah, hmmmm....

 

I think this is exactly da wrong approach to outdoor safety and risk management.

 

Rules-based systems work well in simple, repetitive environments where the complexity of the environment is low and the rules can therefore be kept few and simple. The classic cases are factory line jobs. Most rules-based safety originates from industrial environments.

 

Outdoors programs are inherently complex, non-repetitive environments which are not amenable to simple rules. Most professional outdoors programs therefore focus on developin' judgment and experience, and avoid rules-based systems. Hence the greater emphasis on understandin' the objective ("hard") and subjective ("soft") risks in a given situation, because awareness is necessary for buildin' experience and judgment.

 

I'm still confused about the whole problem with the word "safe" beyond the legal context.

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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When a HA Director uses the word "safe", it sets a mental trap not only in his/her mind, but also in the minds of the Crew. Gives the false impression that there are no risks, no boundries where things can go wrong from the minor to the majors. Both the Director, and his Crew have the potenial to become inattentive, careless, even reckless. Risk Management is about knowing how to hold the reins, Safety isn't. Safety is a gimmick use to promote that which isn't.

Before BSA National put Councils on the same sheet of music with NCS Trek Leader training and standards, each Council was free to determine just what level of risk management they could afford, while declaring, and promoting their HA programs as "safe".

Often, these early Council HA programs were under funded, under staffed, and ran by poorly trained directors who had no clear chain of command, and often no input on improvements. Equipment would often be selected based on the cheapest items available on the market, donated with questionalbe histories, or just plain worn out, and unuseable. But yet, declared "Safe".

Thankfully, that has changed, and those days are no more.

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By titling the document "Guide to Safe Scouting", there is an implied guarantee that, if everything in the book is followed to the letter, nothing bad will happen, and the corollary being, "if something bad did happen, you must not have followed the rules". We all know that's not true.

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Ok Beavah, ya don't like rules... only good in a static situation, bad in the real world dynamics of a survival situation. So how do you, or how do you recommend Scouts, survive the state so well described by le Voyageur as the "umbles" of mumble, stumble, bumble, and crumble?

 

By rules I mean "STOP" and the preparedness rules gunny enumerated. Such "rules" are intended to keep you or your buddy going and out of a dangerous situation without doing what you necessarily feel like doing in your confused state.

 

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Yah, SMT224, I guess I'm mostly havin' a hard time followin' this thread, because I really don't understand your question, eh?

 

Le Voyageur was talkin' about hypothermia when he mentioned "umbles." Are yeh tryin' to say there's some rule out there that will universally prevent hypothermia? Well, I suppose somethin' like "don't go outdoors when temperatures are below 90" might work. Kind of like yeh can prevent jet ski accidents within your program if yeh have a rule prohibiting jet skis. Conveniently, the lad who injures himself on a jet ski during summer break that might have learned better doesn't count against your program. :(

 

I appreciate that folks seem to like the simplicity of trite little mnemonics like STOP or SODA or whatnot. I'm just not convinced they're worth much. Stop-Think-Observe-Plan or Stop-Observe-Deliberate-Act are fine loose rules of thumb for beginners I suppose, but I've never seen 'em really be helpful IRL. Da problem is that if yeh don't know what to look for when you Observe, or yeh don't have the experience to properly Think through a situation, or yeh have never before Planned or Deliberated when under that kind of confusion and stress, yeh aren't goin' to be successful because yeh remembered a mnemonic. And if yeh really have those skills and abilities, yeh don't need the mnemonic rule.

 

Besides, if yeh really are ataxic from hypothermia (mumblin' and stumblin') the dumb mnemonic ain't goin' to help yeh a lick. Yeh better hope your buddy is doin' better! :)

 

Beavah

 

 

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Beavah - nothing set in stone or definitive here... kicking some ideas around the campfire and trying to understand this notion of objective and subjective risks as it relates to what I've observed teaching Scouts about risks, particularly hypothermia. More of a dialog of discovery for me. I still think STOP is a good thing for the Scout to know and understand, and if they do get into a difficult situation remembering to sit down and think may save them from the disaster of panic.

 

le Voyageur - Thanks for the Deep Survival reference. Found it at the Library and have commenced to read.

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Yah, hmmm... I reckon I'm partly confused because I don't find the language of objective and subjective risks all that useful myself, so I'd never use it with scouts.

 

I'm more fond of the old 3-E's bit. Yeh have to match Equipment and Experience with Environment.

 

So if you're goin' out snow campin', yeh have to imagine the worst ordinary conditions you'd expect, eh? Yeh have to know what to expect from the Environment. I suppose those are objective hazards, but that just seems like makin' up a buzz word to sound highfalutin.

 

Then yeh have to make sure personal and group gear is adequate for those conditions. That's the point of 10 essentials or other gear lists.

 

But the more important thing is to make sure that yeh also have the necessary Experience to deal with those conditions, eh? Not just the leader, either. The leader can't be everywhere and do everything. If boys don't know how to dress themselves in layers, the leader can't go around dressing all of 'em. Enough people in the group, youth and adults, have to have enough experience to be able to accomplish all the tasks together. A lad on his first winter campout better have a boy with strong winter camping experience watching over him and helpin' him out.

 

Experience and judgment roughly match to "subjective hazards" I guess. Buzz word again.

 

For some things, like rappelling, yeh make sure there's enough experience by controlling the site. Yeh limit it to one boy at a time, so yeh have an experienced person paired with a novice for both the rappel and belay. Other boys wait, because yeh want 1:1 experienced to novice.

 

For other things, like a float trip, yeh can't send only one canoe at a time down the river while everyone else waits. So yeh have to make sure each lad has decent swimming ability and has learned enough skill to be able to handle reasonable things, pairing up weak with strong so as to make viable boats that can manage the level of river Environment yeh have chosen.

 

That's what G2SS and Safety Afloat really mean, eh? Make sure yeh know the Environment to expect, make sure yeh have the right gear, make sure yeh have enough experience, both as a leader and as a group.

 

How do yeh learn what gear or what experience is needed or what environment is likely? Well I suppose yeh can memorize mnemonics and watch Hazardous Weather training videos online, but I don't think that stuff really works. I think we all learn the way scouts learn. We begin by going out as one of those young, clueless fellows who relies on older more experienced boys for guidance. We watch, and we listen, and we try, and we try some more. We think, and we read, and we practice some, and we learn more. We improve, and then we start helping others, and that teaches us some more. We go out a bunch of times, and learn more about the range of environments and the hazards. That teaches us more. Then we're ready to lead, and that teaches us more.

 

Scoutin' is about apprenticeship, not about training. It's about knowledge, not rules. Training and rules are dangerous, because they lead to overconfidence and the illusion of safety, like le Voyageur says. Real safety requires experience and judgment.

 

Beavah

 

 

 

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we're not going to have safe Scouts until we require they wear hardhats and shoulder pads on all hikes. And, all the boys should be roped together at all times

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Egads Beavah! We're sitting around a fire talking, not developing national policy! While I appreciate the information given and spirit of discourse, I really wasn't seeking an overview on how to prepare for a winter camping trip or a rendered opinion on hard and fast unshakable rules vs experience.

 

After reading posts on risk, as well as the discussion on objective and subject risks, I added a bit on how I though this may relate to what I had noticed on winter camping trips when teaching Scouts about hypothermia, specifically related to the risks related to impaired judgement. There are all kinds of risks associated with cold weather camping, and I was attempting to focus the discussion on one element of risk.

 

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