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ARC Wilderness First Aid vs. Others

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Although the ARC course was constructed to match the BSA requirements, the material covered in the course easily fits many other situations. One of the scenarios we use is based on encountering injured persons after a tornado. I guess that's one reason for the course title being Wilderness and Remote First Aid. The skills and situations covered in the class can obviously be useful in many settings. I'd like to compare the ARC WRFA to the material covered in CERT courses.

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Yah, interestin'.


In da rest of the world, WFA is not considered a "certification". Interestin' that the ARC seems to be thinking of it that way, yet is retaining the "certificate of completion" language from the rest of the WFA world.


Don't take this the wrong way, BrentAllen, but loosely speakin' a few years of being a SM with a couple of high adventure trips would be way, way, way less experience than a typical WFA instructor for any of the (other) national providers. And you're clearly in an ARC chapter that's takin' things seriously and tryin' to do a good job. That's why I worry a bit about quality more generally. Especially when yeh add in that it's on the short side (only 16 hours) for a WFA course and that 16 hours includes some additional evaluation elements. It suggests that somethin' is getting cut.


Some of that is inevitable, eh? We need a lot more instructors to offer a lot more courses. But then I'd be inclined to go da other way on the other elements, and take a bit more time with the course and not add the evaluation elements, to compensate for the limited instructor experience.




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I suspect 16 hours was chosen because that can be covered in a single weekend if need be, any longer and you are looking at multiple sessions (scheduling problems) or more days (time off work problems).


Plus purely book or lecture type training isn't much help to those who have no hands on experience, at least in my opinion. Walking through some hands on scenarios can give them a hint of the real world. Its the same reason for CPR you have to do all that stuff with the training dummies, not just watch a video and take a test.


I can't vouch for the quality of either the BSA standards or the ARC classes. In my experience ARC has the same weaknesses regarding training we have. They are mostly a volunteer organization, and the quality of training varries widely. We have in the past asked an ARC instructor to do CPR/AED/First Aid for our camp staff and in half a day 30 or so people are often certified. Am I fully confident in the quality of that, particulary the First Aid part? Not exactly 100%.


The in -house instructor pool is a critical element in making this sort of thing possible, for actual run of the mill volunteers in the field. Most unit volunteers are not going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and First Aid, taking days off work, traveling long distances, and hunting down classes taught be obscure organizations they have never heard of.


In my own council's case the ARC/BSA agreement is not in operation. No one seems to know which ARC chapter was supposed to have taken point on this (we have many, very geographically spread out council) with us, so we don't even get the price breaks on certification for our camp staff. Our council has no in-house instructors for ARC classes, with perhaps one exception. None of our ARC chapters offer WRFA or even own the materials for it, nor do those ARC chapters that border our council so far as anyone can find out. None of the other WFA programs are active in our state so far as I have ever heard. So we have a serious up hill climb just to make this available at all.


We did have one adult leader prepping for Philmont contact his local chapter and they ordered all the instructor materials and got him certified (he never had to attend any class, just read the book and took some sort of test) as an instructor. He then taught it to a few others, but that was the old version. I don't know what others taking high adventure treks have been doing, I suspect someone some where along the lines has been fudging something or people have found some shady on-line only source for this stuff.

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I too like the scenarios. I've first encountered them with my FA MB claass way back when, and when doign skills instructors have used them. I always give a quick scenario, i.e. you're in the mall and see someone on the ground, you're at Mardi Gras and walking to the car you see some one on the ground, etc. when doing the skills check off

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I took our Council's WFA two years ago. It was taught by a Pediatrician, a lawyer and an EMT. Best class I took in a long while. Lots of hands on touching and looking one another over. The lawyer was so prepared with on topic material and supporting information that you would of thought it was a Federal case. The doctor kept adding real world examples. The EMT's contribution was good but the other two presenters personalities over powered the EMT's.


The delayed response drove home in me that yea help can come but when.



Your quest for information is to make a decision about what? Taking the BSA course or the ARC course?



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The ARC Course is identical to SOLO in regard to time (16 hours) and testing, yet you put the SOLO course on a pedestal and poo-poo ARC. What gives? Sure, I'm not an EMT but we aren't teaching skills requiring EMT knowledge. A Troop isn't likely to have an EMT on their trip, nor the equipment an EMT would have. The really nice thing the ARC WRFA offers that SOLO can't is the experience of dealing with a Boy Scout Troop. We have a pretty good idea of the equipment a Troop will have on a trip, including their First Aid equipment. We have a pretty good idea of the age of the participants and their skills, and the types of trips they will be on. SOLO is teaching to a much broader audience, and probably much older. I'm sure they know their stuff, but they won't know our audience nearly as well as we will.


Before you start criticizing, maybe you should actually take a course and see what it is all about.


From SOLO:



Yes, there is ongoing evaluation of practical skills, and there are written assessments throughout the course.




Yes. You will receive a SOLO WFA certification, which is good for two years.


From the Philmont web page:

First Aid and CPR Certification

Philmont requires that at least one person (preferably two) in each crew be currently certified in Wilderness First Aid or the equivalent and CPR from the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or the equivalent. Several hours may be required for Philmont staff to reach a remote backcountry location after a message is delivered to the nearest staffed camp. First aid and CPR training will result in proper and prompt attention being given to injuries and/or illnesses. You must present current certification cards upon check-in to verify this requirement.


I don't know your definition of "certification" but the rest of us appear to all be speaking the same language.


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Our experience and relationship with ARC is similar to Proud Eagle. Disappointing and what relationship? While their course books have improved, their instructors have been page-flipping volunteers with little real first-aid experience (except for a pet first aid instructor). Their demographics seems to be those that want or need a "card" cheap and quick - teachers, youth leaders, nursing home assistants. Sound familiar?


So for CPR/AED certification, we take American Heart Association courses instead. Their instructors have been ER nurses, paramedics, and EMTs. I have found their frank discussions regarding the limited success of CPR and how to handle post trauma for the rescuer to be of great value. My understanding is that ARC gets their CPR/AED course content from AHA.


For WFA certification we take SOLO courses. And yes it is certification, you take a practical and written test and upon passing, you receive a card good for two years. Also, if you hold a more advanced WFR, you can re-certify for WFR by taking a WFA course.


Looking at SOLO's upcoming WFA course schedule - one is sponsored by a council, another by a troop, and another by a crew, along with many outing clubs. The good thing about sponsoring a SOLO WFA is that you can request added content and an instructor specialty to fit your needs and the sponsor can subsidize the course to cut costs for participants. For BSA units, a common issue is asking SOLO to accept those younger than 16. We have negotiated with SOLO to drop the age to 14 provided we follow their rules, so if Johnny Boy Scout misbehaves or arrives late both he and his tuition are gone no BS nonsense. I have asked Council to experiment with bringing SOLO into summer camp as an option for adult leaders but nothing came of it.


SOLO instructors are both experienced in the outdoors and emergency medicine, often to a very impressive extent. Another point, if you want to learn more about the subject, SOLO (NOLS, and others) offer AWFA, WFR, WEMT, AWEMT,... ARC WFA well I guess the next step is you can become an instructor of ARC WFA?


Seeing what the BSA has done with First Aid merit badge and BSA Lifeguard, I have little confidence :(. I do not know of any outdoor group (park rangers, NOLS, SOLO, college outing clubs)that recognizes ARC Wilderness First Aid for volunteers, employment, or as a prerequisite for the above advanced courses in Wilderness First Aid.


Cost for SOLO WFA is about $160 for a 16-24 hour course where the longer course certifies for CPR and covers added topics. I would rather spend my money for WFA than uniforms, bling, rubber chicken banquets, Wood Badge,...


So do you want to learn and become skilled in wilderness first aid or just get a quick insurance document in hopes of limiting your liability?


My $0.02


(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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You are correct, there is no reciprocity between SOLO and ARC regarding their WFA courses. Also know that there is no prerequisite to take any WFA course in order to be able to take SOLO AWFA.


ARC has partnered with the BSA to teach our target market, Scouters. There will probably be other volunteer-based organizations that follow our lead. Sorry to hear your experience has been sub-par.

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I did SOLO's WFA course almost two years ago (I'm due for recertification this spring), and I was pretty impressed with the course. In my case, I was taking the course through the Appalachian Mountain Club's Youth Opportunities program, which subsidized the cost of the course. So it was only $85, at the time.


I was pretty impressed with the three instructors, one RN and two W-EMTs, all of them with a ton of experience. It was pretty interesting hearing about actual remote rescue situations in the White Mountains National Forest area that they'd participated in. We had one scenario, where were to extricate and move a victim, and when someone said that it seemed like kind of a ridiculous scenario, one instructor was able to give us multiple stories about scenarios he'd been in that were much worse.


Since I'm due for renewal, I've been checking to see if the local ARC (Cambridge, MA) has a WFA course. They do, but I'm pretty sure the price was fairly high. I think I'd rather stick with the AMC-YOP deal.



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I've participated in the SOLO course too. It was well presented by experienced instructors. If you can get to one, it is worth going.


In any training situation, there will be differences in experience and effectiveness of instructors. We've all had good and bad teachers. I'm confident that the BSA health and safety folks were aware of that when they decided to leverage the Red Cross with the new course. I'm not likely to ever be as qualified as many who I have learned from, but I've been told that I run a good class by folks who know more than I do. I've learned a lot since I did my last one in September and that will make the next one better.


There are over 11,000 volunteer leaders in my council, serving nearly 51,000 youth members. My district had 3,100 youth and 1100 volunteers in 2010. By running the ARC WRFA course in my district, I can help get s few more leaders better prepared to serve their units. There are folks on this board who can do it better than I can. Look at building your own training capabilities in your councils and districts.

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I am the camp health officer at a local boy scout camp. I am a WEMT and was working to create a wilderness first aid program for camp when the BSA released the doctrine. I have my own ECSI training center and adopted their Wilderness First Aid program for camp. Their support material is adequate and the program is flexible allowing me to meet the requirements of the doctrine. I utilize a lot of scenarios in the training as I believe this is one of the best ways to solidify ideas to the students (I do the same in EMT and First Responder Courses I teach). I run the class as a 20 hour class during summer camp, 16 hours for the WFA and additional hours for the CPR training. The course seems to be well received and we receive rave reviews and a lot of referrals from those completing the course. It has become so popular we are now offering it once every couple of months and have plans to take the class to scouters in distant parts of our council.

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The Seattle area Red Cross has had a Mountaineering Oriented First Aid class for 30-40 years that sounds quite similar to what is being described.


It includes an evening of practical problems done with climbing gear at night, and preferably in the rain.


I've been involved in several backcountry rescue episodes, including two helecopter evacuations, one by a MAST helecopter that put one skid down on glacier sloping at 10 degrees or so while hovering to keep the craft level.



Those experiences have led me to conclude that it's far more important to avoid accidents in the first place than to try to pick up the pirces after one has occurred.


The most important First Aid question to ask is "should I go hiking/backpacking/climbing today or stay at home or in camp?"


Most people get in trouble by trying to move when they ought to bivuac and stay put, or not start.


Based on fatal accidents rweported in the American Alpine Club's annual "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" most fatal accidents are the result of foolish and excessive risk taking by leaders.


Unfortunately, that was not something that was covered by the MOFA course I took thirty odd years ago.

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