All Kinds of News for December 05, 2018
Preparing for winter programming in wilderness therapy involves more than exchanging the type of gear and clothes designed specifically for such a season. A vital precursor in ensuring winter weather preparedness and winter safety is in educating, training and acclimating staff who are charged with the care of students in the fields. This allows field staff to recognize the warning signs of cold stress and how to prevent cold-related injuries throughout the winter months.
Additionally, a wilderness therapy program with a robust winter programming accounts for the variability in how a student perceives and tolerates temperatures. This can allow for the mental and emotional needs of students to be met due to their physiological and safety needs being met. When sitting down with the leadership team at Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, department heads spoke of key focus areas such as personal/group gear, medical/emergency response, meeting nutritional and physiological needs, and ongoing staff trainings as summarized below.
Personal & Group Gear
- Each student is provided with proper gear and clothing for winter camping. These items are designed for below zero-degree weather although average lows do not typically go below the teens. Outback also makes use of winter sleeping bags that are rated at negative 20 degrees Farenheit.
- Students sleep within "big wall" (group) tents with wood burning stoves EVERY NIGHT between mid-November and mid-March.
- Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors with regular device checks and battery replacements are located within each tent, as part of safety protocols that set up staff to provide extra safety.
- Sleeping temperatures in tents with wood burning stoves stay over 50 degrees at night.
Medical & Emergency
- Medical Coordinator performs weekly checks for students in the field.
- Hands/feet checks perfomed 4x/day with field guides:
- Warm hand/foot washes that accompany checks.
- Changing of socks 2x/day. This occurs to help remove moisture found on feet from hiking. Changing into dry socks after a warm hand/foot wash and foot check for the evening helps to keep feet dry.
- Emergency Response staff are strategically placed, throughout the year, to serve as first line of support in case of both nonemergency and urgent needs.
- Unattached to a specific group, these staff members remain in close proximity of groups in the field and are equipped with all communication devices to stay connected with groups as well as administration and staff at the main office.
- Staff are equipped with trucks set up with Mattracks System for use if there is ever a need to travel over difficult terrain. Although rarely used, it is an added safety measure utilized at Outback Therapeutic Expeditions.
- Warm, dry, and undamaged gear is critical. As such, our emergency response staff also work to visit groups regularly to ensure that logistical needs such as switching out and/or replacing gear and clothing occur as quickly as possible, whenever necessary.
Nutrition & Physiological Needs
- Increase caloric intake by adding supplemental food. There is also an increase in hot drink options such as non-caffeinated, herbal teas throughout the winter
- Decrease frequency of hikes and length of hikes. Field Guides remain in close contact with Emergency Response staff and Field Directors throughout the year. Winter Safety protocols provide constant communication regarding weather in order to determine appropriate daily activity for groups.
On Going Staff Trainings
- Staff begin field trainings on winter camping in early Fall and continue well into the winter months.
- Medical Coordinator and on call Medical Director provide ongoing cold related injury information and training throughout the winter.
About Outback Therapeutic Expeditions
Outback Therapeutic Expeditions is a licensed wilderness therapy program located in Utah dedicated in bringing families BACK together. Outback offers a clinically-informed comprehensive assessment and treatment that yields high clinical values for teens and families. Outback provides an innovative clinical structure designed to optimize clinical oversight by having an additional Masters level therapist in the group daily along with a clinician overseeing every main department of programming. Outback helps teens ages 13-17 with various areas of difficulties such as depression, anxiety, trauma, family conflict, engagement in dangerous behaviors, mild ASD, electronic and gaming addiction and more. Outback’s treatment options place strong emphasis on bringing students BACK to Self, BACK to Family, and BACK to Purpose through increased self-efficacy, building healthy relationships, and a healthy amount of autonomy through skills building and discovery of meaning in life.