By Helen Parry
Last weekend I completed the FRA recommended 2 day (16 hours) Outdoor First Aid course and I would highly recommend anyone who organises or marshals at fell races. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone who gets out and about ,enjoying the hills and mountains – running, walking, biking, horse riding, hang gliding………the list is endless. Whether you are on top of Kinder or a high Lake District fell, or just having a stroll up the Goyt valley, it can be invaluable. I was also not the only Strider on the course ….hello to Mark Richards who came all the way up from Oxford.
I decided to do the course at first purely because I often marshal and was involved in an incident on the Whaley Waltz about 4 years ago on the top of Windgather. The incident turned out fine thankfully, but it did leave me the thought of what could I have done differently. I also then thought about what I would do if I came across an injured or ill person while just out by myself. Or if someone with me became ill or injured. What if my phone has no signal? I do have some degree of knowledge being a nurse, but the situation is so much different on a bleak hilltop when the wind is blowing a hooley and mountain rescue could potentially be more than an hour away. I also wanted to know what the best kit is to have with you if an incident arises. That led me to discovering the FRA Outdoor First Aid course.
I first completed it in Feb 2018 (last weekend’s course was a 3-year update). It was held at Woodhead MRTs centre. A lovely place inside but, being February, we had rain, sleet, hail and snow. All ideal conditions to lie outside on a cold hill playing at being injured while another person tried to help you. My overriding memory was trying to save an “injured” Nicky Spinks. However, it did bring home the reality of how difficult a situation can be if you are in more remote locations. This year’s course was held in the more lovely and user-friendly setting of Youlgreave and it was a lovely warm June weekend. The outdoor scenarios this time were held near to Youlgreave cricket pitch/park.
The course itself involves a mix of class-based discussions,(Covid secure) hands on sessions using resus mannequins, and then practising moving and positioning skills on each other. It is informative and interactive and very sociable. It seems a little perverse to say this about a first aid course, but it was fun. On the second day, we moved to the outdoors and practiced the learnt skills on scenarios. There is no exam at the end (hurrah). The course is an ongoing assessment with an extremely easy short multiple-choice question at end of day one. You are assessed by the instructor throughout the course. The course is ideal for any mountain/outdoor education leader.
If you want to do a course like this then I would encourage you to do so. It does not mean that you should feel obliged to be a designated first aider on a race if you do not want to. What it does mean is that you will feel more confident in dealing with a situation if you are out on the hills regardless of whether you are marshalling or running a fell race. This course is not just about how to patch up cuts and bruises to injured runners at the end of a fell race (you do not really need a first aid course to stick a plaster on) nor is it wholly like a work based first aid course even though much of that is covered too. In fact, one of the reasons Nicky Spinks did the course was not only because she is a hard fell runner; she is also did it because she is a farmer, and dangerous situations can come with the territory. For me, it is about trying to keep an injured/sick person (and yourself) safe/alive until help arrives. It is about using what kit you have to hand to help a person that is not necessarily in comprehensive first aid kit. (Although ideal personal kit is discussed) It is amazing how useful roll mats and bike inner tubes can be when you do not have bandages or sling. Or what you can use a buff for (no not a hat). I really hope I never have to use the skills but at least Ill be more confident now if an incident does arise.
For more info on the course The FRA first aid coordinator and course facilitator is Ian Winterburn (email@example.com). The course costs £85 currently