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Shared Management of Risks

Many outdoors-oriented organizations have guidelines to address certain hazards they believe to be of particular concern to their members. This chapter, for example, will discuss hypothermia, lightning, and several other potential risks of great interest to the Boy Scouts of America. A truly effective approach to risk management, though, is found not just in the details, but also in the willingness of everyone in a group to take an active role in maximizing his or her own safety and the safety of others.

Risk Management

Here are three keys to effective risk management:

  • Everyone in the group commits to having a safe experience.
  • Everyone understands and follows group guidelines established to minimize risk.
  • Everyone has a say in recognizing and dealing with risks that arise during a trek.

A leader who empowers group members with resources, training, and responsibilities for conducting successful treks often will find that they also can be trusted to do their part to manage risk. When each person has a part to play in the success of a trek, everyone has a stake in risk management. Group members are far better prepared to deal with illnesses or injuries if they are versed in response plans and if they know where they are, what resources are at their disposal, and what skills they can draw upon. On the other hand, leaders who expect group members simply to obey rules and instructions—to be followers rather than thinkers and problem solvers—might discover that their groups aren't able to deal effectively with the changing nature of risk.

  • Stay in good shape so you are ready for the physical demands of a trek.
  • Know where you are going and what to expect.
  • Adjust clothing layers to match changing conditions.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Protect yourself from exposure to the sun, biting insects, and poisonous plants.
  • Take care of your gear.

A critical aspect of risk management is letting others know when you are having difficulties or are aware of a concern that might affect you or the group. Many people have a tendency to keep things to themselves. They don't want to slow down the group, or are worried about what others will think of them. But stopping for a few moments to deal with a hot spot on a heel can help avoid bringing the group to a long halt later in the day when blisters break out. Voicing concern about changing weather or questionable route decisions can bring important matters to the attention of the rest of your group.

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