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One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.

Robert A. Heinlein


Outdoor programs generally are pretty safe. In 30 years of working with Saint Johh's Schools we had far more injuries in basketball than in snowshoeing.

Most of this good track record is due to training. Hypothermia is the big issue. It can be sneaky. People who are tired, hungry, and small are most at risk. Wind, wet, and cold amplify the danger. It's well nicknamed, "Killer of the Unprepared". Most of the other hazards of winter are ones that are easy to deal with in the summer, but turn into bad situations in not very many minutes in winter. Only canoe dumpings have greater urgency.

The safety training focuses on preventing hypothermia. Dressing properly, eating properly, buddy checks, avoiding hazardous situations, recognizing early symptoms and nipping them in the bud.

At St. John's we required ALL participants in any outdoor program to either take the appropriate hypothermia course and pass the test, or help teach that course. (We have two courses: One focusing on cold weather for fall and winter programs and one focusing on cold water for our summer canoeing program.)

However: If you don't have one already, your group should develop a safety policy for your outdoor program.

This section describes the following:

Dress for winter

All participants: Mastery Required

If you dress properly even a space walk in orbit is simple. Dress badly and the consequences range from discomfort to death.

Hypothermia Prevention

Runners: Competency required. Leadership: Mastery required.

Hypothermia can sneak up on you. Especially if you aren't expecting it. Learn about it, recognize when it can happen. Be prepared.

Hazard Situations.

All participants. Competency Required.


All participants. Mastery Required.

Rogaine has conflicting demands: On one hand, you need to keep together. On the other hand, splitting up can better use your eyes. The communication rule is simple: You must be able to communicate with all of your team using a method that indicates direction.


All participants. Mastery Required.

You've screwed up. You haven't seen Smith for 15 minutes. Now what?

You're name is Smith, You can't hear the group. Now what?

Hypothermia Response

Captains, Navigators and Leaders. Mastery Required.

It's late in the day, you were daydreaming. Brown tells you that Jones is mumbling and not making sense. Now what?