If you ever have the opportunity, the National Outdoor Leadership School's (NOL's) two-day Risk Management Training is a great foot-in-the-door for supervisors, managers, and directors looking to better align their outdoor adventure program with an industry-leader's risk management practices. True to experiential learning, participants learn just as much from each other as from the NOLS facilitators.
What follows is a simple, but powerful, exercise from that training that any organization can use as a platform from which to jump into risk management brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. The values listed below have been adapted to a year-round, positive youth development program that anchors its community-based mentoring in summertime, experiential education, e.g. summer camp and expeditions, but any organization can devise its own.
Values Clarification Exercise
From the following, please choose three you could “live with” and three that are “intolerable” to you as a full-time employee.
- Mentoring staff drop off 12-year-olds at home, alone, after a mentoring visit.
- Participants take photos of mentors and other participants during visits.
- Mentors function without written policies or practices.
- The organization’s risk management committee operates without outside professional representation.
- Participants taking psychiatric or mood-stabilizing medications, e.g. lithium, Risperdal, topiramate, etc., are enrolled in the program.
- Summer camp staff, without medical training, can administer prescription drugs to participants.
- Summer program staff drive fully loaded 12-passenger vans at 70 mph on the Interstate while hauling trailers.
- Participants aren’t required to complete a detailed medical review, e.g. health history and examination, to attend summer camp (25 days) or expeditions (five days).
- The program doesn’t role-play crisis response scenarios, e.g. those requiring local EMS, fire, or police involvement.
- The program relies on cell service and doesn’t take emergency communication devices, e.g. sat phones or spot beacons, on expeditions.
- Program staff therapeutically hold, e.g. physically restrain, participants without the supervision of a mental health professional.
- The program doesn’t regularly evaluate/“crunch” collected data, e.g. physical restraints, incident reports, visits, trip logs, etc.
- Program staff lead expeditions in areas without prior recon/scouting.
- Program staff operate without specific job descriptions.
- Program staff talk with participants about their (participant’s) drug use and sexual activity before gaining parental verbal/written consent.
- The program has no suicide or non-suicidal self-harm policy or practices.
- Participants and their parents/guardians don’t sign waivers/releases acknowledging the unique and inherent risks of mountain biking.