| Although it`s not a BHPA requirement for Club Coaches or members to have any first-aid training, it is a requirement for all Tow Coaches and Instructors to have up to date first-aid qualifications.
A first-aid course is always a useful thing to do anyway, simply because you just never know if or when you might be in a situation where you need to help someone, whether it`s out flying or just in daily life. Most of the Condors’ Tow Coaches were due (or over due) for their first-aid qualification renewal(valid for three years under the current system), and several other people in the club had expressed a vague interest in attending a course, so I started looking for a provider who had experience specifically in outdoor adventure activity and remote-location requirements, ideally with hanggliding and paragliding experience. Previous courses by standard providers have attempted to be helpful, but I`ve always found them falling a bit short of the mark.
An initial search on Google returned an outfit called Adventure First Aid offering HSE-approved training. They had no free-flight experience (although theyhave now!), but they appeared to have first-aid instruction experience in just about every other outdoor land and water based adventure activity, including providing five-day first-aid courses for major expeditions. Even better, they were based in the same county, although they provide training all over the UK if a B&B and some fuel are thrown in! After a couple of phone conversations and an initial meeting to discuss our specific requirements, we set a date for mid-October for a one-day course to satisfy the minimum Tow Coach requirement, with an optional second day to go into more depth of how to deal with trauma, fractures and incident management.
The Condors have a policy of subsidising members` fees for such courses by 50%, funds permitting. The tow club also paid the other 50% for the Tow Coaches who had to attend the course. Three pilots from the neighbouring Wessex club also attended, paying the full fee themselves as their club does not currently subsidise its members in this way. 20 people attended the one-day course and ten did the additional second day. Because of the numbers, we had two instructors, Guy Risdon, AFA proprietor, and Simon Atkinson, also an experienced outdoor activities first-aid instructor. Guy had obviously put in a lot of effort researching what would be most relevant to us, and this was evident right from the start of the course.
We covered the standard first-response protocols of ABCDE (Assessment, Breathing, Circulation and the safe airway position, often referred to as the “recovery position”, Damage - a comprehensive body survey to find other injuries, and Emotion - how to talk nicely and reassuringly to the casualty, not “Omigod, that looks really bad!”). This is all standard stuff, but the way in which it was delivered by AFA was by far the most relevant, effective and enjoyable that I have experienced. We did lots of practical sessions, each time adding one more element, so continually consolidating and progressively building up our skills and routine.
The one important extra that was covered on the first day was helmet removal - when to consider doing it and how to do it as safely as possible.
|We also spent some time looking at harness removal and acknowledging that you may just have to cut someone out if necessary. The balance of theory (including slides), practical, discussion and regular short breaks was spot-on. On the second day, after a brief revision session, we got stuck in to trauma and fracture management, including some very unpleasant(but optional) slide images of what real open fractures (and worse), actually look like.
This was a deliberate effort at desensitisation -obviously you`re no use as a first-aider if you faint at the sight of blood. We were also shown examples of the signs to look out for in case of head, chest, abdominal, pelvic and thigh injuries- quite shocking stuff if you`ve never seen anything like it before.
Guy and Simon had spent some time considering an essential but minimalist first-aid kit, bearing in mind cost, weight and bulk, all of which are of prime concern to the normal tight-arse hangglider and paraglider pilots that most of us are. Be honest - would you rather make room for an extra sandwich or an extra triangular bandage in your harness? After practising the normal ways of bandaging and splinting fractures, we then spent time improvising with hang glider and paraglider padding and packing and other equipment readily available to us such as clothing and vario straps.
Some remarkably effective solutions were found, particularly for lower leg and neck supports.
Scenarios were enacted outdoors (in the drizzle), working individually and in teams, taking it in turns to be the casualty, first-aider in charge and helper. The casualties had to “score” the first-aiders, using a set reviewing system, so we all had to concentrate, even when playing unconscious or hamming up serious pain and injury! Moving outside made things a lot more difficult than most of us had anticipated after practising indoors - dealing with rain, wind, cold, damp ground and extra clothing all added to the problems we are likely to encounter in a real situation.
At the end of it all we went away with a comprehensive booklet covering all the elements studied and practised on the course, and hopefully enough practical knowledge to be of some genuine use if the need arises. A week later AFA also followed up by providing a webpage dedicated specifically to course participants containing useful extra information and documents for us to download and save, which was made available for one month. An eight-hour (one day) course is the minimum required for Tow Coaches, and 16 hours (two days) for Instructors. For everyone else it`s entirely voluntary, although there are those who may consider it morally obligatory. But what ever your reasons, if you are going to spend your money on a first-aid course and you want it to be particularly relevant to our sport, AFA`s course comes thoroughly recommended. They know their stuff, it`s relevant, they teach very effectively, and they`re also jolly nice chaps!
Adventure First Aid
14 Pennsylvania Road,
tel: 08456 588928, mobile: 07813 123330,