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What does a Wilderness First Responder do?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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A wilderness first responder, sometimes known as a WFR or woofer, is a person who is trained to respond to emergency situations that take place in remote locations, such as the wilderness or backcountry. First aid training, patient transport, wilderness survival skills, and physical fitness training are all part of a wilderness first responder training course. Most wilderness first responder participants are not full time employees who respond to wilderness emergencies; woofer training is instead considered to be a qualification for another job such as park ranger or outdoor guide. A woofer may also act independently on a volunteer basis, helping to respond to emergencies in the wilderness as part of a larger team.

The responsibilities of a wilderness first responder will vary according to each specific emergency, but all woofers must be trained in the same areas. Basic life support is one of the first topics of instruction in a wilderness first responder course; this training prepares a woofer to treat a patient before that patient can reach a hospital. Basic life support can be performed with or without medical devices, and it is the same type of support an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT, might give in an urban or even rural setting. Training for woofer certification can take up to 80 hours of instruction time and will also include education in transport techniques, specific medical emergency treatments, and other topics pertinent to the position.

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One of the most challenging aspects of a wilderness first responder position is working in constantly changing environments with limited resources. A woofer may be responsible for transporting a patient out of the wilderness over difficult terrain, which means that he or she will need to constantly assess the situation for the safety of the patient and the woofer himself. Before any transport or treatment can be done, a woofer must carefully assess the situation and make sure he or she fully understands the patient's condition, the available options for treatment and transport, and the possible risks of the endeavor.

Many jobs that take place in the outdoors now require a candidate to obtain wilderness first responder training. A candidate can obtain such training from several outdoor training schools. The 80 hours of coursework can take a significant amount of time to complete, so job candidates are encouraged to complete training before applying for a position. Like other types of schooling, a fee will be charged for woofer training.

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