SAFETY & RISK MANAGEMENT
Risk and uncertainty are central to adventure and personal growth. By embracing this philosophy, Outward Bound is committed to systematically identifying, assessing and mitigating hazards, while at the same time providing real challenges to our students. Outward Bound programs take place in both urban and backcountry environments, which present different types of hazards. Backcountry courses take place in remote wilderness settings that can be hours, or even days away from emergency medical care. Urban programs are run in more familiar surroundings with more timely emergency response but with risks unique to that environment.
Since 1962 over 650,000 students have participated in Outward Bound programs in cities, mountains, deserts, rivers, and oceans. Over the years, and throughout a wide variety of activities, Outward Bound has maintained an excellent safety record.
Outward Bound instructors are experienced and qualified outdoor professionals committed to their students’ well-being through their values, judgment, words, and actions. They are certified as Wilderness First Responders, Wilderness Advanced First Aiders, or the equivalent and meet all Outward Bound, local, state, and federal requirements for their positions. Outward Bound staff are trained to identify, assess, and approach risk as a learning tool, to be managed but not eliminated, with the goal of providing Outward Bound students with the opportunity to gain insights and perspectives into their own and their crew’s capabilities that are unavailable anywhere else.
Some programs, depending on the age group, course length, and activities, may include a final expedition. Finals are designed to be the culmination of the learning that has occurred on course. Working together, students navigate their assigned route, coordinate responsibilities, and make decisions. Instructors travel closely behind, regularly monitoring the crew’s progress, and are available in the event of an emergency. On longer courses for older students, and when the crew has demonstrated the required level of skill and judgment, staff may travel some distance away from the group and utilize prearranged check-ins to monitor the crew’s progress. Crews that are unaccompanied by staff are provided with field communication technology to enable them to contact staff in the event of an emergency.
As part of an ongoing effort to monitor and improve safety, Outward Bound programs are regularly reviewed and audited by both internal and external teams in order to proactively identify and assess potential hazards as well as areas of commendation. Outward Bound has been a leader in wilderness safety and risk management for 50 years and is a co-sponsor of the annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC). This national conference brings together outdoor industry leaders to learn and collaborate with each other to advance safety and risk management in the outdoor education and wilderness adventure community.