by Peta Owens-Liston
Despite the fun-loving and spirited nature of Holiday’s guides, they are a serious-minded, vigilant bunch when it comes to the safety of their guests. They have to be, otherwise, they wouldn’t work for Holiday. The company requires them to jump through some rigorous hoops in dealing with emergency situations.
The state requires all river guides to fulfill a 40-hour, Advanced First Aid Certification. Holiday requires its trip leader to do more. They have to earn a 72-hour Wilderness First Responder’s Certification. It is similar training to that of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), but oriented towards wilderness. The state also requires these certifications to be renewed every three years; too long of a gap for Holiday, which has its guides do a refresher annually. “We’re more aggressive about these renewals because we feel that if you go three years without using these skills, you could forget a lot of stuff,” says Tim Gaylord, Operations Manager.
One of the biggest skills guides learn as a first responder is knowing when to evacuate. “Blending these wilderness skills and medical skills is an art,” says river and mountain bike guide leader Brin Finnigan, who has had to use these skills on the job. “Because there are so many different variables to consider—oncoming nightfall and weather for example—when you are not within 45 minutes of a hospital.
Over Holiday’s 46 years in action, their safety record has remained in excellent standing with the state. “We’ve had no significant guide-related accidents,” says Gaylord, who for the past 30 years has largely been responsible for all the “systems” Holiday has put in place as a safety net if things do go wrong. “We approach risk management and safety from the perspective of prevention and not as a reactionary thing.”
Prevention can look as simple as not allowing rock climbing from camps, or kayaking in certain areas of the river. To severe allergy reactions or addressing guests’ pre-existing conditions that may flare up. “Some of our guides are Wilderness EMTs or have also received Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) certification as ski patrollers. They bring additional training with them onto the river,” adds Finnigan.
The truth of the matter is, the comprehensive first aid kit rarely gets opened on Holiday’s trips. If it does, it is usually to pull out some Band Aids or Aspirin. “All the guides are regularly familiarized with the tools we have in that kit,” says Finnigan. “Fortunately, we really have not had to use them.”
Peta Owens-Liston is a writer and editor with extensive experience in magazine writing and marketing communications writing. Publications she has written for: TIME Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, Organic Style, Paddler, Redbook, Via, KUER/NPR affiliate (radio essays), Park City Magazine, Salt Lake City Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune to mention a few.