4 – Action Plans – What do I do?

Action Plans – What do I do?

The 4th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

The number of different things that could happen on a trip are too many to count and probably will not happen anyway, but when they do we need to have a plan to deal with it.

In any situation, we can follow some simple action plans to help guide us through the situation. If you are a group member, remember that the primary responsibility to deal with the problem is the leader or guide. But if they are the one affected, someone else may have to take over.

Everyone’s initial action plan in any incident or emergency should be:

Plan 1

This may only take seconds, but could take hours depending on the complexity of the situation.

  • STOP – Stop doing what you are doing.
  • THINK – Think about what is happening, and is what you were doing causing the problem
  • OBSERVE – What is going on around you? Who is involved? What outside factors are influencing what is happening?
  • PLAN – Decide on a plan of action that you feel will resolve the problem. Some things to think about:
    • Determine the possible problems
    • What will you do about them?
    • Who should deal with them?
    • How will you deal with them?
    • What assistance is available?
    • How do I contact them?
  • DOGet on with following your plan

Let’s look at a simple example:

You are stopped for a rest break near a stream in a remote area. You have just filled your water bottle from the stream and you hear a loud shout or scream. Immediately you should:

  • Stop what you are doing – filling the bottle
  • Think about what you heard – was it directed at you or someone else or everyone in general
  • Observe what is going on around you – is someone looking at you trying to attract you attention as the water is polluted and they are trying to stop you filling your bottle; Has someone fallen into the river and is calling for help, Is someone in the group just messing about with other group members etc.
  • Plan what to do next – Stop filling bottle and ask leader where to get clean water; Respond in a safe manner to assist the person who has fallen in the river; Ignore the group members messing around
  • Do what you have planned – carry on filling bottle, Assist person who fell in; Ignore whoever shouted/screamed

This entire process could have taken 1 to 2 seconds, or maybe longer. Essentially it should become an unconscious response to anything unusual around you. You must become spatially aware – that is aware of what is happening around you at all times and decide if you need to respond to it or not.

To assist with the Thinking and Planning stages we have a set of priorities which we will look at next.

In your Thinking & Planning stages, we need to ensure our safety. We do not want to put ourselves in danger unnecessarily, so remember our Priorities are:

Plan 2

  • Yourself (ME) – Am I safe? Can I approach the problem or help without getting into trouble myself? When personal safety is at stake, you should look after yourself first. Not only does this make you safer, but relieves this burden from your leader temporarily. If they see you are looking after yourself, they can concentrate on others. Also looking after yourself, means you are in fine shape to be able to help others as and when you can.Plan 13
  • Patient/Group (US) – Is the patient in any immediate additional danger? Can I mitigate the danger without putting myself in danger? Is the group in immediate danger? Will the group be in danger if they try to assist the patient? Will they be in danger if they stay where they are now doing nothing? Will they become in danger if they are left without immediate leadership? Once you are safe, you can then prioritise others in your group. They are family for the time being, and expect your assistance.
  • Others (THEM)Then you can then prioritise others in the vicinity. That is people not part of your group. Are there other people around who will be in danger because of what has happened to us or because of us?
  • POSSESSIONS – Your gear is the least important unless there are specific items critical for survival. If the building is on fire and it’s freezing outside – you will need to take warm clothing with you when you evacuate, but forget the backpack. Even your money is not important right now. Never put your or anyone else’s life in jeopardy to save a piece of gear.

There is a second set of priorities which must be considered at the same time in any situation and these are the priorities of survival. These are the four areas which humans need to survive and are considered in this order:

Plan 3

  • AIR – We need to breathe so access to air is the first priority. If you are under water, get out fast – forget your new IPhone, you can always get another.
  • SHELTER/WARMTH – Shelter from the suns heat; the cold snow falling, the avalanche coming down on you, the wind blowing, rain etc.
  • WATER – Humans in normal conditions can only survive up to 3 days without water – so once you have air and shelter, find a water source.
  • FOOD – Humans can survive up to 40 days without food, so this is the least priority, but is something to think about and plan for.

Plan 4

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Calling for help’

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Andrew Friedemann

Author: Andrew Friedemann

Andrew holds qualifications in South Africa, Australia and the UK as an Outdoor Recreation Instructor and qualified Mountain Guide and Instructor. Passionate about developing the Adventure Industry in South Africa to make it safer and provide opportunities to a younger generation of adventurers. Represented South Africa on the World Mountaineering Federations (UIAA) International Training Standards Commission for 10 years and has administered the South African Mountaineering Development & Training Trust. A qualified Wilderness EMT and Emergency Care Practitioner. Qualified as an Skills Development Practitioner, he has been intimately involved in the development of Adventure based qualifications particularly with regard the quality management of adventure qualifications. Founder of Adventure Qualifications Network, he was instrumental in the development of National Vocational qualifications for the adventure industry in South Africa, but also worked closely with Australia where he attained the Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation Instruction. Currently resident in the Scottish Highlands - UK, with his wife, Michelle, they travel to many areas of the world gaining information and skills. A keen adventurer, Andrew has participated in mountaineering, skydiving and scuba diving among other activities.