This week I’m in New Mexico for the NOLS WRMC (Wilderness Risk Management Conference).
Whilst it’s been a few years since I went to the last one, which was in Salt Lake City, I’m excited to get back for what I know will be an interesting, thought-provoking and challenging time exploring risk, incidents and activities which make up some of the most amazing educational experiences possible.
After my last trip, I went to debrief the conference with the school I worked for then. One of the new staff commented, why would you go there? Americans don’t know anything about risk. I just shook my head at this comment and walked off. The same person also thought it was a good idea to run a game of ‘capture the flag’ in a snake invested paddock that was filled with barbed wire and rusted metal posts. Kids running around could have easily impaled themselves on this metal. If you want more fascinating insight into the organisation for which I used to work, a good starting point for this would be my article titled, ‘The Idiot Blind Spot!’
Needless to say I don’t work there anymore and haven’t for some time. However, it was an interesting experience all the same, which highlighted how important it is for ongoing training, networking and collaboration in terms of good risk management principles and being able to build effective teams who understand and implement good practices as a part of the culture of the organisation.
I believe the WRMC is a meeting of the best minds in educational risk management in the world. The practices which are presented here are based upon experience and reflection of so many years of outdoor education experience. Some are good, some bad, some tragic. Whilst it’s never easy talking about the bad and the tragic, if we stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing will ever happen to us, then we set ourselves up for failure and give ourselves a sense of invulnerability, which is always a false sense, as no matter how well we plan, something can always go wrong, especially if it’s out of our control.
Once again at the conference, there’s a number of different streams and this is the only conference I’ve ever been to where I really have FOMO for the competing sessions. There are so many great topics, valuable workshops and insights, it’s sometimes hard to know which ones to attend. Very rarely do I find this problem at a conference, however, with a mix of sessions based upon, Emergency Planning & Crisis Response, Field Practices, Legal Issues, Program Admin and Social & Emotional Health, there are so many really good options.
Regardless of which sessions I end up going to, what’s important is the fact that there is such a strong community of great educational professionals who are focussed on developing awesome life-changing experiences for their students within an effective risk management framework. Being able to build that cultural framework within your organisation is critical to the long-term success of any program you’re running and the safety of your students.
On another note, I’m excited to get back to the US and visit another state to which I’ve never been! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have time to get to Roswell and catchup with the aliens down there, but you never know… Anything can and does happen when you’re out in the field exploring new things. See you in Albuquerque!