WMI: Fun with numbers
Last week, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) hosted its annual staff meeting, complete with lectures, workshops, and a departmental update from WMI Director Melissa Gray.
Each year, Gray reviews the year in a “fun with numbers” format, which we thought would be the most entertaining way for us to relay those details:
645 courses taught in fiscal year 2012, a 2.7-percent increase over fiscal year 2011.
8 percent: The increase of students who took WMI courses this year over last year.
57 students were taught in Portuguese.
107 students were taught in Swedish.
182 students took courses in Spanish.
NOLS awarded 39 individual students $29,835 in scholarship funds to attend Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician courses. An additional 113 students used AmeriCorps funds for their courses. Fifteen students fluent in American Sign Language received Moving Hands scholarships, and five Veterans’ Administration students were supported through enrollment and certification.
41 states hosted WMI courses, and only two states have never hosted a course.
19 countries hosted WMI courses.
The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus is nearing completion. WMI will start welcoming students into this new facility Nov. 4.
As NOLS steps into a new fiscal year, Gray and leadership throughout the school are excited to support students and staff around the globe.
Wilderness Medicine Expedition - Mountaineering Style
The Wilderness Medicine Institute's most recent Wilderness Medicine Expedition (WME) just returned from the Cascade Mountains. The WME is a continuing education course designed for EMTs, Medics, RNs, and MDs that focuses on the curriculum areas of wilderness medicine, leadership, and outdoor skills. This particular course was run in conjunction with NOLS Pacific Northwest and had a mountaineering skills focus.
The five WME students began their course with a day of medical work, gear issue, and food preparation at NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, Washington. An early departure on day two saw the group dropped off at the Shannon Ridge road head for their backcountry expedition on Mt. Shuksan. One week later the group emerged having learned and shared many new skills and with sore abdominal muscles from a great deal of laughter!
Expedition members practicing patient assessment at NOLS Pacific Northwest.
On the hike into North Cascades National Park.
An improvised splint for an unusable knee injury.
Enroute to the summit of Mt. Shuksan.
Members of the expedition on the summit of Mt. Shuksan!
News from the WMI California WEMT program at the College of the Siskiyous
This summer NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) ran our first two Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) courses in our new home for our California WEMT program near Mt. Shasta at the College of the Siskiyous. The College of the Siskiyous (COS) is home to established programs for Paramedics, EMTs, and Wildland Fire Fighters. This summer we also were able to catch up with Tony Osa, the Fire Program Coordinator at the College of Siskiyous.
How did your path lead you to the College of the Siskiyous?
I was on active duty with the Forest Service Fire Department with seven years to go (I had 35 years already). I was living in the Scott Valley and my neighbor was a full-time fire instructor at the college. I saw an announcement the Fire Program Coordinator/Instructor, applied, and I got the job six years ago. It is very rewarding and keeps me in touch with firefighters and fire training. The wonderful staff and instructors are mostly active duty firefighters from Cal Fire, Forest Service, and local volunteer fire departments.
Tell me a little more about your Fire program:
There are two aspects to the program. One is that we offer an Associates degree in Fire Technology that was started in 1973. The degree, although not required for employment, is a way to be more competitive for initial job placement and career advancement. The second aspect is our Firefighter Academy. Started in 1993, this is a 20-unit, semester-long program that prepares students for immediate employment. Classes run from 7am to 6pm, four days a week, for 18 weeks. Our sleeper program, which involves four departments taking in our students as volunteers living at the station, allows them to gain work experience and earn college credit towards the Firefighter 1 state certification.
What makes you most proud about your students in the program?
Most of our students come as very young high school grads, but some enter in their late 30's. For a lot of them, it is their first time being on their own. To watch them mature from "What's in it for me?" to becoming a team player, and to see them grow academically and physically is very interesting to see. I specifically remember one student's change over time in the fire academy. He was a big, tall kid who was overweight and out of shape. You wouldn't recognize him now. He lost weight and gained strength and confidence. It is also gratifying to get positive feedback from colleagues, parents, and students about the quality of our program.
What are some challenges?
Every semester is a learning curve; discovering what new challenges you will face, and what will test the limits. The syllabus is now 20 pages and it is a challenge to fit the Fire Academy curriculum, which is agency driven, into the college rules and expectations.
Another challenge is trying to figure out ways to provide the needed training to the many volunteer fire companies in the county, some of which are very small and remote, is something that we are constantly striving to improve.
What three things excite you about the aspects or merits of the Fire program at the College of the Siskiyous?
1) We're a small college but we have an incredible program that is recognized within the state of California and nationally, both for its structure and wildland fire components.
2) We have a state of the art training facility that supports the growth and development of our program. We have a live fire training tower on campus for hands-on instruction for our students.
3) Within the fire program, our student success rate and job placement rate exceeds most of the fire academies in other parts of the state. This is due to the great support from the local fire agencies and the incredible faculty and staff that devote many long hours to maintaining the quality and integrity of the fire program.
We also have a lot of information traveling by word of mouth, which is our main form or recruitment. It is rewarding when I go to meetings and say, "I'm from COS," and people respond, "I hear you have a great program." That is always very gratifying to hear from your peers. We get students from all over the state, and even out of state.
How did you hear about the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute?
I first learned about WMI when I was seeking information on the WFA and WFR courses when I was asked to host a class for the local Forest Service. When we found out they were looking for a new facility I invited them to check us out. Shana Tarter, WMI Assistant Director and Gates Richards, Special Programs Director, came out from Wyoming, toured our campus and surrounding area, and liked what they saw.
What excites you about having the WMI WEMT program at COS?
We are all are very excited and can't wait for the next series of classes to start. We're just thrilled we have the ability to offer the classroom space, cafeteria, lodging, and a wilderness type environment right here on campus. Our vice president is actively looking for ways to expand lodging facilities to accommodate more classes. The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute WEMT and its program and goals fit so well into the Fire and Paramedic program and their goals.
Our program is also looking to expand our outdoor rescue classes. We already offer swift water rescue, avalanche rescue, low-angle rescue, and have the ability to expand our outdoor rescue course offerings. We want to develop a rescue certificate that incorporates a WFR or WEMT course with these rescue classes.
I believe that the partnership between COS and WMI is a great match and will continue to flourish for many years to come. I am happy to have played a small part in developing this great opportunity, along with many other members of the COS administration, faculty and staff. Shana, Gates, and Melissa from WMI have been a pleasure to work with as have all the instructors for the WEMT classes. I look forward to their return to COS, and also look forward to visiting the NOLS campus in Wyoming someday soon.
Wyss Finishes Moving Forward
Radiant Heat with a Durable Finish on Wyss Floors
Orange pex tubing by the spool is required to create a network of plumbng in the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus main building. Manifolds and valves controlled by thermostats allow heated or cooled liquid to run through various zones of the building to gently fine-tune ambient interior temperatures. In some cases, the tubing sits over layers of wired rebar, bedding sand, and foam insulation, as seen in these photos from months ago:
Elsewhere, it is stapled to conventional OSB subfloor. In either case, concrete is floated over the top, encasing the tube. The concrete is finished busing a power screed, a bull float, hand trowles, and a power trowel.
The concrete rests for a day or two, then is then scored with shallow cuts to create a pattern and control any cracking ("control joints"). This is how it will sit for at little before being ground and stained, revealing special aggrogate in the concrete mix. Filling the the plumbing in the floor is one of the last steps- air is pumped in and held at 100psi for a day, then the same is performed with water, then finally charged with the mix of liquids that remain stable for their long life of being pumped through the floor of our building. In the photo below, wood "sleepers" are cast into portions of the floor- these will be topped with FSC Maple from eastern Canada.
View from Above: The Wyss Campus is shaping up!
During a recent Lighthawk flight, NOLS' Kyle Duba was able to tag along and fire off a few shots of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus from the air. Our grateful thanks to Lighthawk and to Kyle for sharing the view from above!
Wyss Interior- HVAC and Fire Framing
In-depth Investigation of Red Canyon Rock- The Search For Water
Weston Engineering has finally managed to deliver the requisite equipment and personnel to begin drilling on the water well for the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. Their target is a confined aquifer some 1,100' directly below the campus. This aquifer has been repeatedly targeted and developed for municipal, commercial, and residential uses along the Lander foothills.
The first step was to blade out a well pad in a location that made sense for near surface management (where the pipelines will go, and how much we need to pump or pressurize the system). We also have been focusing our disturbance in locations that have previously been disturbed. In this example, an old road cut and erosional gully were targeted so the rigs could use the old road as an approach, and remediation after the well construction will restore a more natural landscape. Once the pad is level, pits are dug - the mud ponds for drilling fluids. These are carefully managed in lined pits and pumped down to the cutting tool at the end of the string.
The first portion of the drilling, about 80', uses a large cutting head that leaves a borehole big enough to slide a 12" pipe down with room to spare. The pipe arrives in sections and is welded together as it is lowered into the hole. When all 80' are assembled, the space between the outside of the pipe and the dirt/rock wall, the "anular space", is filled with cement grout. This part is called the surface casing. When the grout has set for a day or two, the next step is to drill with a smaller diameter head inside the surface casing. This hole will continue from -80' to -1100' or so, when we should start to hit the tell-tale signs of the approaching contact with our target aquifer. Every 10 feet, cuttings are collected and evaluated with color, hardness, texture, odor, and other properties that are compared against the known geologic section. When we get close, we'll slow down in case the water is under tremendous pressure. This hole will be cased and grouted as well. The last section of drilling is a smaller head yet, and the hole that it leaves will never get casing- the hole remains open so water can flow directly out of the rock and into the well. Typical depth for the open hole is 100-200'. The well will probably be around 1,300' in total depth.
Closing in on final framing at WWMC
Sustained dry weather has helped keep the Wyss Campus construction on track. The main educational facility has been framed and the student residences are right behind:
In the photo above, the concrete pads are being poured for steel structure that carries the weight of the covered dining area. A pump truck speeds the delivery of the mud to the 32 well spaced holes. The white material in the right foreground is nailbase, a rigid recycled foam afixed to OSB sheathing. (OSB- oriented strand board, an engineered product that recycles small wood scraps.) The nailbase is installed all over the exterior of the structural insulated panels to increase R-values and decrease the energy required to heat or cool the interior.
Student cabins are starting to pop up:
The pieces are few but somewhat unwieldly- pre-assembly of the roof on the ground ensures tight construction, then the crane picks them and flys them over to the waiting walls. While the crane is an extra expense, it helps to minimize the disturbance around each building, increases speed of assembly, and promotes excellent geometry and soundness of the structure.
Stay tuned for finishes, already underway!
Wilderness First Responder Recertification featured in the Denver Post
Early this month, a news piece hit the Denver Post, documenting a small but poignant portion of a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Recertification course. Joshua Berman, OutWest Columnist and NOLS Wilderness Medicine graduate, wrote a piece that opens with the scene of an accident. After walking readers through the initial steps of assessing the scene, Berman reveals the victim is an actor and the accident a scenario.
“I take this three-day recertification every couple of years and have used the skills while working as an Outward Bound instructor, wildland firefighter and international trip leader. My WFR training also comes in handy in the front-country — on the playground at the school where I teach and at home with my daughters,” he writes.
He adds that the medical skills are not the only lessons Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) students walk away with. Knowing when not to call 911 (and, in this instance, walk a patient to the trailhead) is an invaluable skill set. Having the competence and confidence to know when to call for help and when not to is one aspect of wilderness medicine training Berman considers worth noting. It is, of course, a skill we at NOLS stress as well: judgment.
You can read more about Berman’s practice of these skills here.