Although in one sense The Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education conducts an extensive program of field trips, it is more helpful to think Outdoor & Environmental Education as offering units (subjects), many of which have a practical program. It is at unit level that educational aims are determined, venues decided, levels of student participation set, and dates fixed. Unit co-ordinators choose, brief, and supervise field staff. Specific trip preparation occurs within the unit.
The practical programs included within units vary greatly in aims, level, locations, and activities. For this reason alone it has to be seen that Outdoor & Environmental Education has multiple practical programs, managed within units.
Within each unit, nearly all field trips consist of relatively small groups under the supervision of a staff member (“leader” in this document). The Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education expects and relies on unit co-ordinators to match locations, activities, and leaders to ensure that trips lie comfortably within the experience and expertise of the leader. The Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education overall does not attempt to maintain comprehensive operating procedures or guidance of the kind that might be used when less experienced leaders are operating close to the limits of their experience. If staff with sufficient experience are not available then the Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education expects unit co-ordinators to either arrange for staff to obtain more experience and training (for example by undertaking a preparation trip), to employ better suited staff, or to modify some or all of the venue, dates, and program to ensure that what is offered is well within staff capabilities and experience.
Because the Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education conducts educational programs, students have safety responsibilities that generally expand and increase as they progress through the course. It is the responsibility of unit co-ordinators to ensure that the safety content of their units is described in unit outlines, and to have steps in place to makes sure that students who attend practical trips are aware of their obligations and have completed necessary planning and preliminary work.
The Faculty - Outdoor & Environmental Education retains responsibility for co-ordinating safety matters that span units, or that are built into sequences of units, for linking to university safety policies and practices.
Unit co-ordinators must provide sufficient information on the safety content of their units in unit outlines to allow staff who co-ordinate other units to assess what knowledge can be assumed of students who have completed that unit. Without this information individual students might encounter unnecessary duplication, or might miss key knowledge depending on the sequences of units they took.
As a general rule, the Faculty -Outdoor & Environmental Educationfocusses building knowledge and familiarity with particular environments, and bases its approach to safety on that knowledge. Outdoor & Environmental Education does not focus on “adventure” activities which seek risk and uncertainty as ends in themselves.The principal focus on safety planning is prevention of serious injury and death, based on our knowledge of the historical and possible incidents that have occurred in particular environments.
Staff experience of the environments in which they lead groups is a cornerstone of safety within the Faculty- Outdoor & Environmental Education. This includes knowledge not only of the generic hazards associated with particular environments, but actual known hazards in particular environments. Unit co-ordinators must take steps to ensure that staff are deployed comfortably within their experiences and knowledge, and understand that the Faculty expects safety to be their first priority.
All trips proceed contingently on environmental conditions remaining safe and manageable. Leaders are encouraged and expected to alter or abandon a trip if they perceive a reasonable risk of death or serious injury, erring on the side of caution when it comes to defining “reasonable”. Weather, water, and fire conditions should be actively monitored, particularly any broadcast warnings. Unit co-ordinators are expected to plan for field staff to be able to monitor weather and fire warnings.
All trips must have contingency plans for changed environmental conditions or emergency. At the minimum this includes the capacity to seek emergency assistance by cell phone, satellite phone, SPOT, epirb, or plb.