SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Students Learn First Response


SUNY Potsdam students in the Wilderness First Responder course practice treating another student in a mass casualty scenario held recently at the Stone Valley Trail in Colton.

SUNY Potsdam wilderness education students recently participated in a mass casualty scenario practice session at the Stone Valley Trail in Colton, N.Y. The April 29 session was a culminating experience for a Wilderness First Responder course that the students were enrolled in for the Spring 2012 semester.

The session was set up by instructor Adam Wheeler and involved six students from the SUNY Potsdam Campus Rescue Squad as patients. The story involved four paddlers who attempted to paddle through Colton Falls on the Raquette River and in an unsuccessful attempt ended up swimming through the falls, resulting in several injuries, including a broken femur, a head injury with possible spinal cord damage, a broken lower arm, hypoglycemia and a near drowning. To further complicate the scenario, all of the patients needed to be protected from potential hypothermia.

Once the scenario was staged, the wilderness education students were called on a cell phone to respond to an accident in Stone Valley. The 17 students drove to the trailhead and were quick to arrive on the scene. Upon the scene they were greeted by the patients’ friends who were panicked and screaming for help. The rescuers had to calm the friends and provide first aid for the wounded patients.  Once the rescuers recognized that they needed to carry two of the patients out they radioed for assistance to the Colton Volunteer Fire Department for assistance. The fire department, which was also participating in the scenario for training purposes, quickly responded with 10 of their own members.

The scenario took over three hours and at the end all participants participated in a discussion where advice and critiques were shared. Students and participants alike agreed that many lessons were learned.

The Wilderness First Responder course trains students to respond to medical emergencies that occur beyond the reaches of definitive medical care. The medical emergencies occur in the wilderness and often require improvising care with what the rescuer has available to them, for instance, creating a splint out of what is in your backpack.

The curriculum used was developed by Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities of North Conway, N.H. Students who complete the course are certified Wilderness First Responders. The certification is internationally recognized and is normally a requirement for anyone who works in the wilderness industry.

For more information and to learn more about the SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education program in The School of Education and Professional Studies, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.