Safety, Risk and COVID-19 - We All Play A Role
Alaska Geographic’s mission is to connect people with Alaska’s public lands. In this effort it is inevitable that our staff, participants, and customers may be exposed to some risk. Wherever possible, Alaska Geographic strives to reduce the risks we face through careful planning, trained staff, and following industry standards for outdoor education. Even with the best precautions, Alaska Geographic acknowledges that some inherent risk in our activities is unavoidable, and is even necessary in order to fulfill our mission.
SAFETY & RISK
Courses and activities with Alaska Geographic often take place in remote areas of Alaska. Due to the inherent challenges of the natural environment and traveling in Alaska, risk is a continual element of any Alaska Geographic activity. The uncertainty posed by nature combined with the judgments and abilities of participants and staff leads to risk. Risk management, in this context, is the ability to make a decision when the outcome is uncertain and relies on our ability to perceive and quantify the risks we face. Alaska Geographic is committed to promoting the physical and emotional well-being of all participants and we are proud of our excellent record managing the risks of wilderness travel.
COVID-19 RISK AND MITIGATION
This global pandemic has brought a tremendous new challenge to all of us and we’re all forced to examine and manage the risk in our lives like never before. Alaska Geographic has been working closely with our agency partners and state and federal authorities on ways that we as a business can reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our operation. Each department and service of Alaska Geographic have slightly different challenges, and we are instituting finely-tuned mitigation measures in each area. The following are ways we are addressing COVID-19 in each of those operational areas:
- AkGeo COVID-19 Mitigation & Response Plan – For Residential Programs (revised 1/11/2023)
ALASKA GEOGRAPHIC’S RISK MANAGEMENT
Alaska Geographic has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments. With the assistance of this training and review of our operational plans by a private consultant, Alaska Geographic has refined its risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all outdoor activities, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority.
Wilderness courses involve many hazards that can pose a risk to even the most experienced traveler. Activities ranging from simple day hikes to climbing glaciers can, due to the unpredictable forces of nature or an error in judgment, become dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
Safety precautions and risk management practices are taught on every course and participants are expected to provide self-care during challenging weather conditions. Each participant plays an important role in the success of an Alaska Geographic course. Good physical conditioning and a positive mental attitude are essential.
Our courses travel through remote areas that can create complex situations should an emergency arise. It is not uncommon to be days from medical help, but Alaska Geographic staff and our contractors are trained in wilderness first aid and backed by our established wilderness emergency response and evacuation systems.
Our staff carry at least one communication device to use during life or limb threatening emergencies, but this does not guarantee communication from the field. Portable telephones and radios can be unreliable depending on terrain, atmospheric conditions, and other variables.
WORKING WITH MINORS
Alaska Geographic has specific policies for our programs that work with minors. These policies follow industry standards for outdoor education and include such practices as requiring background checks for all staff working with minors that are unaccompanied by a parent, guardian, or their k-12 teacher. We also provide specific training to our field staff for supervising and teaching minors.
Alaska Geographic is committed to being inclusive to all individuals and does not discriminate individuals with restrictive physical or medical conditions. Each of our courses has its own unique physical challenges for participants, and this is outlined in the course overview documents. Within the regulations and approval of our federal land agency partners and within the abilities of our staff, Alaska Geographic takes great effort to accommodate individuals with particular needs. For example, using the industry standard practice, our staff are trained to work with participants that have severe allergies and are certified by our advising physician to care for these individuals in the unlikely event of an anaphylactic reaction. We have accommodated participants with assistance dogs on our courses and we’ve hosted youth with learning disabilities. If you have any questions about your attendance on a course please call our office for a confidential discussion with a program director (phone number below).
THE PARTICIPANTS’ ROLE MANAGING RISK
It is important that you understand there will be risks involved if you participate in one of our courses or activities. Alaska Geographic cannot guarantee your safety. The risk of injury, even serious injury or death, is always present in the outdoor environment. Yet this should not prevent you from enjoying outdoor activities in Alaska. In fact, many participants with Alaska Geographic courses will learn how to identify hazards and adapt their behavior to minimize illness and injury in Alaska’s wilderness. This is an important part of Alaska Geographic’s educational mission.
Anchorage Education Director