by Leanna Joyner

2019 Summary of Volunteer Accidents and Close Calls

Since October 2018, there have been five volunteer injuries, and at least one near miss. A quick overview is shared here to help cultivate a culture of safety among A.T. volunteers.

Solo volunteer struck by dizziness and briefly passed out before seeking help from hikers who assisted his exit from the field and connection with emergency responders, followed by a trip to the hospital.

Volunteer as part of a routine Trail work day tripped and fell, resulting in broken bones in her hand. Immediate medical care was received, and follow-up surgery ensued.

Solo volunteer did not return home as scheduled, and exposure to conditions led to hypothermia and hospitalization. This incident was very close to becoming a fatality.

A volunteer on a boundary patrol was bitten by a dog.

A fall while carrying a rock resulted in a crushed finger, leading to a trip to the hospital.

A spring blowdown clearing trip turned into a close-call when one team of two didn’t exit the field until six hours after the pre-arranged time. The delay was precipitated by a person rehabbing from a previous knee injury pushing farther than he should have, and the group did not execute the fallback plans to turn around as previously discussed. The team was able to walk out unassisted while a search and rescue team stood ready to assist. However, their lengthy evacuation was through the woods, after dark, moving slowly over Trail with a lot of blowdown and debris.

We hope volunteers will discuss these scenarios and plan for ways to eliminate similar future scenarios.

However, when accidents occur, we want every volunteer to get the best support from partners. Here’s how that works most efficiently:

1) Every volunteer carries a VIP/VIF packet with them, and has familiarity with its contents.

Trip leaders should carry a couple packets, but any individual working independently should absolutely have one on hand. You want one to carry in your pack, because it has all the essential contents you need at the time of the incident. Volunteers and trip leaders should request these through your A.T. supervisor. A.T. supervisors may request bulk fulfillment of VIP/VIF packet requests by contacting their ATC field-office representative.

2) The importance of quick notification (sub 24 hour) to federal agency partners for effective claim processing.

Partners know that seeking medical attention comes first for accidents! Following that, they want to know as soon as possible, within 24-hours, if a volunteer has received medical attention for an accident that occurred on-the-job. This is important for effectively supporting volunteers in the claims processing process.