Leading in a Crisis & Risk Management

Leading in a Crisis & Risk Management
June 1, 2015 Webmaster

We hope it never happens, but sometimes things go wrong. Then the group focus shifts from recreation to safety and survival. The Leader’s role also changes to a decisive style. Prompt, effective action is needed, and it should be directed by someone with the most training and experience. The party should be guided by the four rules of rescue in managing a crisis:

  1. The safety of the rescuers comes first, even before that of the victim.
  2. Act promptly, but deliberately and calmly.
  3. Use procedures you have learned and practiced; this is no time to experiment.
  4. Stay as a group as best as possible.

The best way to avoid trouble is to anticipate it. Alpinists should always be thinking ahead, asking, “What if?” They look for early signs of fatigue in participants, mentally record bivouac sites, keep watch on the time, and note any changes in the weather. Everywhere on trips, alpinists mentally cross bridges before reaching them. Trying to stay a step ahead, they hope to avoid problems or to catch burgeoning ones before they become crises. Get in the habit of anticipating trouble while you’re planning your trip.

Accidents are unexpected, but you can prepare for them by taking courses, reading, and mentally rehearsing. All Trip Coordinators must have a valid First Aid certificate. Anyone participating in outdoor activities in the mountains should supplement their First Aid training. Check out our courses page for more information.

Also, you can benefit from studying the experiences of others climbers. The American Alpine Club and The Alpine Club of Canada jointly publish Accidents in North American Mountaineering (available on Amazon.ca.) This annual publication contains detailed descriptions and analyses of mountaineering accidents and is instructive.

Incident Management

If an incident results in injury, property damage or loss (or if the Trip Coordinator feels that an injury or property damage/loss situation could possibly be claimed at some later time), the following process should be followed:

Administer Appropriate Incident Management Procedures

Leaders have the responsibility of carrying out or delegating whatever actions are necessary to manage the situation until the victim has been turned over to the appropriate rescue, health care or other authorities. Your incident report will deal with the events up to that point.

Complete an Incident Report

The Trip Coordinator or other designated individual must contact the Executive Director at the Alpine Club of Canada’s National Office as soon as possible regarding the incident. One scenario would be for the Trip Coordinator to contact the Section Chair and that person would contact the Executive Director. This must be done as soon as possible after the incident occurs.

In addition, a complete, written incident report must be prepared as soon as possible after the incident occurs, sent to the Section Chair, who sends it to the Executive Director. The original, signed Releases(s) of all persons who suffered (or who might later claim to have suffered) personal injury or property damage/loss as a result of the incident must accompany this report. In this report, it is important to record all relevant information about the incident: times, location, activity being undertaken at the time of the incident, etc. Opinions or speculations as to how the incident could have been avoided should not be included. It is the Section Board’s duty to ensure that the report is complete before submitting it to the Executive Director.

Under normal circumstances, an incident report will be in the Executive Director’s hands no later than 3 weeks after the incident.

Do NOT talk to the media or post on social media about the incident, and advise trip participants of the same. Any questions from the media are to be referred to the Executive Director of the Alpine Club of Canada. No copies of any Releases or incident reports are to be provided to the victim or any other person.

Liability Insurance

The Club’s comprehensive liability insurance is similar to the broad-based type of liability insurance most people have as part of their home insurance. The Club’s policy covers situations where negligence on the part of an ACC employee, officer, director, member or volunteer results in personal bodily injury or property damage.

The coverage is in place only when these individuals are engaged in an official Club activity or are acting on behalf of the Club. An official activity could be a Section sponsored outing, the GMC, or a volunteer work party at a hut. The maximum coverage is one million dollars per incident (including any legal costs awarded), subject to $1000 deductible. There are of course certain exclusions listed in the policy e.g. acts of war, acts of terrorism and nuclear accidents.

An example of a situation where the policy coverage would come into effect is when a National or Section camp or activity is underway, and it is alleged that the negligence of an ACC member in the group causes bodily injury to someone else, either in or outside the group. If the injured person pursued a claim for compensation for his or her injuries, the ACC’s liability insurance policy would come into play and the insurer would defend the individual against the claim. In the event the claim was unsuccessful, the insurer (or the other party) would pay the legal costs. If the claim was successful, the insurer would pay the legal costs and the claim awarded (up to $1 million, less the $1000 deductible).

It should be noted that the ACC policy is not meant to pay any of the injured party’s medical expenses directly. Similarly, if the member causing the bodily injury was also injured in the process, any related medical expenses would be his or her own responsibility.

If Club members are on a personal backcountry outing (i.e. are not engaged in an official Club activity) and, through negligence, cause someone bodily injury or cause property damage, the Club’s insurance policy would not apply.

Liability insurance is something we all hope we never have to use. However, it’s always a good idea to know in advance what you’re covered for, and what you’re not.

Participation of Non-members on Official ACC Section Trips

The ACC Calgary Section does endorse non-member participation in club trips and activities.

Having participants sign the Release protects the Club and Trip Coordinators when an accident occurs. However, signing an ACC waiver does not protect a participant from the risks associated with a possible damage claim. Rather, this risk protection is provided to ACC members through our liability insurance coverage ? coverage which does not extend to non-members. This is a great reason for potential participants to join the ACC!

Release of Liability Administration (National Policy)

This policy and all related documents are on the Alpine Club of Canada’s national website: www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/activities/waivers

As Trip Coordinators, you are required to have participants in all activities sponsored by The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) sign the official Release, Waiver and Assumption of Risk (hereinafter referred to as the Release) before the activity begins. The importance of this document to The Alpine Club of Canada cannot be overemphasized. The way you conduct yourself in dealing with participants signing the Release is of great importance to whether the document “will stand up in court” later on. As a result, the following steps should be followed when having participants execute the Release:

Get Releases Signed Properly

Instructions you may need to give to Participants:

  • Read and understand the Release before signing and dating it. This Release is easy to read and is available in French and English. If you do not sign and submit the Release, you will not be able to participate in your chosen activity.
  • If you have any questions about the meaning of the Release, ask for assistance from the national office of The Alpine Club of Canada and they will be able to explain the document in detail.
  • You cannot change any terms of the Release prior to signing it.
  • The witness to your signature must be a non-family member. It is preferred that the witness is an Alpine Club member, volunteer or employee. Each witness should confirm that you have read and understood the Release.
  • Do not rush through reading the Release – leave yourself ample opportunity to read and understand its terms in advance of your chosen activity.
  • If you refuse to sign the Release, you will not be able to participate in the chosen activity.

Instructions for Trip Coordinators

  1. You must ensure each participant has had time to read the Release before signing and dating it. Make sure they are not rushed during this important step. If you are able, it is advisable to have participants read and sign the waiver well in advance of the activity e.g. days or weeks before the activity. The waiver is available for viewing on the Alpine Club of Canada’s website and Trip Coordinators should encourage participants to read this and understand its contents prior to any trip. Be sure that participants are aware that if they do not sign the Release they will not be able to participate in the Activity.
  2. You must ask each participant whether they have any questions about the meaning of the Release and, if they do have any questions, you should do your best to answer them. If you can’t, questions should be referred to the Executive Director of The Alpine Club of Canada who will be able to explain the document in detail.
  3. Nothing in this Release can be changed in any way and it must be signed “as is” as a condition of participating in the proposed activity.
  4. You must understand the Release yourself. Read it very carefully and make sure that you understand its terms. If you do not understand any of its terms, or don’t feel that you are capable of explaining it to someone else, please contact the Executive Director of The Alpine Club of Canada, who will provide you with an explanation to address your concerns.
  5. Should participants ask you to tell them what the document says, be sure to emphasize that they are required to read it and understand it before signing, and before they will be able to participate in the activity. You can tell them that it is a document which protects The Alpine Club of Canada from lawsuits in the event that a participant is injured or killed or has any of his property or personal belongings damaged or lost. The Release also protects The Alpine Club of Canada from liability for not only natural hazards but for the negligence of any of the other ACC member participants. You should also tell them that the document includes a clause where each participant agrees that, should evacuation or rescue become necessary, each participant agrees to pay the cost of that evacuation or rescue.
  6. The witness to the participants’ signature must be a non-family member. You can witness the person’s signature or one of the other participants can witness the signature. The preferred approach, if possible, is to have the participant’s signature witnessed by an Alpine Club of Canada member, volunteer or employee. Each witness should ask the participant if he/she has read and understood the Release, which is critical to its legal validity. Minors must have their parent/guardian sign the Release and Trip Coordinators must be satisfied that the minor is able to and does participate in the activity safely.
  7. If an individual refuses to sign the Release, you must advise them that he or she can not participate in the activity.
  8. The Release is available in English and French. Each participant should be provided a Release in the language he or she is most comfortable with.
  9. Even for repeat activities (e.g. weekly or monthly sessions at the same climbing wall) participants need to sign the Release each time.

What to do with the Release(s) After Signing

Assuming that an incident does not occur during a given activity, signed Releases must be retained by the Section for a period of six years, after which time they can be destroyed. Please return all signed Releases as soon as possible after your trip to the Library.


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