• November 2010

At The Center Of Wilderness Safety

By Clifton Castleman
Center for Wilderness Safety

The idea to create the Center for Wilderness Safety came to me in college. I was a student at Penn State University, taking an outdoor recreation class, and my professor gave us an assignment to create a company that offered goods and services needed in the outdoor recreation field.

My group came up with a program called “Outdoor Ascent,” which provided three services: rock climbing instruction, team-building programs, and basic wilderness first aid. We got an A.

But I knew there was more to do with the idea. Having been a Boy Scout all my life, and an Eagle Scout since 2000, I realized that I could turn our project into a company. So in 2003, at the ripe age of 21, I began growing a new LLC organization dedicated to training people how to be safer in the wilderness.

In the last seven years, my organization has taught more than 4,000 people how to save lives. While most of our classes teach lifesaving skills to campers and hikers who may come into harm’s way while enjoying the outdoors, we recently began offering emergency medical services for special events and festivals in the metropolitan DC area. We also offer lifesaving courses to colleges and universities, corporations, non-profits, Scout troops, and government agencies.

We also have an online store, www.RestockYourKit.com, where fans of the outdoors can buy everything they might need in case of a problem — from tightly packed medical kits to a CPR mask that fits on your keychain. It’s all about being prepared!

Welcome to base camp

Like the good Scouts we are, we run the program as efficiently as possible. We don’t have a fancy office or a big marketing budget, but our dozen dedicated instructors are passionate about teaching people to be safe in the outdoors.

In fact, last March the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which comprises at least 75 percent of our clientele, unveiled a new, wilderness, first-aid certification program. The program was the result of collaboration between the Scouts, Wilderness Medical Society (the organization that sets the national standards of care for wilderness emergency medicine), and the American Red Cross.

The new program is a requirement for any Scout or adult leader wishing to attend one of BSA’s high-adventure bases, and it will soon become a requirement for the rank of Star Scout, which is two ranks below the top rank of Eagle Scout.

Safety first

The Center for Wilderness Safety provides a customized curriculum for the outdoor enthusiast and professional, and fills a niche that few organizations offer — teaching wilderness medicine education.

About 80 percent of all community health and safety course participants attend our training courses to meet a certification requirement — for work, school, or a volunteer position. Those who have a personal interest in learning lifesaving skills, but have no job-related need or requirement, are often parents of young children or teen babysitters.

Corporations often call us in to train their employees, since even though our core mission is teaching lifesaving skills, our program is also a great team-building exercise.

Building the Center for Wilderness Safety from the ground up and seeing how far we’ve come in a few short years is a dream come true. And it’s gratifying that wilderness medicine is seeing a steady increase in awareness. I never imagined that we would have come so far so fast — but we’ve done it, and I’m looking forward to helping more people enjoy the great outdoors safely in the years ahead.

About Clifton Castleman

Clifton Castleman has a degree in Recreation, Park & Tourism Management from Penn State University. A Wilderness EMT, he is a member of the Wilderness Medical Society, and since 2001 has been an American Red Cross instructor. He was recently awarded the Patricia M. & James M. Hudson Health & Safety Award from the American Red Cross for his outstanding leadership and instruction.

He currently serves as the volunteer medical team director for the Sierra Club’s One Day Hike, a 100/50 Kilometer hike from Georgetown, DC, to Harpers Ferry, WV, that attracts several hundred hikers each year. He is a former member of a local rescue squad and of the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group.