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Risk Management

Wilderness therapy is a proven safe intervention for early adolescents, adolescents, and young adults. At Open Sky, creating a safe environment for our students is our greatest priority. We maintain the highest standards of safety by:

  • following industry-standard best practices in operations and training.
  • using state-of-the-art equipment for communications and wilderness living.
  • requiring ongoing professional risk-management training for all field and operations staff.
  • providing 24-hour on-call personnel for any emergent need.

Seven Keys to Safety at Open Sky

  1. Field and Operations Staff Training
  2. Field Communication Systems
  3. Professional Support Personnel and Emergency Response Team
  4. Professional Medical Personnel and Nearby Medical Facilities
  5. State-of-the-Art Safety Equipment
  6. Incident Debrief, Review, and Policy Revision
  7. Risk Management-Based Policies and Procedures

Field and Operations Staff Training

Field guides spend more time with students than any other member of the Open Sky treatment team. The guides provide daily support, structure, and leadership for each team of students while they are at Open Sky. At the start of employment, each Field Guide attends an intensive 10-day orientation and training.

Training topics include:

  • Wilderness safety
  • Run-away prevention
  • Self-harm prevention
  • De-escalation
  • Emotional safety
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Medication administration
  • Weather-related challenges
  • Communication systems
  • Medical emergency

After the initial orientation and training, additional training occurs in the field from Open Sky’s leadership, clinical, and medical teams. Guides receive training in such areas as risk management, therapeutic skills, psychological diagnosis and treatment, communication protocol, safety equipment, emergency response, and first aid.

Field Communication Systems

Open Sky uses the best technology to maintain communications with our field operations. Twice each day (morning and afternoon), guides are required to check in with support personnel via handheld radio, satellite phone, or cell phone. Each non-scheduled call from the field has a defined response sequence appropriate to the need. Calls for medical or clinical response are quickly and efficiently attended to.

Professional Support Personnel and Emergency Response Team

Open Sky’s full-time support personnel are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These on-call support personnel monitor radio and phone communications in case a team needs support of any kind, such as medical assistance, inclement weather management, supplies delivery, or logistics assistance. On-duty operations and field leadership team members carry cell phones to respond to any need for their support. In addition to on-duty support personnel, Open Sky has a team of emergency responders within a short distance of the field. We maintain strong relationships with local search and rescue teams and sheriff’s departments.

Professional Medical Personnel and Nearby Medical Facilities

The Open Sky Medical Team is sophisticated and well educated, consisting of a Wilderness First Responders (WFRs), EMTs, a psychiatrist, and a doctor, as Medical Director. A member of our team is on duty every day, 24 hours a day, to provide medical assistance as needed. In most circumstances, the medical on-call staff provide phone consultation with field guides in the event of a minor injury or student illness. If warranted, the on-call staff will make arrangements for additional medical support or treat the student in person.

Each student team at Open Sky is led by a field guide who is also a nationally certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Wilderness First Responder (WFR)

The 80-hour WFR curriculum includes standards for urban and extended-care situations. Special topics include but are not limited to wound and infection management, realigning fractures and dislocations, improvised splinting techniques, patient monitoring and long-term management problems, environmental emergencies, and drug therapies. Source: NOLS

To learn more about WFRs, go to:


Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

The EMT-Basic represents the first component of the emergency medical technician system. An EMT trained at this level is prepared to care for patients at the scene of an accident and while transporting patients by ambulance to the hospital under medical direction. The EMT-Basic has the emergency skills to assess a student’s condition and manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies. Source: United States Department of Labor

To learn more about EMTs, go to:

Visits to nearby medical facilities are most often for preventative and cautionary measures. Should a student become ill or sustain an injury that is beyond the scope of care available in the field, we can easily relocate the student to a nearby clinic or hospital.

Winter Safety

Winter is a particularly powerful time to enroll at Open Sky. Living amongst the winter elements provides students with unique opportunities to increase competence and resilience. When students complete a winter stay at Open Sky, they leave with a tremendous sense of pride, empowerment, and confidence, attributes which will them serve them well as they navigate life’s future challenges.

At Open Sky, supporting a safe and effective program experience is our highest priority. We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety in all aspects of our operations. During the winter, Open Sky implements specific practices and protocols which encompass all aspects of programming, including course area management, guide training, staffing, student education, gear, nutrition, activities, and program accreditation. Click Here for more details