Since 1964, the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School has worked diligently to achieve and maintain an excellent safety record. Most HIOBS programs take place in backcountry environments, which present different types of hazards from those with which our students are already familiar. Remote wilderness settings may be hours or even days away from emergency medical care. Students are expected to be prepared for a rigorous wilderness experience, motivated and able to be active, aware and engaged all day. Many people of varying abilities and histories have safely and successfully completed Outward Bound courses. Please ask your Course Advisor about any concerns you may have, or see our Essential Eligibility Criteria.
Risk and uncertainty are central to adventure and personal growth. Our approach is to systematically identify, assess and mitigate hazards, while at the same time providing real challenges to our students.
HIOBS instructors (see more in “Our Instructors” section, below) receive regular training in the outdoor activities and environments in which we run our courses. In addition to meeting state and federal requirements for their positions, all instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders; some are Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians, or equivalent. Our programs are regularly reviewed by outdoor professionals from inside and outside the Outward Bound system in order to identify potential hazards and update best practices. Outward Bound has been a national leader in wilderness safety for over 50 years, and frequently advises and assists other organizations in outdoor adventure risk management.
Outward Bound staff are trained to identify, assess and approach risk as a learning tool, to be managed but not eliminated. They anticipate and teach the management of the risks inherent in travel in remote areas. The intent is not to avoid activities involving risk but to recognize, prepare for, and successfully manage that risk. Risk, along with challenge, is part of the learning environment in which students develop skills, attention to detail, physical fitness, and leadership.
Staff are also trained in emergency response (wilderness medicine, search, rescue and emergency management), but they cannot guarantee your absolute safety. Each course carries a radio and/or a cellular or satellite phone for emergency communication. However, coverage in the backcountry is limited and there is no guarantee that any electronic device will work at any given time from any given location. For your safety, it is extremely important that you share any and all medical or psychological issues you have when filling out the medical history section of the application.
As a student, from the application process forward, you must take responsibility for yourself, follow instructions, and master the skills taught on the expedition.
Our supervision policies are based on our belief that well-trained and educated teenagers and adults alike make good decisions with or without direct instructor supervision. Outward Bound maintains high staff-to-student ratios (approximately 1:5), and from the beginning of the course, instructors will teach the skills necessary for safe wilderness living and travel. There will also be times when students are not directly supervised, such as when cooking, setting up tarps, camping, sleeping and solo. At such times, the instructors will be nearby and the students will be able to ask questions or get help if needed. For the majority of the course, students will be with their instructors but the instructors often do not sleep in the same shelters with them, and they do not monitor them constantly. Students are expected to follow rules and act on safety principles they have been taught, whether the instructors are present or not.
Final Expedition and Independent Student Travel
On longer courses for older students, and when the group has demonstrated the required level of skill and judgment, staff may travel some distance away from the group and utilize prearranged check-ins to monitor their progress. When unaccompanied by staff, groups carry an appropriate radio or phone to enable them to contact staff in the event of an emergency. On Final Expeditions on sailing courses, students will make decisions independent of the instructors but the instructors will be present on the boat.
Hurricane Island Outward Bound School instructors range in age from 20 to 71. The average age is around 30. Some are full time wilderness instructors; over 95% have or are working toward bachelor or graduate degrees in a variety of fields; many work for most of the year as classroom teachers, firefighters, engineers, wilderness guides, consultants, ski instructors, geologists and EMTs. They share a love of wilderness travel and the power of the wilderness classroom on the lives of people of all ages. They believe that traveling through demanding environments and collaboratively and creatively meeting challenges builds skills and habits that students will apply throughout the rest of the lives, wherever their interests take them!
Instructors work in teams of two or three, teaching six to eleven students. Instructor teams are often gender balanced, but balancing skills and teaching styles is the primary staffing concern. One instructor in every team is a lead instructor with multiple seasons of training and experience who has single point accountability for the safety and effectiveness of the course in the field, and for mentoring the other staff.
Instructors must meet rigorous minimum technical requirements.
Medical: All have CPR, and are Wilderness First Responders; many have Emergency Medical Technician, Medical Person in Charge (US Coast Guard), or Outdoor Emergency Care (National Ski Patrol) as well.
Guiding: All instructor teams have at least one who holds a Maine Trip Leader Permit, and some are Registered Maine Guides.
Sailing: Lead instructors hold a US Coast Guard Captain’s License.
Instructors who teach sailing and canoeing courses hold Lifeguard or Emergency Water Safety certifications.
Whitewater and rock climbing instructors are trained and assessed according to an industry leading, in-house standard that draws from American Canoe Association (ACA) canoeing and swift water rescue standards, and American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) climbing instructor standards.
Staff who work with minors, in remote course areas, drive HIOBS vehicles, or fill other safety-critical functions are subject to pre-employment and random drug screening. All program staff are subject to background checks.
Outward Bound believes that the educative value of being outdoors justifies accepting some level of inherent risk. Risks are not sought for their own sake, and risks inherent in wilderness travel are approached thoughtfully and deliberately. Many risks, such as falling tree branches, tripping or slipping, and vector-borne diseases (diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks, etc.) can be minimized but, even with the greatest attention to detail, cannot be eliminated. All students sign a liability waiver that outlines many such risks, acknowledging that they understand and accept the risks.
As part of our ceaseless effort to monitor and improve safety, HIOBS programs are regularly reviewed and audited by both internal and external teams in order to proactively identify and assess potential hazards as well as areas of commendation. Outward Bound has been a leader in wilderness safety and risk management for 50 years and is a co-sponsor of the annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC). This national conference convenes outdoor industry leaders to learn and collaborate, to advancing safety and risk management in the outdoor education and wilderness adventure community.
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