Reflections

Risk Management

This week in the WCC crew leader course we are discussing risk management.  Oftentimes, I think we overlook this decision-making process in our lives.  We do it so frequently and so intuitively that we don’t consider how prevalent it is in our thinking.

For the WCC, especially, risk can become something that entails more danger than the average person encounters.  We use sharp tools, drive a lot, go to remote locations, and live in that elements.  Therefore, risk management is something we must do consciously and with serious consideration.

Just last weekend, the crew leaders drove down to Colorado Fire Camp outside of Poncha Springs.  On Wednesday, the roads out of Laramie were either closed or slick as oil.  We slowly navigated away from the winter weather, and made it down to fire camp, where it snowed on us for the next two days straight.  With a ton of snow on the ground, and the promise of more, we decided to shoot for Laramie after the evaluation portion of our S212 class was cancelled.

This was a risky decision.  If we stayed, we risked being stuck in Poncha Springs for days more than we had planned.  If we left, we risked hitting dangerous roads in Wyoming.  We met as a group and weighed out the pros and cons.  In the end, we decided to drive back that night.  The roads were mostly good, with the last stretch from Walden to Laramie being the most harrowing.  Still, we got back safe and sound.

There are several ways to deal with risk.  The first is to avoid it.  This is not an option for those who want to work in the conservation world.  There are trainings to go to, jobs to get done, etc.  Still, Patrick gave us the option to forgo Fire Camp if we felt the roads were unsafe.  This is essential.  I good leader always gives their crew an option to decline a task if the risk assessed is too great.

The other option is to mitigate.  We decided to stop in Walden at a hotel if the roads to Laramie were impassable.  We took it slow and put our trucks in 4wd.  We kept a good following distance and were ready to assist one another if anything happened.  We had a good med kit stocked in each truck.  Thankfully, we didn’t need it.

We also shared the risk.  We took two trucks.  If one of us went in the ditch, the other could continue for help or attempt to pull the first one out.  In addition, there were six people total who could dig out a stuck vehicle and flag down help.  Sharing the burden amongst all six leaders certainly made me feel better than making that trek alone.

Lastly, we can accept the risk.  And we did.  We had our P-cards on us in case we needed to hole up at a motel.  We had communication in case we went in the ditch and needed someone to come get us.  Each time we take the vehicles and tools out, we accept that something might happen.  Given a long enough time span, it will.  As long as we share the risk, mitigate for it, and decline unnecessary risk, I can sleep easy.

Take it slow on those icy turns,

Ryan

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