Volunteer-Emergency Preparedness

Thinking about, planning for, and hopefully never having to deal with the unthinkable – but being ready nevertheless.

We need volunteers for EMERGENCY RESPONSE to ensure skiers or volunteers that have experienced a medical problem or sustained an injury on the course are located, assessed and transported to medical care. You’ll be a part of a team that in the worst-case scenario may be instrumental in saving a life.

Carl Covello testing emergency response systems, 2023 Birkie [*see Carl’s story]
Carl Covello testing emergency response systems, 2023 Birkie [*see Carl’s story]

Who is In Charge?

Dave McCashin has been the Chief of Emergency Response since 2016. He is certified by the Association of Mountain Guides and been an active guide for 35 years.

He has skied the Birkebeiner a dozen times and owns The Response Group Inc., a company that helps organizations implement Emergency Response Plans in a variety of work situations.

  • 050-Emerg-Resp-Chief
  • 051-Emerg-Resp-First Responder
  • 052-Emerg-Resp-Mobile First Aid Provider

Context For All Roles

Safety Considerations: Volunteers work outdoors; as a result, you must dress and have the gear to keep yourself and an injured skier warm.

Location: Ideally you will provide your own transportation as the volunteer activity occurs over one or two days on course and one day in Sherwood Park. Volunteers either ski a portion of the course or drive a snowmobile. If the latter, you must be comfortable/experienced operating snowmobiles.

Training: Volunteers must attend full-day orientations prior to the Birkie. For Mobile First Aid Providers, the first orientation occurs at the Waskahegan Staging Area on Tuesday, February 6, 2024 (0900-1500h). This full day session on course orients responders to snowmobile access and emergency response routes. Dress for the weather and bring lunch, fluids, etc.

For all Emergency Response volunteers, February 7, 2024 (1000-1900h) is a first aid refresher and a review of the emergency response plan. The refresher is run by an Advanced Wilderness first aid trainer. This session is indoors and held at the Broadmoor Golf Course in Sherwood Park. An excellent burger lunch is provided.

Spinal restriction demonstration during the First Aid refresher

Roles Needed

Role SpecificsRole Details
Role ID, Area and Title:050-Emerg-Resp-Chief
DescriptionPreparing and implementing an Emergency Response Plan for the Event. This involves identifying skill required amongst volunteers. Liaison externally with Alberta Parks and contracted paramedics; internally with the Chief and Medic volunteer roles. Acquiring equipment and material to support volunteers. Recruitment and assignment of mobile Advanced Wilderness First Aid teams. Key role in placement of teams along course and in accordance with the Emergency Response Plan. Document any incidents. Debrief and prepare for the following year’s Birkie.
Volunteer RequirementsExtensive experience with emergency response planning and the management of incidents. Good organizational and leadership skills to recruit and deploy the team.
When NeededFall, updating the Emergency Response and associated plans; identify and recruit volunteers. Birkie Week to run orientations with volunteers as well as Birkie Saturday. Debrief post-Birkie.
Times Needed150 hours in the fall split between planning and work activities. 30-40 hours Birkie Week. 8-10 hours post-Birkie spent in debriefs, returning and servicing equipment.
Number Needed1
Typical Advanced First aid pack and scoop stretcher is at the bottom.
Role SpecificsRole Details
Role ID, Area and Title:051-Emerg-Resp-First Responder
DescriptionSki in the race with the 55 k / 31 k skiers at your own pace and look for problems or injuries on the course. Begin skiing at the start or at one of the food stations. Check in with dispatcher at intervals with text messages and activate an emergency response with a supplied VHF radio. Stay with the casualty until transport arrives.
Volunteer RequirementsMust be able to ski with a pack with first aid, heat packs and extra warm layers. Volunteers will cover a designated 15 to 20 km section of the course. Preference is given to volunteers who 1. Hold a current Wilderness First Aid certificate and/or has equivalent experience. 2. Have experience with taking charge in emergencies and managing an injured skier until help arrives. Carpooling to access points on race day is offered. To do this, please note if you are willing to drive other volunteers and that you have a reliable and winter equipped vehicle. A mandatory pre-event orientation is scheduled: Feb 7: 1 day First Aid Refresher geared to anticipated medical problems or injuries.
When NeededTraining and Orientation: February 7. Race Day: February 10 Debrief after the event to be scheduled.
Times NeededWednesday 10:00 – 7:00 pm at Broadmoor Golf Course clubhouse Saturday Race Day 7:30 – 4:00
Number Needed12
051-Emerg-Resp-First Responder
Role SpecificsRole Details
Role ID, Area and Title:052-Emerg-Resp-Mobile First Aid Provider
DescriptionDrive a snowmobile with rescue toboggan in tow. On standby at strategic locations and move towards the finish line as the race progresses. Toboggan is equipped with Advanced First aid supplies, including, AED, O2, spinal restriction equipment, scoop stretcher and heat packs. Be ready to respond to a call from the dispatcher, perform any first aid required at the scene and transport to road access where the patient would be transferred to EMS care.
Volunteer RequirementsVolunteers are required to have held an Advanced Wilderness First Aid certification or higher in the last 5 years. Preference will be given to volunteers who have certification that is current. SAR rescue, ski patrol and snowmobile experience are all assets. Two mandatory pre-event orientations are scheduled. 1. Feb 6: A full day on course orientation to understand snowmobile access and emergency response routes. 2. Feb 7: 1 day First Aid Refresher geared to anticipated medical problems or injuries.
When NeededTraining and Orientation: February 6 and 7. Race Day: February 10 Debrief after the event to be scheduled.
Times NeededTuesday 9:00 – 3:00 at Waskahegan Staging Area Wednesday 10:00 – 7:00 at Broadmoor Golf Course clubhouse Saturday Race Day 7:30 – 4:00
Number Needed4

052-Emerg-Resp-Mobile First Aid Provider

2 of the 4 Birkebiner rescue toboggans and snowmobiles

Carl’s Story

During the 31 km Imperial Oil Birkie Tour event, I experienced a minor forward fall, due to an errant pole plant while climbing one of the many grades on the course. I landed abruptly on my forehead such that my glasses caused two minor lacerations above my eyebrows.

The resultant bleeding presented an image of a possible collision with a tree or other high impact event. I do recall asking one or two other skiers about my forehead, as I had been dealing with blood dripping down my nose.

I don’t recall any specific dialogue with volunteers at the next feed station other than being asked if I was OK. I was self aware from experience that I had not experienced a concussive event.

At the finish line, I was quickly directed to the medical trailer, where a young medical student was able to quickly assess that minor lacerations were present and that a disinfectant cleanup was all that was required.

As we all know, some seemingly minor falls can result in more serious injuries that may jeopardize the ability of a skier to safely continue skiing. I was fortunate in this case and felt well taken care of both on course and at the finish area.

The latter half of my engineering career involved Emergency Preparedness and Planning for major industrial incidents. I am fully supportive of the Birkebeiner Society’s efforts to enhance this most important part of event planning.