Planning for Field Research

Mountain with no buildings or people around. Risk and recognizing the possibility of loss or injury is integral to experiential learning and is inherent in field environments where we teach and conduct research. A field instructor or researcher must also be an effective risk manager who understands and anticipates risks and acts appropriately to reduce the likelihood of negative consequences. Accidents often result from a combination of challenging conditions, inadequate preparation and poor communication. For this reason, an effective risk manager must incorporate many attributes of leadership including preparation, competency, effective communication, appropriate judgment, self and group awareness, and tolerance for adversity and uncertainty (adapted from the National Outdoor Leadership School Educator Notebook).

Planning Your Field Research

Climbing in the mountainsAll fieldwork warrants a pre-trip discussion regarding foreseen hazards, appropriate precautions, communication options, and emergency procedures. 

You should be able to answer questions regarding:

  • Destination
  • Participation
  • Field Activities

Assessment PDF

For field work in remote locations - or hazardous work off campus - develop a field safety plan with site information and emergency procedures. Taking the time to compile a thorough safety plan and discuss it with your team will prepare you to more effectively manage risks that arise in the field. It serves as a hazardous assessment tool and can include Go/No Go criteria, refer to other protocols or training and be used to brief your field team or course participants on trip logistics and precautions. Developing and using a field safety plan is appropriate for the following activities:

  1. Conducting field research or teaching field courses off campus,
  2. Work performed at field stations, nature reserves, or controlled sites. Established site procedures may be available, but should be supplemented with a safety plan for hazards specific to your research or tasks

Field Safety Plan Template

 

Fieldwork often requires travel and work at sites that lack basic services such as plumbed water, reliable communications, or prompt emergency medical services. It’s important during planning to budget for appropriate safety measures.

First Aid Kits

Any excursion into the field should include carrying some basic first aid supplies. There is no perfect first aid kit, but considerations include:

  • First aid kits don’t save lives, people do. Get trained and know how to use everything you put in yourkit.
  • Commercial first aid kits are good starting points. The NOLS Store and other vendors such as REI and Adventure Medical Kits have options designed for outdoor excursions for various group sizes. For educational excursions, you may use the coupon code Educate2018 to receive 15% off of first aid supplies and books at the NOLS Store. This code may be used as many times as you need, and they are planning to update the last digits of this code at the beginning of every calendar year (Educate2017, 2018, 2019...).
  • Customize your kit for your destination, tasks, group size and level oftraining.
  • Pack extragloves!
  • Re-pack your first aid kit for each trip; replenish used or expireditems
  • Check for expiration dates on medications and sterile items; replace items that may have been torn open or damaged. Many vendors sell refillkits.

Leave an empty plastic bag in your kit for trash. Be strict with all users of the kit to use the trash bag.

Satellite Phone Loaner Program

Satellite phones on a background of a cliffUCLA EH&S currently manages two InReach Garmin Se satellite phones that can be loaned out for planned Field Research trips. The UC Sat Device is intended to serve as an emergency communication device and personal locator when engaged in university-related activities at remote areas with unreliable cell phone coverage. The UC Sat Device operates via the Iridium satellite network (100% global coverage) when given a clear view of the sky.

If you are planning a remote trip where cell service is either very spotty or not available, then you can request to borrow a satellite phone. However you will need to read, complete and sign the attached form and meet with Mike Williams to go over how to use the phone while working in the field.

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