Standards for private organizations

2020 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 11: Safety and Risk Management

The organization ensures safe practice through advanced planning, safety procedures, and personnel and youth training.
2020 Edition




Youth who participate in Wilderness and Adventure-based Therapeutic Outdoor Services expand individual capabilities, develop self-confidence and insight, ameliorate symptoms, and improve interpersonal skills and relationships.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Safety procedures
  • The table of contents for youth safety training curricula
  • Drug and alcohol policy
  • Program and activity discharge policy
  • Safety committee meeting minutes for the previous 12 months
  • Three trip or activity plans
  • Sample of completed activity safety manuals, evacuation plans, or other safety documentation from past trips
  • Contracts, including safety expectations, with any outside transportation providers
  • Youth safety training curricula
  • Sample of documentation tracking youth completion of required safety training for three recent trips
  • Procedures for maintaining medication and first aid supplies
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.01

A safety review committee, supervisory personnel, or external advisors:
  1. conduct ongoing safety reviews;
  2. promptly review incidents when emergency procedures are invoked; and
  3. recommend corrective action.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.02

When conducting offsite activities, the trip or activity plan includes:
  1. an itinerary maintained at the organization’s central location;
  2. weather conditions under which evacuation may be warranted;
  3. evacuation and search and rescue procedures for trips or activities in remote areas;
  4. detailed information regarding contact with the program director, or a designee, and rangers when appropriate;
  5. means of contacting rescue resources, medical facilities, and law enforcement; and
  6. any public or private entity notified of the itinerary.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.03

Safety procedures include:
  1. use of a written safety manual or equivalent safety plan for each type of activity offered;
  2. completion of a safety or risk-management plan before each trip or activity that contains safety preparations and other emergency planning information;
  3. a mechanism for bringing a youth’s relevant health and medical information into the field;
  4. providing trip leaders with funds or other means for obtaining emergency resources during trips or programs held off-site;
  5. providing appropriate equipment for emergency communication links from field personnel to outside medical and other resources for trips or activities in remote areas;
  6. filing incident reports for any accidents or incidents in which personnel or youth were injured or at risk; and
  7. notifying the chief executive office or his/her designee if emergency procedures are invoked or an unanticipated problem or incident occurs.


WT 11.04

Safety procedures for preventing missing and runaway youth that address: 
  1. creating an environment that provides a sense of safety, support, and community;
  2. identifying risks or triggers that may indicate likeliness to run away from programs; and
  3. welcoming, screening, and debriefing when children return to the program.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.05

Safety procedures related to missing persons address:
  1. search and rescue;
  2. public-safety agency involvement; and
  3. notification of all relevant personnel and parents/legal guardians when applicable.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.06

An organization that provides transportation in agency-owned vehicles, or in vehicles owned by personnel or contractors, has safety procedures that require:
  1. access to emergency roadside repair tools, spare tires, and parts;
  2. pre-trip vehicle checks;
  3. advance planning for supervision of youth during scheduled stops; and
  4. advance planning for appropriate breaks and rest stops, with a full day of rest scheduled following four consecutive days of vehicular travel.
NA The organization does not provide transportation directly or by contract.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.07

The organization trains all participants in planned trips or adventure based activities about the prevention of relevant risks including:
  1. sunstroke, sunburn, hyperthermia, dehydration, frostbite, and snow blindness as appropriate to the type of activity and weather conditions;
  2. dangerous plants, animals, situations, and other hazards that may be associated with adventure-based activities or locations; and
  3. allergic and anaphylactic reactions.


Youth only need to be trained on the prevention of risks associated with the type of trip or activities being conducted. For example, training on frostbite, snow blindness, or sunburn would not be needed for experiential activities conducted indoors.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.08

First aid, emergency response kits and emergency supplies, and medications needed by youth are available and under the control of the senior trip leader or other designated group leader at all times.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.09

Policy prohibits youth and personnel from using alcohol or other drugs while engaging in organization-sponsored activities.

Fundamental Practice

WT 11.10

Participants may be discharged from a specific adventure-based activity or from the program if:
  1. their behavior or other problems make continuation unsafe or ineffective; or
  2. evacuation from remote locations is deemed necessary for health or mental health reasons.