Outdoor education – how to avoid accidents and emergencies

Outdoor education – how to avoid accidents and emergencies

Prevention is better than cure to avoid the unlikely event of a problem

The OEAP NG guidance document 4.1a Avoiding Accidents and Emergencies is intended to assist leaders in avoiding accidents, which are fortunately rare.

“Being prepared for, and having a well-thought-through plan to deal with a serious incident is an important part of any visit plan.”

Remain flexible and look for the unexpected – the things that you hadn’t considered when planning. All visits should be well planned but it is not possible to anticipate everything, so leaders should be ready to adapt the plan to changing circumstances, says the document.


The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.


Changes in circumstances can provide excellent learning opportunities but it is important to distinguish between a threat and an opportunity.

For example, during a city centre visit you see a crowd gathering in a square. This may be an interesting piece of street theatre or a peaceful protest, which could be used as a stimulus for good follow up work. Alternatively, it could be the beginnings of a violent protest that you should not be near.

Don’t be a ‘turkey’…

Turkeys base their assumptions on their own past experience and simply expect to get food and water every day right up to the time they don’t. Applying past experience to new circumstances does not always work, so just because things have always gone well on your visits do not assume that they always will. Learn from others’ experience and learn from accidents.

…but do be a ‘swan’

Swans appear to float gracefully and serenely across the surface of the water, but underneath their feet are busy and quietly directing. Leaders should present an outward impression of calm reassurance so that the group is able to enjoy their trip. This is only achieved, like the swan, by constantly keeping your senses working – monitoring, reviewing and planning.

‘Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance’. A well-thought-out plan, including what to do in the event of an emergency, should provide leaders with all the options they need to lead an effective visit. Involve young people in planning and keep them informed of developments and changes.

Topics covered in this useful – and free to download – PDF document include:-

  • Good Leadership Habits
  • Lessons from Accidents
  • Useful Pointers
  • Residential visits
  • Visits abroad.

Section 4 of National Guidance refers to Good Practice and contains a range of documents that provide guidance for employers, establishments and visit leaders about how to manage and deliver high quality outdoor learning, off-site visits and Learning Outside the Classroom.


Download OEAP National Guidance document 4.1a Avoiding Accidents and Emergencies »

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

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