It’s not text speak, I’m officially a WFR! Pronounced woofer, it means I’m now a certified Wilderness First Responder through WMI, (NOLS).

I’ve been dying to take this class for a long time, and was lucky enough to be home in Baltimore for the holidays when it was being offered at Hopkins. WFR is an intense, 10 days course featuring outdoor mock rescues and realistic moulage. To quote the WMI website:

“The WFR course is designed to provide you with the tools to make critical medical and evacuation decisions in remote locations. Come prepared for wet, muddy, cold or hot environments. For bad-asses only.”

I added in that last part— the class is awesome. Splinting legs with tree branches, learning how to respond to hypothermia and punctured lungs, running around in the woods all day, and feigning injuries when you’re one of the patients. It’s intense, super informative, and one of the best 10 days I’ve spent in a long time. In case of a spinal injury due to a fall while climbing, I know how to stabilize your spine and treat your abrasions. If that’s not awesome enough, should you fall in a stream and become unconscious, impale yourself on a stick, or have an open fracture, I know what to do. BAM!

I’m the patient in the front. I was kite-boarding and had a big wipe-out (that was the scenario anyway).

The 4 hour mock night rescue, which included one of our group ‘falling’ down an embankment and having a tib/fib fracture where bones were poking through his skin. We were horrified until we got down to him and realized it wasn’t real.

We splinted his leg with a stick, a jacket shell, the lining of a backpack, and a cut-up t-shirt. If that’s not awesome I don’t know what is.

The injury we arrived to find during the mock night rescue.


The other WFR class going on at the same time; their mock day rescue included a patient with a missing eye.

One of our awesome instructors, KT.

Our WFR class had two instructors: Mark, a morbidly funny and experienced EMT with a mustache, and KT, a really thorough and knowledgeable instructor. Their humor and thorough knowledge of everything we covered (and more) made the class such a great experience.

One of our mock day rescue patients was a hyperventilating crier. Luckily, I was helping out with the femur fracture patient.

The fractured femur patient pinned under the fallen log.

We were originally going to lift the log up and slide the patient out from under it. But the plan changed and I ended up holding the log for 15 minutes, earning me the nickname Dani the Fierce from Mark, one of the instructors.

Learning how to beam patients (using a group of people to lift and move a patient) and place them in litters (essentially trays for carrying people out of the back country).


Our graduating class!

Read Outside Magazine’s much more comprehensive and awesome review here.

*Thanks to Mark from WMI for providing the photos.