Frequently Asked Questions

Wilderness First Aid vs Urban First Aid

I'm trying to decide between a 1 or 2 day urban first aid course, and a 20 hour wilderness first aid course.  What are the benefits to wilderness first aid training? 

Urban first aid courses are designed for very short term treatments, while waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive and take over - the training does not give you any tools for taking care of someone for longer than 10 or 15 minutes.  Wilderness First Aid is designed to give you the tools and knowledge necessary to care for a sick or injured person for anywhere from hours or days, depending on your training level.  To do this, WFA courses focus more on helping you to understand what is going on 'under the hood' during a medical emergency, and give you a lot more tools and decision making ability, since these situations can be so unpredictable.  In short, WFA is less traditional 'first aid' training, and more true 'pre-hospital medical' training.

I need a CPR certificate, or an Emergency First Aid or Standard First Aid certificate.  Will my WFA be recognized?

Not everyone realizes this, but even the most basic level of Wilderness First Aid completely includes the skills from CPR/AED 'C', 1-day Emergency First Aid, and 2-day Standard First Aid.  This skill level is completely recognized by regulatory agencies - if you need confirmation, please feel free to contact us, or you can telephone the Canadian Red Cross National Contact Center at 1-877-356-3226.

Is Wilderness First Aid equivalent to Occupational First Aid in BC?

Unfortunately, WorkSafe BC does not recognize any level of WFA training as an OFA equivalent.  If you are setting up a group course, and would like to combine Wilderness First Aid with an Occupational First Aid Level 1 (OFA-1), please contact us, and enquire about our custom Wilderness Workplace First Aid course - this dual certification course will suit your needs.  Unfortunately, since it is highly specialized, we do not offer it to the general public, but it is available to companies and private groups upon request. 

Why Coast Wilderness Medical Training

All of my previous first aid courses went in one ear and out the other - what makes your training easier to remember than other companies' WFA courses?

In short, we have exceptional instructors and an outstanding commitment to learning. 

  • All of our instructors are experienced paramedics with plenty of patient care experience, a love of the outdoors, and a passion for teaching. They have not only completed the Canadian Red Cross's exceptional WFA instructor training, but also our own rigorous in-house instructor development and apprenticeship program.

  • As for locations, we take advantage of Vancouver's unique landscape to ensure that even our local courses take place in natural wooded areas or coastlines that we promise will make you feel like you are really dealing with medical emergencies in the wilderness.

  • Finally, we have spent a lot of time finding the perfect teaching accessories - including functional medical learning aids, anatomical models, theater-quality make-up, and dastardly props to put you as much in the situation as possible.

  • Combine all of this with our scenario-focused teaching model - which gives you more hands-on practice than any other first aid course - and you will walk away with more confidence, and better skills, and longer skill retention than you would ever expect from a 20- or 40- hour course.

The last company I scheduled with cancelled my course because they didn't have enough students.  How often does this happen at Coast Wilderness Medical Training?

(Almost) never.  You are committing your time to this course, and the least we can do is the same.  We have taught WFA courses in the past for as few as 3 students.  (Thankfully, as our popularity and reputation have grown, this has not happened for a very long time!)  
That being said, our more advanced courses cannot be delivered effectively without a certain minimum number of students.  Although we have never had to cancel a course in the past, if we do not reach these numbers, you will be informed as soon as possible, receive hearty and heartfelt apologies, a full refund, and an invitation to attend the next training opportunity at a discounted price.
One reason a course might be rescheduled is inclement weather.  Although all of our courses are rain, snow, or shine, if a dangerous weather event - such as high wind speeds - is expected, your instructor might decide to cancel the course for safety.  If this occurs, you will be offered the choice between a full refund or alternative course dates.

I've seen cheaper courses - why does your course cost a bit more?

It was a difficult decision to price our courses slightly higher than the competition, but we truly believe that they are worth it.  Some of the things your tuition pays for include:

  • Better Instructors: CWMT is the only Wilderness First Aid training provider that exclusively where training is exclusively provided by experienced paramedics who also have extensive outdoors experience and a passion for teaching. Many of us work with search and rescue or ski patrol, bringing real patient care and remote response experience into your class. As you can imagine, these high-quality instructors are difficult to find, and we believe in compensating them fairly for the very specific skill set that they bring to your class.

  • Better Student-to-Instructor Ratios: In order to provide you with the best experience, we make sure that there are enough instructors to ensure you receive the personal attention that you need, maximizing the effectiveness of your training.

  • Better Teaching Materials: Operational models of equipment, training simulators, and anatomical models are just some of the professional-level materials that will help provide you with the most learning-rich environment. Casualty-simulation make-up and props complete the experience, adding a texture to our courses that other providers simply cannot match.

  • Better Training Sites: Some WFA providers play fast-and-loose with the concept of 'remote,' performing wilderness first aid scenarios in parking lots or on manicured lawns (don't crush the flowers!) At CWMT, we invest in partnerships to provide our students with realistic settings that mimic remote environments. Our training sites include Pacific Spirit Park - 750 hectares of path-laced forest west of Vancouver - and Cypress Mountain.

As you can see, we strongly believe that the only way to teach an effective wilderness first aid course is to invest in creating the most realistic training environments, and we are confident that you value your training in the same way.

I want to take Wilderness First Aid, but I don't drive - will I have to arrange transportation to a remote location for this course?

Most of our courses take place in Pacific Spirit Park, between Vancouver and the University of British Columbia.  Pacific Spirit Park is 750 acres of pristine forest that we are lucky enough to have in our city, and we take full advantage of it!  It is a relatively easy to bike to, and bus stops are located only a few blocks away.  

Some courses - especially our professional-level training - takes place on Cyprus Mountain.  Although public transportation options exist, they can be difficult to coordinate with the course schedules.  All courses will begin with a classroom session in the city, during which car pool opportunities will be made available.

Registration and Payment

How can I register for a course?

If you are registering with a credit card, you can register right from the SWFA, AWFA or WFR course information page.  If you would rather pay by cash, cheque, or Interac E-Transfer - you can do so by filling out this form.  A PayPal invoice will be emailed to you. 

A $50 deposit is required to secure your place in the course, with the balance of payment due on the first day. 

What is your cancellation and refund policy?

Things happen - we understand that.  If you cancel more than two weeks before your course begins, you will receive a full refund.  After that, your $50 deposit will be forfeit. 

If you don't show up for a class, and do not contact us before the first day, you will not receive a refund.  

Do you sell gift certificates for your courses?

Yes, we do! You can purchase gift certificates in a denomination of your choice, whether a dollar amount, or the total cost of a specific course. Purchase gift certificates here: Gift Certificates.

Certification Questions

Will my certification be recognized all over the country?

All over the country - and beyond!  Coast Wilderness Medical Training is a Canadian Red Cross training provider - which means we are delivering Red Cross courses, that lead to Red Cross certificates.  This is the most recognized first aid training in the world - if you show your certificate in almost any country, most people will recognize that you have completed quality first aid training.  Within Canada, Red Cross certifications are considered the gold standard, accepted by most organizations, and by all regulatory agencies and all levels of government.

How old do I have to be to take a WFA course?

There is no minimum age take a course, but you must be physically strong enough to demonstrate effective CPR in order to be certified.  The youngest students we have had were 11 years old, and their performance was exemplary.  

I notice you have several levels of wilderness first aid courses available, what if I'm not sure what level is best for me? 

We have chosen a course delivery system that ensures you can easily upgrade from one level of training to the next.  This means, for example,  that the first 20 hours of a 40 hour Advanced Wilderness First Aid course are exactly the same as a 20 hour Standard Wilderness First Aid course.  If you decide halfway through your SWFA that a higher level of training is appropriate for you, just speak to your instructor to register for the second half of the AWFA.  Similarly, many students finish the SWFA, and then decide they want more.  The second weekend of any AWFA can be used to upgrade your 20 hour course to the 40 hour advanced course.  However, we do recommend that you do so within 6 months of certification, while the basic skills are still fresh in your mind.

You "strongly recommend" annual recertification, even though the certificate is good for three years.  What gives?  Why should I recertify so often?

Students find that they retain the skills they learn in our Wilderness First Aid courses much better than they did in past urban first aid courses, but, unless you are using those skills every day, it is inevitable that you will forget them eventually.  Imagine you took a 2 day rock climbing course, for example - if you waited a year to go climbing, would you trust yourselves to remember all the knots and techniques?  Our intensive 1-day re-certification days are filled with challenging scenarios that will help make sure that your WFA skills and knowledge are fresh in your mind when you need them.  

What can I do between recertification courses to help keep my skills intact?

Agencies like Volunteer Vancouver and St. John's Ambulance are always looking for volunteer first aid practitioners for events around the city.  Rock Doc offers paid first aid standby opportunities for festivals, etc..., and they sometimes hire first aid level staff.  Finally, organizers for local outdoor events are often looking for first aid volunteers - when we know about them, we will post them on the Facebook page.

You are also invited to take part in our monthly night scenario - register for free at the special event registration page, and subject yourself to Mark Van Eijk's creative scenarios after darkness falls...

General Wilderness First Aid Questions

How do I create a custom WFA course for my group?  

Go to the Group Training tab on the Standard Wilderness First Aid, Advanced Wilderness First Aid, and Wilderness First Responder course page, and fill out the short form.  This sets the ball rolling - we will be in touch shortly to help you set up your course.  

How will I be assessed?

The bulk of your assessment will be based on your performance on, and debriefing after, the practical scenarios.  There is a written assessment as well, but this is mostly an opportunity to discuss some of the finer points of wilderness first aid that may not have come up during the course - if you are test averse, this is definitely not something you should stress out over!

What gear do I need to bring?

Most of the gear you need will be provided, including first aid kits, sleeping bags, some ground pads, ropes, webbing, carabiners, etc... At the very least, you need appropriate clothes for the worst weather of the season (this is Vancouver... weather is unpredictable, to say the least!), closed toe footwear, high-energy snacks, and water for the day.  Camp chairs are also highly recommended - many students appreciate the opportunity to sit comfortably between scenarios.  


Do you still have unanswered questions?  Contact us anytime, and we will be happy to provide enlightenment!