Dom was at the RGS Explore conference this year running a seminar panel session on tropical forest expeditions and also speaking about how a risk assessment can save your life. Here are his thoughts on an inspirational weekend….
The Explore conference is a wonderful annual event at which expeditioners, new and old, come together to inform, inspire and assist each other to make some wonderful expedition ideas a step closer to reality.
I had the, perhaps dubious, honour of being asked to speak on the subject of risk assessment. Of course, it is always an honour to be asked to speak at such a wonderful venue, but amid talks of exciting adventures, inspiring fieldwork and daring do, it can be a tricky job to engage people in the topic of risk assessment.
However, listening to speaker after speaker, I began to realise the extent to which risk assessment is embedded in every expedition – in fact though they rarely mentioned it by name, speakers regularly referred to how they managed risks on their trips.
Olivia Taylor from the Cambridge Trollaskagi Expedition talked of how they selected a location where they knew they could access mountain rescue support, if needed. Three doctors from Cornwall to Cape Town reflected on their decision to buy their tyres on ebay for £100 and seasoned explorer Paul Rose talked of applying pre-planning and dynamic risk assessments on swimming with walrus and filming polar bears. Even the irrepressible Dave Cornthwaite was pictured skate boarding in a helmet and high-vis vest!
So there it was, though no one likes to talk about risk assessment, they are all doing it. Adventurers want to come back safely and they need to convince funders that they will. So they all plan, they all consider the things that might go wrong – and they all assess and re-assess the risks they face and change their plans accordingly. The sooner we can shift the impression of risk assessment to this practical, pragmatic and hands-on approach and away from a pen-pushing, tick boxing exercise – the sooner people will truly engage with it and the safer we will be.
As ever Explore was a wonderful event, inspiring, informative and enabling, I’m already looking forward to next year.