Questions to be looked into by the participants / parents of participants and authorities encouraging persons to participate in outdoor activities. Please ask the following questions to the organisers and yourselves before deciding to join any adventure programmes.
Matters to be inquired about the program
Information about organisers to be obtained
IMF Safety Guidelines for Tour Operators
1. Schedule for the programme with day to day activities to be conducted.
Check whether the program is realistic:
Duration of the trek, or camp, day to day programme, daily routine, specification of the activities: whether rock -climbing , river crossing , or only trail walking. The vital information about the trek should include stages for each day, distances, climb /or descent involved. Approximate altitude of each camp. Leisure and informative, activities like map-reading, rope practise, looking at flora and fauna, setting of a camp, all these should be part of the programme, only physical activities can be very exhaustive or boring. Programme should allow sufficient time to the participant to cope with the schedule. For high altitude areas specially sufficient time is necessary for acclimatisation.
2. In case of Himalayan treks what will be the maximum altitude reached by the group on each day. What would be the approximate height gain from the last camp site at every stage. What would be the process of acclimatisation ?
Beyond 2500 m. (8000 ft) it is advisable to gain altitude gradually. It is suggested that for every 2000 ft gain at least two days of acclimatisation period be kept. Take proper assurance that the acclimatisation period planned for by the organisers is sufficient and will be adhered to. Above 15,000 ft climb high and sleep lower must be adopted to acclimatise. Plans for a hurried trip should not be accepted. Activities in a camp will also help acclimatisation.
3. What are the major difficulties expected on the program as regards the terrain, facilities or of any sort that will affect the participant.
The terrain on the Himalayan trails differ. One should have a fair idea of a simple walking trail, scree-slopes , crossing of the small nalas , simple safety rules are to be followed at each stage, depending on the age group. Please judge whether you would like to expose yourself or children to the difficulties / risks envisaged by the organisers.
4. What is the level of fitness expected from the participants?
Trekking and camping is a sport There is a certain level of physical fitness required for altitude trekking. Trekking and camping at low levels can be done with minimum fitness and can be very enjoyable for young children. Please remember no child will get fit in two weeks time. If the child is not physically fit introduction to trekking should be with simple treks which will include only plain walking and camping .One must relate the level of fitness in a child and the level of trekking he is participating in. It should be an enjoyable experience. Please judge whether the participant meets the required level of fitness before starting on the trek. Take professional advise if you feel you are unable to judge for yourself.
5. What are the medical facilities provided by the organisers. Whether a doctor will accompany the program and / or alternative plans to deal with medical problems. If a doctor is accompanying the group, nature of qualification.
Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers given to you as regard the medical facilities. Take professional advise if you feel you are unable to judge for yourself. If the child is big enough to look after his own self , on a trek the child also has to be briefed how to look after sore feet, sore throat , changing of wet socks, on types of clothing etc. Person in charge of medical facilities should be specifically trained in Wilderness first-aid and be aware of high altitude problems. A certificate to the effect that the volunteers / doctors are adequately qualified and / or experienced to conduct such activities should be ensured.
6. Communication channel to be utilised by the group during conducting the activities as well as in case of emergencies.
Parents must be able to contact the group in case of an emergency and please make sure you are also available in case they need to contact you. Keep addresses, phone numbers and details of the schedule handy for any emergencies. Please obtain proper details of all persons who are responsible for co-ordination with you.
7. What are the facilities provided for accommodation throughout the program?
Please ensure you feel that the facilities to be provided. Are reasonable. This includes general safety of the camp location as well as hygienic camp-sites.
8. What is the provision for water management for the program. How is water purity ensured? Does the team carry Electral / Glucose powder?
Ensure adequate care is being taken for sufficient supply of clean and purified water throughout the program. The health of the participant depends a lot on the drinking water. Each person must consume at least 4 litres of liquid per day on a good trek.
Adequate liquid intake is the single-most important factor in preventing illness and fatigue.
Organisers should understand importance of water management and provide adequate supply of clean liquids: with water purifiers: like iodine and chlorine.
9. Whether adequate equipment is available with the organisers for safely conducting the program ?
The equipment required for trek and camping will vary according to the programme. A simple trail walk will require only camping tents etc. But rock climbing will require specialised equipment which is necessary for safety of the participants. Please take professional advise if you are not able to judge for yourself.
10. What is expected by the organisers to be brought by the participants?
The organisers must give exact list of things to be carried by the participants . Bare minimum yet very essential things are required on a trek. A torch , spoon, water bottle is essential but a pillow, Turkish towel is not necessary. Parents should minimise the things to be sent to the minimum and as advised by organisers.
11. What is the age distribution of the participants? What is the size of the group? What would be the instructor to student ratio?
It is not advisable to have a very large age distribution amongst the participants since different age groups have different levels of fitness, interests, attitudes etc. A large age difference can result in difficulties of compatibility as well as health risks at altitude. For example a group of 7 to 9 years will have very different energy level than a group of 12 to 15 year olds.
1. Whether the organisation is registered with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation?
Do not deal with organisations which are not registered with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
2. What is the composition of the management of the organisation? Details of the antecedents of the management.
A well established organisation, whether commercial or non-profit will always take care to ensure full safety of the participants. It is not advisable to go with temporary operators. Ensure that the organisers are responsible persons.
3. A declaration that the organisers are adequately equipped / qualified / trained / experienced to conduct the activity and the volunteers will take adequate safety measures during the program.
You must however be aware that any outdoor activity involves an inherent risk. Even in the best organised program, an accident can take place beyond the reasonable control of the organisers.
4. Bio-data / experience of the Group Leader / Program Director in charge of the group. In what manner is he / she experienced / qualified to conduct the program? Who are High Altitude Supporters and camp helpers (porters, Sherpas, cooks) employed by them ?
The person in charge should have sufficient experience in handling groups in the outdoors. In case of children, it is necessary that the person is able to deal with them specially, since children need special care in the mountains. The qualifications / experience should match the requirements of the program.
5. Ask for at least five references of participants who have been on a program under the leadership / directorship / management of the person in charge accompanying the group.
Talk to all the five references and take a feedback on:
|I.||Food, water, accommodation facilities provided|
|II.||Attitude / leadership and nature of the person in charge of the group.|
|III.||Safety factors followed by the organisation.|
|IV.||Whether safety instructions given to the child are clear, so that it can be followed well. The safety instructions are for enjoyment of the trek and not to frighten any one.|
The rules of walking and climbing teach an individual to live and enjoy nature, it also teaches endurance in day today life without the city comforts. An outdoor experience should not be a torturous affair, but a pleasant experience.
6. Have a meeting with the organisers and meet the group leader. Question how he / she is going to go about taking care of the participants with respect to the above mentioned factors.
Ensure you are fully satisfied in all respects. If unsure, do not hesitate to express your doubts. If you are still not fully satisfied, do not get pressurised to join the program.
7. If possible request for a slide show / video clip of the place to be visited.
Though this is not absolutely necessary and many times not possible. If it is possible this will give you a good idea of what you are going in for. If you are visiting an area you have not visited before, it would be a good idea to read information about the place, a sketch-map of the area should be given to each participant.. Ask the organisers to provide you information about the place. Expected climatic conditions of the region should be known.
8. Obtain a declaration that the participant has been examined by the organisers and is found medically fit to undergo the training / activity.
This should be in addition to your independent examination from your own doctor.
9. Inquire whether adequate insurance has been taken. Whether rescue insurance has also been taken?
Adequate insurance should be taken to cover the lives of the organisers, participants as well as staff hired by the organisers. Adequate rescue insurance will ensure that even if air rescue is necessary, the organisers will not hesitate to opt for it.
1.1 Mountaineering is an activity for which Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) is responsible to the Govt of India through the Foreigner's act and other statutes. All tour operators must keep abreast of these guidelines.
1.2 Lead guides and instructors who are leading mountaineering activities should, as a minimum, hold valid certificates the following:
|a)||A minimum 16 hour (2 day) first aid course provided by a recognized and qualified provider.|
|b)||Completed the Advanced Mountaineering Course from any of the National Mountaineering Institutes.|
|c)||Maintain a log book containing IMF authenticated records of mountaineering experience.|
1.3 The correct use and proper maintenance of climbing equipment is essential for conducting mountaineering activities and should never be taken lightly.
1.4 Personal Protection Equipment, should be UIAA certified.
1.5 Rope - There are many different types of rope. The operator and leader must have a sound knowledge of specifically designed climbing rope, including the different types and applications. Climbing rope comes in different diameters and specifications but the basics are dynamic, semi static and static. A safe working load of 25KN (2.5 tons) and UIAA approval is the internationally recognized standard for climbing rope.
1.6 Hardware (anchors, Carabineers, belay devices etc.) - There is a wide range of climbing aids and devices and the operator and instructor must have a complete and sound knowledge of their applications including which devices are necessary to conduct mountaineering activities safely. These devices are also a "link" in the safety chain. As per all other climbing equipment items a safe working load of 25KN (2.5 tons) and UIAA approval is the internationally recognized standard for climbing hardware and devices.
1.7 All equipment is subject to wear and tear and must be checked before every use. Incorrect storage, use and monitoring of rated and approved equipment is usually the cause of equipment failure. Operators and leaders must have a sound knowledge of this and have systems in place in order to control and manage their equipment.
1.8 Inspections and maintenance require a sound knowledge of the systems and equipment themselves and therefore must be carried out by qualified persons as a minimum the inspector must be qualified to be a guide/instructor. Basic inspections must be carried out before every use with complete and detailed inspections carried out on a regular basis in accordance with their operations procedures and risk assessments.
1.9 All Mountaineering Tour Operators must maintain and update a Standard Operating Procedure for their operations and get the same vetted from IMF from time to time.
1.10 Besides covering the methodologies that are adopted by the agency in organizing the expedition, such as assessing of members qualification, medical condition and experience, procedures for obtaining of various permissions, travel to the mountain, maintenance of base camp including hygiene, avoidance of high altitude sickness, safety precautions, communication, weather reports, procedure for emergencies, casualty evacuation, incident and accident reporting, feedback mechanism the following must be included in the SOPS:
|a)||The guiding and porter staff on the mountain and the material supplied must be adequate for the aims of the party and stated level of service offered.|
|b)||An experienced doctor in the party is desirable but at the very least advance arrangements must be known for medical help. Advance arrangements must also be made for evacuation assistance in case of emergency.|
|c)||Advertising must give a true picture of all the difficulties and dangers involved, and avoid promising the impossible. If an expedition is commercially launched by an operator, then the Biographical information about the guiding team should be included.|
|d)||The client must truthfully reveal his experience, supported by documentation/photograph, medical history etc to the organiser so that the organiser can make an informed choice about the potential client.|
|e)||Information supplied in advance will include a clear statement of the guiding, porterage and equipment which will be supplied by the organiser, together with details of the clothing and equipment to be supplied by the client. This is not in context of the operators assisting expeditions with logistics alone.|
1.11 The tour operator must maintain, at the minimum the following documentation:
|a)||Details of all Guides and Instructors including, copies of certifications, record of expedition experience and feedback from clients.|
|b)||Copies of all Permits and Permissions of current expeditions.|
|c)||Copies of identification documents, Insurance cover and details of next of kin for all participants, guides and instructors.|
|d)||Copy of SOP.|
|e)||Current list of emergency contact numbers|
1.12 RISK MITIGATION
In order to mitigate the risk of high altitude, the following is advised:
|a)||To get participants medically examined before starting on the journey.|
|b)||To ensure that at least one or two members of the expedition have experience of high altitude climbing.|
|c)||To provide wireless sets or take on hire from IMF, for communication between camps on the mountain and the base camp.|
|d)||To bring radio receiving sets in case weather forecasts by the All India Radio are required to be arranged by the IMF.|
|e)||To ensure that environment safeguards are implemented in their programme so that the area and peak visited by them suffers no damage, and is left clean for subsequent expeditions.|
|f)||Environment guidelines provided by IMF shall be followed strictly.|
1.13 EMERGENCIES AND RESCUES
|a)||Adequate first aid medical equipment must be available on site Evacuation routes must identified and known to participants, guides and instructors of the team.|
|b)||A detailed and documented evacuation/emergency procedure must be available at the base camp along with closest available emergency services which can be called upon as required.|
Recommendations for care to be taken by Persons, Organisations, Clubs Or Tour Operators conducting out-door activities, adventure treks and training-camps.
1. Register the organisation with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
2. Ensure that the program is realistic :
Specification of the activities: whether rock -climbing , river crossing , or only trail walking. Leisure and informative, and practical activities like map-reading, rope practise, setting of a camp, all these should be part of the programme, only physical activities can be very exhaustive or boring. Programme should allow sufficient time to the participants to cope with the schedule. Specially for high altitude areas, sufficient time is necessary for acclimatisation.
3. Decide the size of the group and number of co-ordinators who will accompany the group with thoughts about safety.
4. Inform the participants of the various activities like rock-climbing ,river-crossing its meaning and the risks involved in the activities and the care the organisation will take to reduce the risks involved.
5. Ensure proper medial aid is made available to the participants through the course which is adequate considering the nature of activity to be conducted. Mini First aid kits should be kept handy.
6. In the case of High Altitude treks / programs, insure that at least one person per 15 participants is qualified with a Basic Course in Mountaineering, has been to the high altitude on at least 2 previous occasions and has sufficient knowledge of high altitude sickness, its symptoms and how they are to be dealt with.
7. Acclimatisation process and its problems are unknown to city people. Ensuring this as the most important factor in Himalayan trekking is known to participants. Inform about its symptoms, prevention and signs right in the beginning. In case of High Altitude treks / programs, provide sufficient knowledge to the participants for them to be aware about a problems that can affect them and what are the precautions they must take to prevent it. Also what are the symptoms they must recognise for themselves.
Ensure that the group leaders, instructors etc. are adequately trained to impart immediate first aid .such persons to accompany the participants during each stage of the trek or activity. It is the responsibility of the organisation to send group leaders, instructors who are able to deal with emergencies and are trained in Wilderness First-aid.
8. The organisation must ensure that no alcohol or drug abuse takes place at the program. The attitude of the organisers should be of caring and not of defiance, Nature has to be well respected to be enjoyed ,just as we learn safety rules of road crossing in the city ,one learns the rules of walking and climbing and living in the mountains , for ones safety and enjoyment.
9. Provide a list of Dos and Donts on the program.
10. If the programme is conducted through a fixed camp, the organisers must provide for a latrine area where the pit is 4-5 deep. On the trail, the organisers must at least initially every evening give a talk on how to "shit in the woods". i.e. be at least 300 feet away from a water source, participants must dig a hole at least 6". If they are using toilet paper, it must be buried , and after the job is done, cover up the hole. Participants must be encouraged to go away from the camp area for the morning job.
11. Provide an exhaustive list of things to be brought by the participants, specially those necessary to ensure safety of the participants. Also strictly enforce that unnecessary items which are bulky and are of hindrance on the trek are not carried.
Prepare a note which gives full details about the particular programme. It should include information about: day-wise schedule, plans, heights of each camps, height gains between each camp, safety measures adopted, brief description of the route, sketch-map of the area, small historical note.
For emergencies organisers should provide: name of contact persons, contact addresses, phone numbers, nearest road approaches to places of visit, full travel plans including details of trained bus routes and timings. This will help parents to plan better and keep anxiety level (if any) to minimum.
All these will project the organisers as an active, knowledgeable and professional outfit.
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