Item: Sex, drugs and the white death: lessons for avalanche educators from health and safety campaigns
Title: Sex, drugs and the white death: lessons for avalanche educators from health and safety campaigns
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 2004 International Snow Science Workshop, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Authors: Ian McCammon, National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, WY
Abstract: A common expectation of avalanche education is that it should reduce the frequency of avalanche deaths. But is this expectation realistic? After all, education campaigns aimed at reducing unsafe sex, illegal drug use, unsafe driving and other risky behaviors have met with very limited success, and in some cases have even worsened the problems they were intended to solve. This paper reviews why some health and safety campaigns are effective, why some aren’t, and what this means for avalanche education. A common feature of campaigns that fail is that they assume that recipients will react to information about the hazard, skills instruction, or advertising schemes by behaving more conservatively. This assumption is based on largely incorrect beliefs about how people make decisions in the face of risk. In contrast, campaigns that succeed focus on risk management, and provide recipients with simple tools like risk ladders and mitigation measures. Some of these elements are already present in avalanche education, some are emerging, and others remain to be added or modified from existing concepts. Properly implemented, the lessons of health and safety education provide an opportunity for avalanche education to succeed where other programs have failed.
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Keywords: avalanche education, risk, decision making, training
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