Every one of us participates in the daily process of "risk assessment". Every action we take, incurs some degree of "risk", even if the risk is infinitesimally small. Heck, I was filing some papers the other day, and ended up with an annoying paper cut on my finger!
Certainly, some routine risk assessments are done with more considered thought than others. This morning, for example, I was waiting to cross the intersection downtown. The traffic light turned green but before stepping off the curb, I noted a small van that had elected to ignore the red light. The thing is, I'm not actually sure who was driving, the individual sitting in the driver's seat, or the white, fluffy Shih Tzu on his lap. (A Shih Tzu is a dog, I think). People who allow any dog to sit on their laps while driving are, in my mind,
In outdoor pursuits, adventure and risk go hand in hand. Whether it's trail running, sea kayaking, mountaineering or whatever, the value and safety of any self-propelled activity is enhanced by responsible risk assessment.
Some years ago, when we were living in Banff, an outdoor leadership conference was held in Lake Louise. A presentation by Bill March, an Associate Professor of Physical Education at the University of Calgary, offered a simple process for assessing risk. Just for fun we applied his three stages of risk analysis when we noted the icy conditions prior to our run last week. Maybe you will also find this process helpful. They are as follows:
STAGE 1 - "Risk identification": This is a consideration of all the variable factors that present risk. For us, in this particular situation, we noted the following: there was a great deal of black ice on the road surface; the running route included several steep hills; our footwear provided no traction; it was dark; there would be traffic on the road, also dealing with black ice conditions. This is the level of awareness and perception.
STAGE 2 - "Risk estimation": This identifies possible consequences in light of the risks identified. For us, the single most obvious potential consequence was that there was a good possibility of a slip on the ice which could easily lead to a fall. The is the level of technical judgement. (A "no brainer" in our situation)
STAGE 3 - "Risk evaluation": We knew that an injury from a fall could mean that we might not run for days, weeks, maybe months (been there, done that). Further, we knew the weather was forecast to warm up in several days. Result: We determined that it just didn't seem worth the risk to run in these poor conditions. This is the level of judgement that leads to a decision - go or no go.
Every one of us who enjoys outdoor adventure must engage in risk assessment. We've found this simple 3-Stage process, together with a good measure of caution, has kept us out of trouble, for the most part anyway. The guy who drove the van through a red light, with the Shih Tzu on his lap, might benefit from a similar process!
Take good care out there.
PS I love dogs. I just don't think they should be behind the wheel!