Imagine an antelope in the Serengeti heading to the watering hole to get some water. At first this antelope is fairly cautious as it knows, there could be dangerous animals around. However, after visiting a few times the antelope has no issues and thinks that this is a safe spot to drink water. Unfortunately we all know what happens to that antelope. A crocodile jumps out of the water and eats it. That’s the end of the antelope, as it fell into the trap of false positives.

In rescue work and working around aircraft, false positives is something we discuss and take very seriously. Just because we have done something once, twice and maybe many times and nothing has happened to us – does not necessarily mean it is safe. It’s easy for us humans to fall into the same trap as the antelope. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eaten by a crocodile.

The way to avoid this is proper training from experienced certified instructors.

“There is not enough time in a lifetime to make all the mistakes possible. That is why we learn from the mistakes of others.”
– Reed B Markham, American Educator

This is why training is so important – in any activity there have been many people before us who have made all the mistakes possible. This data is collected and course content can be created creating safe ways to operate as a search and rescue specialist, or as a general recreation enthusiast.  Experience is an excellent way to gain knowledge – but sometimes that knowledge can be hard gained. Your best bet is to take some courses from experienced trainers, and read books on your specific sport of choice. Interested in heading out in the backcountry in winter – take an avalanche course. Just purchased a snowmobile – take a sled course. Want to rock climb – take a rock climbing course. For every course I have taken I have been shocked at how unsafely I was operating at the beginning – quite often doing unsafe things that were taught to me by (well-intentioned) friends.

There are lots of courses out there available. Just make sure your instructor is certified by Avalanche Canada, or the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. ACMG guides are extremely well trained and must pass rigorous testing to get their designation.

Get informed, take some training, and have fun. Also, don’t be an antelope.