We will be posting updates from NSP offices about changes and adjustments that our staff and programs are making in response to the shifting situation around COVID-19.

The abrupt end of the 2019/2020 snow season in March of 2020 generated shock and bewilderment across the industry and the world. Creativity, team work and resiliency of the ski and bike community paved the way for many successes in the 2020 summer bike season and the 2020/2021 snow season. NSP supported NSAA’s Ski Well Be Well effort which communicated the importance of safety measures to guests. Patrols and area management worked together to interpret and apply state, CDC and WHO guidelines throughout the season.

Many patrols found great success moving treatment areas for minor injuries outdoors and limiting access to the patrol room. Taking injured patients directly to their vehicles and completing paperwork on site provided efficiency and safety. Ski areas benefited from advanced ticket sales and the preparation that it allowed. The culture change to stay home if you are ill, along with incessant cleaning meant that many patrols found it to be one of their healthiest seasons ever. We learned many new ways to teach including Zoom and Teams.

For all the successes, many patrollers faced concerns of their own safety from the virus. There was none of the familiar comradery of morning meetings with shared coffee and breakfast or of the celebration at the end of a successful day over adult beverages. Many patrollers faced struggles at home as well as work with new mental health challenges arising. Patrol directors had more difficulty monitoring the wellness of their patrollers.

Patrols’ preparation with mandated mask use in gathering places, expanded spacing in lift lines, cleaning protocols and increased use of PPE was mostly accepted by the bike and ski community and offered some sense normal activity to many. December of 2020 brought us access to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine with an additional hope of returning to some sense of normal. The vaccines have proven protection from severe illness, hospitalization, death and transmission of the disease1. Vaccines have been received with great anticipation and excitement, many across the country remain fearful and suspicious. Across the country and around the globe there is divisiveness on many issues, including mask use and vaccines. Many are experiencing mask and civil mandate fatigue. However, as social restrictions relax, emergence of new waves and variants of the virus are on the rise.

Young people are getting COVID-19 at a higher rate than would be expected for the size of their group. While they do not have a high rate of death from SARS-CoV-2 infection, many risk permanent organ damage and other complications from exposure to the virus. Conversely, older age groups are actually being infected at a lower rate than would be expected from the size of their group. However the death rate for older individuals is truly astronomical, with over 50% of COVID-19-related deaths in the age group of 65-84 who only make up 14% of the population. The total number of cases and deaths has significantly improved over recent months, but we continue to see troubling regional increases and number of variants expanding.

The NSP medical committee strongly recommends all patrollers receive a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and encourage others in their community to follow suit.  There is strong evidence to suggest protection from most variants with our current vaccines2. The risk of viral infection is 0.01% two weeks after the second vaccine dose. Fully vaccinated individuals are now allowed to gather together without a mask in small settings and no longer need to wear a mask in an outdoor setting3.

We also urge patrols and patrollers to be aware of and abide by local restrictions and guidelines.

Until this pandemic is brought under control, it is imperative that all safety measures of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing be strictly followed! We must be vigilant with use and promotion of the vaccines to bring this pandemic to an end.  

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/cdc-study-covid-19-transmission-vaccines-5121080
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

Patrollers’ access to a COVID-19 vaccine

Shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, NSP leadership organized a COVID-19 Task Force to monitor conditions and changes as they relate to the safety of our members.

With the latest news that COVID-19 vaccines are now available and being distributed, questions about where patrollers will fit in the distribution of vaccines have increased.

As you may know the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has approved a distribution plan by using State, Tribal and local health departments, who will determine how to prioritize workers to receive the vaccine.

We understand that most if not all of these plans will use CDC suggested prioritization and make the vaccine available to front-line health care workers – more narrowly defined as those in hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes and those with serious medical concerns. The second and third levels of distribution are a little less clear as they include other responders, police, fire, EMS, search and rescue and others who would respond to community incidents involving COVID-19 patients.  As it has since the pandemic began, NSP supports the work of all front-line workers.

We recognize that patrollers serve an important role in making outdoor recreation possible, and that our members face inevitable risks when working with patients in the mountain environment. We ask for your patience and help in offering information to the organizations that we feel can best drive the message to the people making the decisions on vaccine distribution. We encourage all of our members to take care of their own safety and well-being as their first priority and to engage in your ski patrolling activities only in ways where you feel safe and protected. If you are not in a position to patrol because of your own health or other risk factors, please ask your patrol director about the “Temporarily Not Patrolling” status, which will maintain your years of service and allow you to pick up where you left off next season.

We also again emphasize that all patrols and patrollers should follow local protocols and guidelines for masking, social distancing and other safety measures.

All NSP courses must comply with local, state and federal rules and mandates related to COVID-19, including those regarding self-certification. Instructors should notify participants if there is a requirement to self-certify, as required by state government, local Board of Health or CDC guidelines. If self-certification is not required, IORs can use the generic CDC form if desired.

This self-certification should include the fact that participants are not known to have any COVID-19 related symptoms or known exposures, prior to the class starting. Self-certification may begin as early as two weeks before the start of the course for planning purposes, and again immediately prior to the participant arriving at the start of each day of the course. Screening should include a written questionnaire that follows state or local guidelines and at a minimum can follow the CDC’s checklist.

Consideration should be given to careful documentation of who is training or participating together during each class session. This will help support contact tracing moving forward if necessary. Keep a complete list of all participants and groups for contact tracing. If notification of each person at a site is required by state, local or CDC guidelines then the course roster should be used for contact information. If anyone tests positive for COVID-19 or starts to show signs and symptoms after an event, they should contact their medical provider, and CDC or state guidelines need to be followed on notification of course attendees.

Some NSP programs are publishing specific guidance, to complement NSP’s broad guidance on planning for trainings and other events in light of COVID-19. Those specific guides are below:

MTR Course Delivery Guidelines

OEC Course Delivery Guidelines During COVID-19

Nordic Backcountry Course Delivery Guidelines for the Pandemic Era

Avalanche Course Delivery COVID-19 Guidelines

The NSAA recently published a document called Ski Well Be Well outlining ski area operating best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, including requiring face coverings, physical distancing and cleaning and disinfection.

An NSP task force comprised of NSP’s National Medical Advisor, OEC Program Director, National Board Executive Committee, Education Committee Chair and NSP staff has been meeting weekly to review current medical evidence and best practices to develop direction for NSP members. NSP’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic provides general information, FAQs and resources for consideration as your patrol prepares for the upcoming season. Each patrol will need to work with its own area management and local authorities to develop a plan, protocols and procedures appropriate to its own setting and circumstances.

The document was updated on Aug. 25 with more detailed information about masks and face coverings.

The NSP National Medical Committee has published recommendations for use of masks and PPE by patrollers. The recommendations in this document are also in section 4 of NSP’s Pandemic Response document.

Recommendations for Masks and PPE During the COVID-19 Pandemic

CPR/ BLS requirement modification for the 2020- 2021 season
Based on the special circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for social distancing, for the 2020 – 2021 season, NSP patrollers will not be required to complete the annual CPR skills demonstration, as specified in Section of NSP’s Policies & Procedures below. All patrollers must still have current credentials in CPR for the Professional Rescuer from an NSP-approved agency. Patrollers must also meet any local protocols for demonstration from their community or area management.
The P&Ps ( state that:
Members must be: (1) registered in an OEC class, or (2) hold current credentials in OEC, and CPR for the Professional Rescuer from an NSP-approved agency. Approved agencies for CPR training may be found in the OEC Program appendix. As part of the requirements for annual NSP registration, all patrollers, regardless of classification or office held MUST complete the following ANNUAL requirements:
a.    An Outdoor Emergency Care refresher;
CPR skills demonstration to a certified CPR instructor, regardless of the certifying agency’s requirements or the expiration date of the card, and must hold a current “Professional-rescuer CPR certification” from an NSP-approved agency;

The NSP National Board of Directors has adopted the following recommendations from the OEC Supervisors Committee and OEC Refresher Committee regarding the OEC 2020 Refresher Cycle A:

In summary, the 2020 OEC Cycle A Refresher minimum requirement will consist of completion of the OEC Refresher Workbook and completion of the OEC 2020 Cycle A Refresher Training online portion only. QA will be completed by the assigned Instructor Trainer (IT) by verification of review of the certificates issued upon successful completion of the online modules. Once the IT has cross checked the course roster with the completion certificates, the course can be closed.  Registration for OEC 2020 Cycle A Refresher will be as it has been for the past years and everyone taking the online module must also register/enroll in the OEC 2020 Cycle A Refresher.

The OEC 2020 Skills performance (hands-on skills) will be integrated into the OEC 2021 Cycle B refresher. However, all OEC technicians are encouraged to continue to review and practice the skills outlined in the OEC 2020 Refresher workbook during the season or prior to the season as allowed. Completing any additional training is not part of the Cycle A refresher.

The online portion, which typically only covers knowledge-based objectives from the OEC 6th edition, will be adjusted to include review of the specific OEC6 skills that are identified in the Refresher workbook as being new, modified, or updated. The module will also include questions based on the OEC refresher workbook.

For the Instructor of Record and Instructor Trainers the certificate of completion provided at the end of the online course will provide evidence of completion of both the workbook and online portion of the training and will meet the requirements of the OEC Cycle A refresher for 2020.  This certificate will be reviewed by the Instructor Trainer prior to closing the class and signing off on the roster as stated previously.

The National OEC Committee recommends that patrols do not try and complete face to face refreshers during the upcoming refresher cycle.

As for those who do not have internet or have limited service, you will need to go to an area where internet is available in order to register for the course and take the online portion through the Online Learning portal. IOR’s are asked to be creative in order to accommodate these patrollers. As stated above, this is the minimum training required, and everyone that completes this portion will receive credit for completing the 2020 Cycle A refresher. If a patrol decides to complete the hands-on skills, all patrollers will still need to complete the online module and workbook requirements to be credited for the OEC Cycle A Refresher. These patrollers will also need to complete the skills portion of next year’s refresher, which will include skills from 2020 Refresher A.

The OEC Refresher Committee is working to finalize the online piece and the updated material that needs to be added and will have the program up, tested, and hopefully running as soon as possible but not later than early July.

If you have questions please contact your OEC Division Supervisor.

Thank you for your cooperation and effort in meeting these requirements.

Bill DeVarney                                                            Deb Endly

OEC National Program Director                         OEC Refresher Committee Chair

If you have a two-year CPR certification with a required annual skills demonstration, because of social distancing considerations, the demonstration does not have to be on a person. To access the latest updates and resources on CPR and the Coronavirus form the American Heart Association, click here, and scroll down to see several links. Currently, NSP’s approved CPR providers are the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American Safetly and Health Institute, EMS Safety Services, Inc., Emergency Care and Safety Institutue, National Safety Council, and Medic First Aid.

NSP leaders monitoring COVID-19 situation

NSP staff is working with the NSP Board, NSP Medical Advisor, and members of the OEC, Refresher and Medical committees along with the Bike Task Force to monitor the rapidly changing situation, along with local and national recommendations and guidance. This group is working to provide general direction for NSP members and patrols going forward with the goal of keeping our members and the people they serve safe and healthy.

NSP asks members and patrols to first consult direction and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and American Heart Association. NSP direction and guidance will not contradict or override any direction from these organizations, or any state and local restrictions and regulations.

We encourage patrol directors to maintain ongoing communication with their area management, EMS and local health authorities. Many issues will need mutual discussion and agreement, from the structure and arrangement of patrol huts, to supplies and use of PPE, to transporting injured patients.

2020 Refresher Cycle A

The National OEC Committee, with input from the OEC Refresher Committee, will be making a recommendation to the National Board of Directors to set a minimum requirement for OEC Refresher Cycle A 2020. The recommendation involves use of the refresher workbook and online learning platform for the knowledge based objectives and review of some of the more important OEC 6 skills. The hands on portion of the OEC Refresher Cycle A 2020 skill objectives will be included in the OEC Cycle B 2021 refresher. The instructors guide for both the OEC Cycle A hybrid and traditional refresher will be published for those patrols or classes that can safely perform a 2020 refresher class if they so choose. Final direction will be provided after the annual Board meeting on June 13.

OEC Courses

The conditions for teaching OEC courses will vary greatly by location, but in general, determining whether and how to teach a course should be determined in compliance with local directives and consultation with local officials.

If a course location and number of participants easily lends itself to appropriate social distancing, patrols may proceed with teaching courses. However, they should continue to monitor teachers and students for symptoms and continue to comply with local directives and guidance.

Additional guidance will be provided as it is developed.

Bike Patrols

Many bike areas are opening, and bike patrollers are working in a variety of settings. NSP is evaluating the evolving situation on the ground to provide guidance and direction to keep bike patrollers safe and prepared to serve.

In addition to complying with local directives, bike patrollers should take common sense precautions to keep themselves and those they serve safe and healthy. These precautions include wearing a mask and glasses or other face coverings. Bike patrollers should also carry masks they can provide to a patient on scene. NSP also recommends that bike patrollers carry hand sanitizer along with any PPE provided or recommended by their area.

As a patroller approaches an accident scene, NSP recommends that the initial assessment should be performed at a distance of at least six feet. At this distance, the patroller should also put on any additional PPE and inquire of MOI & NOI along with any risk of airborne infection.

NSP training and testing during Coronavirus pandemic
UPDATE May 14, 2020

As the situation around the Coronavirus pandemic and local responses to it evolve, NSP and OEC leadership are meeting frequently with Chuck Allen, D.O., the National Medical Advisor, and Bill DeVarney, the National OEC Program Director, to discuss how the pandemic may affect OEC courses and refreshers this summer and fall.

Our aim is to remain flexible and adapt to changing local and regional restrictions, while providing consistent guidance and standards to instructors and supervisors. At this point, OEC courses and refreshers should

  • Comply with state and local restrictions, local medical guidelines and CDC guidance regarding policies on social distancing, cleaning and sanitation, and protective clothing (face coverings, gloves, etc.)
  • Maintain NSP’s standard of training
  • Take all reasonable precautions to keep our members safe

Conversations among NSP leadership and OEC supervisors will continue throughout the next several months to discuss possible options and strategies for continuing with OEC courses and refreshers based on the range of local restrictions and guidelines.

These scenarios may include:

  • Flexibility in the certification timeline
  • Adaptations for in-person teaching and/or testing
  • Resources and direction for additional online materials

The new OEC6 online resources provide opportunities to conduct much of the OEC training online; however, practical skills and testing currently still require the ability to gather in person. The National OEC Committee and National Medical Committee will continue to monitor the situation and provide adapted guidance on this issue as necessary.

There are things we encourage patrollers and instructors to do now, regardless of restrictions on gathering.

  • Order your new OEC6 book! They are shipping now, so you can spend the summer getting familiar with the updated text. Click here to access NSP’s pricing from our publisher JBL.
  • When your Refresher Workbook arrives (sometime in late June), complete the online portion of the refresher via the LMS.
  • Instructors – access the instructor information about OEC6 on the LMS when it is available.
  • Stay up to date on new information regarding OEC6, courses and Refresher information on the OEC6 tab of nsp.org, accessible on the Member Homepage.

As leadership develops directions and options, we will share them via email, on the public website on the COVID-19 Updates page, and on the Member Homepage and Member News pages of nsp.org.

NSP’s Lakewood, Colo. office remains partially closed with most staff working remotely; NSP Online Store is open and shipping orders
As local restrictions have begun to relax, and Colorado is functioning under a “safer-at-home” direction, some NSP staff are returning to the Lakewood office, while most continue to work remotely. All staff have access to email and voicemail and are working normal hours. The NSP Online Store is open and shipping out orders.

Information from the CDC about cloth masks
In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. Click here to download their information sheet about cloth masks and why to wear them, and here for information about how to safely wear and take off cloth masks.

rom NSP’s National Medical Advisor

American Heart Association article discussing CPR in the COVID-19 crisis has been published with link below. The take away points that I find relevant to OEC trained providers:

  1. Scene safety – needs to be emphasized. During an epidemic it is imperative to protect yourself and other rescuers. Understand the use of proper PPE (link provided below for current CDC recommendations of appropriate PPE).
  2. Chest compressions and positive pressure ventilation (ie. Bag valve mask ventilations, mouth to mouth or mouth to device ventilations) are potentially aerosolizing procedures.
  3. Strong consideration of compression only CPR with a simple mask over the patient and the rescuer.
  4. AED use appears low risk & saves lives; strong consideration for use of simple mask and gloves.

Please discuss these with your local medical advisor and area management for consideration in your local protocols.

Charles O. Allen, DO, FACOEP
NSP National Medical Advisor

OEC Course Cancellations
NSP is providing full refunds to course participants whose courses have been cancelled due to these precautions. If instructors plan to cancel a course, please change the end date of the course to the day of cancellation and then go through the regular process of marking the course “complete (IOR)” and responding to the auto-generated course-closure email (IT). Please mark the students as “incomplete” and include a general note that the course closure is a cancellation due to Covid-19. The National Office will then process refunds for the student roster.

Any non-fee course, that was not completed, should be cancelled by the IOR.  Then enrolled students do not receive course credit.

How you can help.
Check this page for information about how NSP members can help in their communities or in national efforts.