Portland, Oregon—At the October 2018 Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) in Portland, Clare Dallat received the Charles (Reb) Gregg Award for her contributions to risk management in the outdoor industry. This award, presented annually at the WRMC, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, service, and innovation in wilderness risk management.
At the close of a glowing introduction, renowned educator and longtime WRMC contributor Jeff Jackson presented Dallat with the award, remarking that she “has opened the door to our next era in risk management…Clare’s networked risk assessment is the first, original significant risk management development built from, and for, our field.”
Dallat is the Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Outdoor Education Group (OEG), one of the world’s largest outdoor education providers. Based in Australia, OEG serves 42,000 participants each year. In addition to leading the Research and Innovation program, Dallat also directs Risk Resolve, OEG’s risk management consulting service. She recently submitted her PhD at the Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, focusing on developing systems approaches to accident prediction in led outdoor activities.
Dallat credits a tragedy that occurred early in her professional career with sparking what has become a lifelong pursuit: developing a systems-thinking approach to risk management in the outdoors. Personal and professional experience has led her to believe that incident analysis must be approached holistically. Rather than simply asking why their staff made a particular decision, program administrators must look beyond the immediate and instead ask why it made sense to make that particular decision.
Dallat’s approach to risk management is best described by a concept central to her PhD research: “Look up. And out.” It is critical that administrators consider how the training, tools, and environment created by the organization contributed to a staff member’s decision in the moment. This approach shifts the focus from an individual to the systems within the organization and how they can be improved.
In her acceptance speech, Dallat pointed to mistakes made not only by outdoor leaders, but also by other professionals, including health care providers. Using a medical emergency within her own family as an example, she acknowledged how challenging it is to come to terms with a grave mistake with lasting impacts. While tempted to respond with outrage and accusation, Dallat instead turned to her research and what she has learned in the wilderness, concluding that “there was much more complexity to the story than blaming the nurses and surgeons.” Reflecting on the experience, she compared risk management to running a complex whitewater rapid: too often there is a greater focus on downstream safety than upstream preparation.
After bringing waves of laughter and tears to the crowd, Dallat wrapped up with a call of action to the WRMC community, urging the audience to, “Be human. Be accountable. Be brave. Share. And if you’ve been there a few times, you’ve got some added responsibility.”
About the WRMC
The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) unites hundreds of organizations annually to educate wilderness practitioners on practical risk management skills. Hosted by NOLS, in collaboration with legacy partners Outward Bound and the Student Conservation Association, its core objective is to offer an outstanding educational experience that help mitigate the risks inherent in exploring, working, teaching, and recreating in wild places.
NOLS is the world’s most comprehensive wilderness school. Students learn communication, good judgment, and grit through developing outdoor skills, risk management, and wilderness medicine expertise in a hands-on environment. Students of all ages graduate from their courses prepared to step forward and lead their communities in a changing world. To learn more about the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.