IAG COVID-19 Best Practices

Posted on May 30, 2020

We are really happy to have had a busy and successful summer season despite the pandemic. Thanks to all of you who have come out with us this summer!

With COVID-19, we do have a new risk to manage, and we take this responsibility to our customers, our staff and our communities very seriously. Below is the current iteration of our COVID-19 Best Practices document. It includes our plans for operating Avalanche Skills Training (AST) this winter. We've been soliciting feedback from all of our customers on how we're doing at managing the COVID-19 risk, and are happy to report that with a few tweaks we have successfully managed to make our guests comfortable with our risk management, while still delivering on our trip and course objectives without much negative impact from our COVID-19 measures.

You can write to us at any time to receive a copy of the latest iteration of this docuemnt and do feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have.

Island Alpine Guides Covid-19 Risk Management Practices (Ver. 19 Oct 2020)

Context

This document outlines a series of ‘best practices’ which Island Alpine Guides (IAG) will follow for operating trips and courses while the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is present.

The contents of this document are derived predominantly from the advice of the Office of the BC Provincial Health Officer and industry best practices as outlined in the following two documents:

Association of Canadian Mountain Guides - Suggested COVID-19-related Best Practices for Phased Return to Work for ACMG Members - May 13, 2020.
BC Adventure Programs - COVID-19 Best Practices - Created by members of the Adventure Articulation Committee British Columbia Council of Articulation and Transfer (BCCAT) - April 2020

These practices are subject to change as public health advice and industry best practices evolve.

All trip/course participants as well as IAG guides and instructors will be required to:

Read this document
Sign the COVID-19 Practices Agreement and Declaration of Health and Exposure
Submit the results of an online COVID-19 Screening Questionnaire

Co-management of COVID-19 Risk

Responsibility for managing the spread of COVID-19 will be shared with all course/trip participants and IAG staff. Participants and staff alike must understand their personal roles and responsibilities in reducing the potential spread of the virus. Additionally all participants must understand that continued delivery of courses and trips is contingent on following all protocols. Participants will be excluded from activities if unable to follow protocols. Participants and staff must understand that all directives in this document are designed to manage the risk of COVID-19. but will not eliminate that risk. 

It remains a possibility, despite these precautions, that participants or staff could contract the COVID-19 virus.

Pre-trip Communication with Participants

All participants are being informed that IAG is taking precautions to limit potential viral spread
Specific precautions will be determined and described based on the state of pandemic at the time of participation, as well as the attendant public health and industry advice
All participants are being informed that the waiver has changed to reflect COVID-19 risk and that they must to read it thoroughly to ensure they understand and acknowledge those changes
All participants will be required to complete an online COVID-19 screening questionnaire five days prior to their trip and send a screenshot of their results to IAG.
All participants will be required to sign a Declaration of Health and Exposure. Participation will be limited to those who can attest to being well, to not having been exposed to anyone who is sick, and to not having travelled outside the country within 14 days of the commencement of the trip. Additionally participants in higher risk demographics (age >64 years, pre-disposing conditions) will be asked not to participate.
IAG cancellation policy has been adjusted to allow for unforeseen changes. If IAG is forced to reschedule or cancel trips or courses because of restrictive measures coming back into place due to a resurgence in the virus, everyone booked will be given the choice of rescheduling or receiving a full credit for anytime in the future. Additionally if booked participants are not feeling well in the lead up to a trip, IAG will insist that they do not participate and will offer a full credit.
If participants are booking front-country accommodation previous to the trip/course they must vet the viral mitigation procedures of the accommodation provider before booking.
Participants are informed that by signing COVID-19 Practices Agreement and participating in the trip or course, they agree to abide by the mitigation procedures in this document. They also accept and understand that despite all precautions, participants and/or staff are still at risk of contracting the virus.

Pre-trip Communication with IAG Guides/Instructors

All guides/instructors will be informed that we are taking precautions to limit potential viral spread and that their participation on the trip is dependent on their agreement to abide by these guidelines.
All guides/instructors will be required to sign the COVID-19 Practices Agreement and Declaration of Health and Exposure
IAG will only engage guides/instructors who can attest to being well, to not having been exposed to anyone who is sick, and to have not travelled outside the country within 14 days of the commencement of the trip. Additionally guides/instructors in higher risk demographics (age >64 years, pre-disposing conditions) will not be engaged.
Pre-trip/course meetings will be held with guides/instructors at which we will discuss in detail the pandemic-related mitigations we are instituting on the trip, review emergency protocols specific to viral mitigation and consider limits to exposure to risks other than COVID-19

Transportation

All participants and guides/instructors should arrive at the meeting point in their own vehicles, alone or in a cohabiting group, or having been dropped off with an expectation to be picked up by a member of their cohabiting group

Group Hygiene 

Everyone on the trip/course must endeavour to stay 2 metres apart at all times
All participants are required to bring an ample personal supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, to have it on hand at all times, and to use it after any contact with any surface touched by another participant or IAG staff
Participants must not pass food or beverage to one another unless they are members of a cohabiting group
All participants and instructors/guides must supply their own masks and wear them at any time that there is a possibility of being closer than two metres from another participant or IAG staff who are not part of their cohabiting group

Classroom Settings

At time of the latest update of these practices (11 September, 2020) the plan for Avalanche Skills Training classroom sessions in the coming winter 20/21 will be to use very large spaces with small groups (room capacity 150 persons, class size 16 students) allowing for plenty of distancing between students
Masks must be worn at all times in classroom settings, or when indoors
If public health advice changes through the course of the winter make it impossible to run classroom sessions even in very large spaces, the classroom portions of courses will change to online learning while field sessions continue.

First Aid/Emergency Response and Evacuation Protocol

If a potential case of COVID-19 is discovered in the field, the following protocols should be followed: 

Where possible, evacuation of a person suspected of being infected with COVID-19 should be done using internal resources, not external.
The suspected infected person should be placed in quarantine until evacuation is possible
A deep clean of all common areas, transportation and equipment should happen immediately post-evacuation
Increased vigilance with personal hygiene and deep cleaning of all points of contact should occur during and after an evacuation
The subject should be managed and transported as directed in communications with health authorities
If unable to reach health authorities for direction from a remote location, transportation, where possible, should be to medical facilities closest to the home community of the subject if possible 
The subject must confirm with IAG if they tested positive for COVID-19 so an appropriate response can be initiated with other participants. Other participants should meanwhile immediately follow protocols for self-isolation until this information is known
IAG guides/instructors will carry additional masks and gloves in the first aid kit; use approved mask, gloves and eye protection for all first aid applications and dispose of mask and gloves after use
If rescue is required, ensure the subject is masked

Non-COVID-19 Evacuation Protocol

Groups should endeavour to self-evacuate injured participants and minimize use of public resources.

Minimizing COVID-19 Spread to Other Communities

IAG recommends that participants and IAG guides/instructors endeavour to avoid communities outside of their own by aiming to travel from home community to meeting point without stopping if possible
If stopping for gas is necessary we recommend using “pay at the pump” facilities and not going into any place of business in a community other than the person’s own

Post-trip Communication with Guides/Instructors

IAG will solicit feedback from guides/instructors regarding whether these best practices significantly impaired their ability to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience for their participants
If participant experience was negatively impacted IAG will revise plans as required

 Post-trip Communication with Participants

IAG will communicate with participants post trip/course to solicit feedback regarding whether they felt adequately protected from viral infection and whether these best practices negatively impacted their experience
Participants agree to contact IAG immediately if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days of their trip/course

Equipment and PPE 

On camping trips all participants and guides/instructors must stay alone in a tent or with a person(s) with whom they have been cohabiting
All participants and guides/instructors must supply and cook their own meals or share meals and cooking only with a person(s) with whom they have been cohabiting
Before each trip, IAG will ensure all company owned soft goods (ropes, harnesses, slings, etc.) have either been isolated for a minimum of three days or have been washed in warm, soapy water
Before each trip IAG will ensure that all company owned hard goods (biners, ice axes, crampons, rock protection, avalanche safety gear, skis, ski poles, hiking poles etc.) have either been isolated for a minimum of three days or have been washed in warm, soapy water. For hard goods with no soft material or plastic, spraying with a dilute solution of bleach and water or a hospital grade bactericide/anti-virus followed by adequately drying is an acceptable alternative.