In addition to the print version of ANAC, there’s now also a monthly dose of accident beta delivered right to your inbox known as The Prescription
as well as The Sharp End podcast
that covers accident reports in detail. No matter your preference, schedule, or preferred media, you can regularly put some credits in your black box.
One of the things I appreciate most about ANAC is the sober format of both the accident reports, as well as the analysis. The editors do a great job of attempting to convey small learnings, especially from significant accidents. In this way, ANAC is like the mountaineering world’s morbidity and mortality conference (M&M). In Complications
(another book I highly recommend), Atul Gawande writes: “The M&M sees avoiding error as largely a matter of will—of staying sufficiently informed and alert to anticipate the myriad ways that things can go wrong and then trying to head off each potential problem before it happens.” This is entirely the role of ANAC. He continues, “the very existence of the M&M, its place on the weekly schedule, amounts to an acknowledgment that mistakes are an inevitable part of medicine.” I see ANAC very similarly. I will make mistakes in the mountains, as will other adventurers there. Reading ANAC keep us informed of those “myriad ways that things can go wrong.”
If you want to know how to treat injuries in the mountains, there’s no better place to begin than with knowing what kind of accidents happen, what actions lead up to them, and what the conditions are like surrounding those incidents. When you’re done with the narrative portion of ANAC, don’t miss out on the data tables in the back. These volumes and percentages should inform what skills we practice, and what goes in our SAR/ first aid kits.
No matter where a WMS member finds themselves in the wilderness medicine world, behind the desk providing oversight, or in the field administering care, reading this tome year in and year out reminds us when our vision should become a bit more acute, our ears more attuned to the slightest changes in wind and pressure. It gives us both objective and subjective data regarding what we need to be prepared for in the mountains.
Go out and read ANAC each year, but don’t stop there. Search out the crusty old climber who has fifteen years of them on their shelf and read one every couple of months. There’s no doubt it will make you a better risk manager, and a better mountain rescuer. While there’s no substitute for experience, learning from other people’s, coffee in hand looking out the window, is an awfully close second.