Risk Management Philosophy and Release Form - High Desert Center
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Risk Management Philosophy and Release Form

High Desert Center Acknowledgment and Assumption of Risk and Responsibility

Please stop for a moment and consider the community you are joining by choosing to participate with the High Desert Center (HDC). We are in the business of growing young people and ourselves while exploring the real world, and that necessitates taking risks.

We don’t do it lightly. We choose our risks carefully, and we know that avoiding serious injury often follows from being smart and taking only the right risks in the right way. We also know that there is only so much one can do, and that although it hasn’t happened so far, some day somebody might be seriously hurt or even killed. And it might be nobody’s fault. Even the most amazing risk mitigation cannot prevent an oncoming car from swerving at the wrong time or a horse from bucking when it’s stung by a bee or that backpacker from accidently standing on a loose rock.

Of course, we could avoid some of those risks by not going on the trip at all or not taking young people with us. We’ve thought about it. We all have in this business. We don’t make much money, and we know that by leading these programs we risk being sued and more importantly, we risk carrying the knowledge that somebody we loved was hurt on our watch. But we do it anyway, because we value the outcomes and the learning that comes with real world experience, and because avoiding all such risk results in other important things being lost. It’s a fine line to walk, trying to mitigate dangerous risk while also keeping a program special, alive-feeling, affordable and chalk full of real-world learning moments. So far, in 20 plus years of leading crazy adventures, Dev has had no serious   accidents or injuries.  Some of it has been luck.  Some of it is because we plan well, encourage participants to think well around risk,  and keep attending those Wilderness First Responder classes.  May it continue.

The rest of this form is more legal looking, and we would like you and your parents to read it all and sign it.

It amounts to this—many of the things participants do in this program are inherently risky. We want you to join us in acknowledging and taking responsibility for these risks because we want the results and experiences that come from taking them. We want to take these risks smartly, to work together, to abide by agreements, to consider the whole group, and, if something happens, we want to remain a community, to stay on the same team and help each other heal and learn rather than blame or point fingers or start a liability suit.

These are the values of our community. If they are not your values, please think carefully about joining this program.

High Desert Center activities take place in the U.S. or in foreign countries and may include but not be limited to: hiking; backpacking; camping; swimming; bicycling; horseback or other animal riding, whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking or other boating; urban area exploration; snorkeling; surfing; use of high ropes courses; host family stays; service and work projects; field study; interactive games and other sporting activities; socializing; cooking, eating unique foods; dumpster diving, use of a variety of equipment, facilities or premises; and transportation in vans, planes, trains, boats, buses, taxis and/or by other means. These activities may be scheduled or unscheduled, mandatory or optional, supervised or unsupervised and led by HDC staff or contractor and include free time. I (and my parent/s, if I am a minor) acknowledge that the inherent and other risks, hazards and dangers (collectively referred to in this Document as “risks”) of these activities can cause injury, damage, death or other loss to participant or others. Parent/s of minors give permission for their child to participate in all HDC activities and agree to discuss the nature of these activities and risks with their child. The following describes some, but not all, of those risks:

Risks associated with travel in the U.S. or a foreign country. Travel can involve unique risks, such as political unrest, terrorism and warfare, contact with unusual diseases or bacteria, exposure to contaminated food or water, dangerous road or travel conditions, thievery, abduction, and other risks. Participants may be subject to laws and legal systems in foreign countries that do not provide the same protections as the U.S. legal system. Although HDC considers current geo-political climates in choosing program locations, HDC personnel are not experts in assessing the likelihood of terrorist activity, political unrest, the need for vaccinations or other issues. Parent/s are responsible for conducting their own independent investigation through the U.S. State Department, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization or other sources, should they have concerns about program locations.

Risks involved in decision making and conduct. These risks include the risk that a HDC staff member, representative, contractor, co- participant or other person may misjudge a participant’s capabilities, health or physical condition, or misjudge some aspect of instruction, work site safety, medical treatment, weather, terrain, route location, water conditions or level.
Personal health and participation risks. The risk that participant’s mental, physical or emotional condition (including use or abuse of prescription or non-prescription drugs), whether disclosed or undisclosed, known or unknown, combined with participation in these activities could result in injury, damage, death or other loss. Although HDC personnel may review participant’s submitted health information, HDC cannot anticipate or eliminate risks or complications posed by participant’s mental, physical (including fitness level) or emotional condition.

Risks connected with geographic location. Activities may take place in remote locations, causing potential delays or difficulties in communication, transportation, evacuation and medical care. If the trip is outside of the U.S. or in the backcountry, additional delays can result if circumstances require transport back to the U.S. for medical care. Foreign medical facilities may be primitive or inadequate, and likely of a lower caliber than U.S. medical facilities. Although HDC staff or contractors may have communication devices (including cell or SAT phones), use of these devices can be unreliable and inconsistent.

Risks present in an outdoor environment. These risks include travel in high altitude, mountainous or wilderness terrain both on and off trail, and on land or water. Participants’ travel may be subject to: storms, including strong winds, rain, lightning or snow; tides, currents, waves or whitewater; extremely hot, humid or cold weather or water; fast moving rivers, oceans or other water bodies; falling rocks; falling or fallen timber; stinging, venomous and/or disease carrying animals or insects; poisonous plants; wild (including marine) animals and other natural or man-made hazards. Hazards (both on land and above and below water level) may not be marked or visible and weather is unpredictable year-around.
Equipment risks. Equipment rented by HDC (or participant’s own equipment) may be misused, or may break, fail or malfunction. HDC staff or contractors may require use of helmets or other safety gear for some activities.

Volunteer service or research project risks. Participating in volunteer service or field research projects include risks associated with activities such as (but not limited to) farming, building, digging, lifting, repair and clean-up projects. Projects can include the use of tools and equipment (e.g. shovels, hammers or other tools) that can cause injury resulting from use, misuse or malfunction.

Risks associated with transportation. Travel can be on foot or by vehicle, plane, train, boat, animal or other means and can be over rough and unpredictable terrain or via oceans or rivers, with wind, rain, or other adverse weather conditions. Foreign vehicles generally do not meet U.S. safety standards for seatbelts, tires, tire-tread, brakes and other maintenance.

Risks associated with homestays. Participants choosing programs with a homestay component will be living with a homestay family without the direct supervision of HDC staff. Participants will travel to and from their homestay family independently and stay overnight without HDC staff supervision. Participants understand to follow HDC guidelines and use sound judgment when staying with homestay families.

Free time risks. Participants may have free and/or unsupervised time before, during and after the start of a program, including unsupervised time with homestay families, time traveling alone with student groups and at various other times. Participants will not be directly supervised or watched during nighttime sleeping hours, whether in a dorm, hostel, hotel, homestay or other accommodation. During both supervised and unsupervised activities, all participants share in the responsibility for their own and the group’s well-being. There is always the potential that the participant, or other participants or third parties may act recklessly.

Other risks generally associated with educational, instructional, adventure and/or recreation activities.
These and other risks may result in participants: falling; being struck; colliding with or impacting objects, people, the ground or the bottom of a river or other water body; experiencing vehicle or boat collision, capsize or rollover; reacting to high altitudes, weather conditions or increased exertion; becoming lost or disoriented; suffering gastro-intestinal complications or allergic reactions or experiencing other problems. These and other circumstances may cause heat or cold related illness or injury (including hypothermia, hyperthermia, frostbite or heat exhaustion/stroke), dehydration, drowning, high altitude sickness, heart or lung complications, broken bones, paralysis or other permanent disability, mental or emotional trauma, concussions, sunburn or other burns, fever, infections, cuts or wounds or other injury, damage, death or loss.

I (participant and parent/s of a minor participant) agree that the participant is voluntarily participating with knowledge of the risks. Therefore, participant (and parent/s of minors) expressly assumes and accepts full responsibility for participant, for the inherent and other risks (both known and unknown) of these activities, and for any injury, damage, death or other loss suffered by participant (and parent/s of minors), resulting from those risks, and/or resulting from participant’s own negligence or other misconduct. This Release and Indemnity Agreement contains a surrender of certain legal rights. I (adult participant, or parent/s for themselves and for and on behalf of their participating minor child) agree:
(1) to release and agree not to sue The High Desert Center or any of it’s owners, employees or independent contractors, volunteers, or all other persons or entities associated with it (all hereafter simply referred to as HDC), with respect to any and all claims, liabilities, suits or expenses (including attorneys’ fees and costs) (hereafter collectively “claim” or “claim/s”), for any injury, damage, death or other loss in any way connected with my/my child’s enrollment or participation in these activities, including use of any equipment, facilities or premises. I understand I agree here to waive all claim/s I or my child may have against HDC and agree that neither I, my child, nor anyone acting on my or my child’s behalf, will make a claim against HDC as a result of any injury, damage, death or other loss suffered by me or my child; 
(2) to defend and indemnify (“indemnify” meaning protect by reimbursement or payment) HDC, with respect to any and all claim/s brought by or on behalf of me, my child, my spouse or other family member/s for any injury, damage, death or other loss in any way connected with my/my child’s enrollment or participation in these activities, including use of any equipment, facilities or premises; and/or,
b) brought by a co-participant or other person for any injury, damage, death or other loss to the extent caused by my/my child’s conduct in the course of participating in these activities, including use of any equipment, facilities or premises.

This Release and Indemnity Agreement includes claim/s resulting from HDC’s negligence (but not its gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct), and includes claim/s for personal injury or wrongful death (including claim/s related to emergency, medical, drug and/or health issues, response, assessment or treatment), property damage, loss of consortium, breach of contract or any other claim.

Other Provisions

I (participant and parent/s of a minor participant) agree:

  • to disclose to HDC representatives any mental, physical or emotional conditions or limitations which might affect participant’s ability to 
participate or that might cause harm to him/herself or others;
  • Colorado substantive law (without regard to its “conflict of laws” rules) governs this Document, any dispute I/my child have with HDC and all other aspects of my or my child’s relationship with HDC, and agree that any mediation, suit or other proceeding must be filed or entered into only in Colorado. I agree to attempt to settle any dispute (that cannot be settled by discussion) through mediation before a mutually acceptable Colorado mediator;
  • I authorize HDC staff, representatives, contractors or other medical personnel to obtain or provide medical care for participant, to transport participant to a medical facility, and/or to provide treatment they consider necessary for participant’s health. I agree to the release (to or by HDC) of any medical records necessary for treatment, referral, billing or insurance purposes. I agree that HDC has no responsibility for medical care provided to participant, and agree to pay all costs associated with that care and transportation;
  • HDC reserves the right to dismiss any participant from a trip or program that staff believes, in their discretion, presents a safety concern or medical risk, is disruptive, or otherwise conducts him or herself in a manner detrimental to the program. Use of illegal drugs, tobacco products or alcohol, breaking sexual or fire-making agreements, or disregarding instructions are examples of conduct that HDC considers detrimental, and that can result in early dismissal. If participant is dismissed or departs for any reason, participant (and his/her family) are responsible for all costs of early departure whether for medical reasons, dismissal, personal emergencies or otherwise (and understand that departure airports may be different than originally planned). These costs include, but are not limited to medical evacuation and costs, transportation, meals, accommodations, and compensation and expenses for staff who may accompany participant. Participants and their parent/s must understand that they are fully responsible for participants during travel time to and from their HDC designated airport meeting point or other designated location. HDC takes no responsibility for participants until they arrive at their designated HDC meeting point and meet their representative. Similarly, HDC is no longer responsible for participants following their departure home from the HDC designated departure point, after completion of their trip;
  • Parent/s give express permission for their child to be transported across U.S. state lines and international borders;
  • I authorize HDC to take photos or other images, written or spoken statements (including quotations from conversations and correspondence), motion pictures and/or audio or video recordings, of or including the participant, without compensation, and use these materials in any manner HDC desires, including for sale, reproduction or display on the worldwide web (i.e. websites, You Tube) 
and in catalogues or other materials, for any promotional, educational or other use. These materials are the sole property of HDC.
  • This Document is intended to be interpreted and enforced to the fullest extent allowed by law. If any portion of this Document is deemed unlawful or unenforceable, it shall not affect the enforceability of the remaining provisions, and those remaining provisions shall continue in full force and effect. I (participant and parent/s of a minor participant) agree: I have carefully read, understand and voluntarily sign this Document, and acknowledge that it shall be effective and legally binding upon me, my spouse, participating minor child and other children, and parent’s/participant’s other family members, heirs, executors, representatives, subrogors and estate. All participants must sign below. If participant is a minor (those under 18 yrs. of age), one parent, or both parent/s, if available, must also sign below.

Participant Signature Date _____________________________________ Date _____________________

1st Parent/Guardian Signature _________________________________   Date _____________________

2nd Parent/Guardian Signature __________________________________ Date _____________________