Safety and Risk Management

One of the most valuable assets of wilderness as a treatment environment is isolation. However, it is also the greatest liability. Safety is the number one concern of most parents. It’s specifically our first priority as well.

Wilderness therapy programs operate in remote areas. They require administrative composure and logistical support in order to meet the individual needs of troubled teens. We do so in a safe manner.

For almost twenty-five years we have designed our therapeutic and operational protocols to not only meet and accommodate the needs of the present but to anticipate and prepare for events that could occur in the future—whether those events are environmental or behavioral.

As a result, RedCliff Ascent has one of the best safety records in the wilderness therapy industry.

Safety Protocols

Our twenty safety protocols include:

  • The State of Utah Department of Human Services licenses and regulates RedCliff.
  • Our student to staff ratio is one to four. Generally, it is one to three, which is even lower than that required by law.
  • Our wilderness therapy staff are certified in First Aid and CPR. Also PCS, or Positive Control Systems, are a required certification by the field staff. All Head Instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders.
  • 67% of our field staff are college graduates.
  • All field staff must complete a rigorous nine day wilderness therapy field interview and a three week internship prior to their employment. The field interview includes wilderness living skills. Field interns must complete the same curriculum as our students.
  • Field staff receive weekly clinical training in the developmental hiatus philosophy as well as the language of Ego States.
  • Throughout their employment we test all staff randomly for a drug test. All staff must pass a background check prior to hire. RedCliff wilderness therapy uses a more accurate and comprehensive urine test for drug screening.
  • Upon intake, a pediatrician examines and drug tests each troubled teen.
  • Our medical director communicates with parents as often as needed to discuss specific health concerns for individual teens or any health related conditions that may arise.
  • A registered nurse or emergency medical technician visits students in the field every seven days. A medical assessment is completed every fourteen days to address any health complaints or concerns. The field staff weighs teens and measures the teen’s blood pressure for a general health assessment.
  • Any medical or behavioral concerns are related to RedCliff headquarters at least twice daily. If there is a concern, we instruct field staff to call anytime.
  • Teens learn and must demonstrate basic first aid and safety skills.
  • There is no strenuous physical activity for the first three days of a student’s enrollment at RedCliff. This is because the student is becoming acclimated to the altitude and environment.
  • RedCliff provides a 3,000 calorie diet for students each day. We developed it in consultation with a nutritionist. This diet includes whole grains, dehydrated and fresh vegetables, fruits, and a fruit and nut trail mix. In addition, students eat tuna fish, peanut butter, and cheese. Multi-vitamins and electrolytes, when applicable, are available for students.
  • There is a specific amount of water a teen must drink each day. The amount varies depending upon the time of year and temperature.
  • A registered nurse or emergency medical technician tracks each student’s Body Mass Index (BMI) from the day the teen enters the program until graduation.
  • Our Outpost wilderness therapy facility offers field groups emergency shelter and food. The facility covers 168 acres in the center of our field operation. RedCliff always stocks Outpost with food, fresh water, blankets, and clothing. An on-site support staff is often just minutes away from responding to field groups.
  • Student apparel and sleeping bags are mountaineering quality and appropriate to weather conditions. Sleeping bags are exchanged three times yearly and range in temperature ratings. Teens typically dress in several layers of clothing to provide protection from wet and cold. Throughout the year the students also wear hats and boots.
  • Field instructors remain in radio contact with RedCliff base at all times. Staff are required to call into headquarters at least two times each day using two-way radios. Instructors report GPS coordinates, staff or student needs, temperature and weather conditions, and any changes in itinerary. If two consecutive calls are missed a search is automatically initiated.
  • All RedCliff wilderness therapy clinicians are licensed doctorate and masters level therapists. They meet weekly with students in the field to assess student behaviors and provide the most effective therapeutic intervention possible.

Incident Review Committee

Besides these twenty Safety Protocols, RedCliff has established an Incident Review Committee, or IRC.

A decade ago the IRC formed. They review and manage risks on a weekly basis. Also, every seven days this committee of veteran field and administrative personnel examine the cause, severity, and possible prevention of any incident.

If an incident is determined to have been preventable, the IRC determines the best course of action to prevent similar incidents. These actions could include retraining, policy changes, disciplinary actions, or termination from program.

Call an admissions counselor at 801-921-8488 for additional information about how RedCliff Ascent can help your family.


Research Overview

Hike 2

Does Wilderness Work?


Is Wilderness Safe?


What About Health?


Current Research


Risk Management

Session 2

Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare