Medical & Safety

 

Medical Capabilities

The Toolik Field Station is staffed by a minimum of 1 Wilderness First Responder each day of the year. Additionally, there is 24/7 staffing by an EMT during the field season (April-September) with intermittent staffing during the winter months based off project demand. 

The EMT shack serves as the Toolik Field Station’s on-site medical facility and residence for the TFS EMT. This facility is capable of supporting Basic Life Support (BLS) procedures that are capable of treating minor traumatic injuries, as well as attempting to stabilize critical patients to prepare them for transport. While our medical staff is well equipped to handle a wide array of traumatic injuries, internal medicine complications will always prove difficult to treat in a remote environment like TFS. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your primary care physician before you travel to camp. While Toolik is adjacent to a road network, the large transport distances that must be overcome to definitive medical care demand a heightened awareness of your own pre-existing medical conditions.

The EMT should be called at x2516 in the event of a medical emergency or hazardous materials spill. Should the EMT (or their stand-in) determine that the demands of the illness/injury exceed the resources available in camp the patient(s) will be transported outside of camp to a higher level of medical care. The EMT will accompany the patient during transport and render medical care until they reach their transport destination. 

Transport options include:

  • Prudhoe Bay Clinic - 3 hrs North - Highest level of care: PA
  • Fairbanks - Highest level of care: Physician
    • By ground - 9 hrs
    • Medevac - ~2 hrs total (Including flight to Galbraith Airstrip and back to Fairbanks)

Medical Requirements & Accommodations

Prior to Arrival

Due to limited access to definitive medical care it is highly recommended that you consult with your primary care physician regarding travel to the Toolik Field Station. Project managers should consider the medical requirements of their team prior to making a reservation. 

Ensure that you have packed an adequate supply of medications and medical equipment before you travel; it is extremely difficult to fill a prescription once you have arrived in camp. TFS does not stock any prescription medications on-site. Your physician will be able to advise you on which medications to bring, and how much of each to pack based on the duration of your stay.

Special Accommodations

Please contact Scott Filippone (smfilippone@alaska.edu) should you require any special accommodations to make your stay at the Toolik Field Station safer and/or more comfortable. With advance notice, the TFS Safety Department can discreetly address your medical needs prior to your arrival into camp.

Medical Form

Upon arrival at the Station you will be asked to complete a Medical Disclosure and Emergency Contact form (updated June 2022).

The Medical Disclosure and Emergency Contact form provides medical information that may be necessary in the event of serious illness or accident.  The facts you disclose will be kept confidential and will be kept on file with the station safety coordinator.  The information provided will be given to others (medical personnel, staff, etc.) only in an emergency situation.  This form is for your protection, the more complete the form, the better the medical treatment you may receive, if needed. Failure to disclose accurate and complete information could compound the seriousness of an accident or illness, particularly if you are unable to respond clearly to the medical responders inquiries.

Because of confidentiality issues the Medical Disclosure and Emergency Contact information can not be submitted through a web-based system at this time and must be filled out and submitted to TFS on paper.

Medical Insurance

Each Toolik Field Station project member must have medical/accident insurance that will cover the expenses of serious illness or accident, accidental death and dismemberment.  You must check with your health plan to verify that appropriate coverage applies. Project members are responsible for all expenses in the event that they become ill, injured, or require emergency evacuation.

Medevac Coverage

In addition to traditional medical insurance, TFS also requires its residents to obtain a medevac coverage policy with the air ambulance service of their choice. Please note that most medical insurance policies do not cover the cost of air medevac services. For more information on medevac coverage and the main agencies available in Alaska please refer to our Common Questions About Medevac Insurance guide. Toolik Field Station does not endorse any particular air medevac provider; we aim to provide you with objective information about available providers so that you can make an informed decision. 

Sharps Containers

We require that all sharps are properly disposed of in labeled sharps containers designed to minimize the potential for accidental exposures. Please contact the on-duty EMT should you require a sharps container to collect biohazardous sharps generated by the treatment of a medical condition.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders and Advance Directives

If you possess a valid Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR) or advance directive please speak with the on-duty EMT shortly after you arrive to camp.

*The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the University of Alaska of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities, the University does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided with the intent of meeting the mission of the Toolik Field Station website.

Incident Reporting

If you are currently injured or sick please contact the on-duty EMT immediately.

Click here to file an incident report with Origami. (Note: You must have a University of Alaska account in order to submit a report - please contact the on-duty EMT for assistance.)

Incident reports are an integral part of improving the overall safety of Toolik residents and staff. Filing a report provides us with the data necessary to identify and mitigate occupational hazards and other safety concerns within camp. Filing an incident report is mandatory for any injury, illness, or accident regardless of whether medical attention was provided. 

Should you obtain medical treatment at the time of the incident, or at some point in the future, the report that you file will be used as documentation in any potential workers’ compensation claims. For this reason, the information that you provide must be truthful and accurate to the best of your ability. Regardless of whether medical treatment was provided, all UAF employees must notify their supervisor within 8 hours following an incident.

Near-Miss Reporting

Near-miss reports are extremely valuable, yet many times go undocumented for any number of reasons. OSHA defines a near miss as an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred. Near misses also may be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free events and, in the case of moving objects, near collisions. 

Near miss reports are to be filed under the Unsafe Conditions category on Origami Risk - please consult with the on-duty EMT should you require any assistance.

We strongly encourage you to report any unsafe conditions or near-misses that you might encounter during your time at the Toolik Field Station. Near-miss data is critical to identifying safety deficiencies and preventing incidents from occurring in the first place.

Hazardous & Radioactive Materials Handling

Hazardous Materials

Researchers wishing to transport hazardous chemicals into camp must first complete the following Chemical Manifest form and e-mail it to Scott Filippone (smfilippone@alaska.edu) before sending the chemicals to camp.

Chemical Manifest

Additionally, a copy of the SDS for each chemical that you are transporting should be included with your shipment.

TFS and UAF work together to dispose of hazardous waste at the end of each field season - researches are not permitted to remove hazardous waste once it has been generated at camp. While laboratory space may be used to temporarily store chemicals during your stay at TFS, we discourage the use of laboratory spaces as long term HazMat storage for research teams. Chemicals that will be left between field seasons should be clearly labeled as such; unclaimed materials in laboratories will be disposed of periodically. The Toolik Field Station is not responsible for the loss of materials when disposed of in this manner.

Radioactive Materials

If you intend to transport any radioactive materials into TFS you must also notify Tracey Martinson (tamartinson@alaska.edu) of UAF Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management to coordinate transport of said materials into and out of camp. Radioactive materials may not be stored in camp between seasons and must be transported out of camp by the end of your stay.

Documents, Plans, & Guides

Toolik Field Station Emergency Action Plan

Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan

Field Safety Guide

Transportation Safety Guide

Medevac Coverage Guide

 Camp residents planning to venture onto Toolik Lake via boat are required to undergo a one-time boat safety orientation applicable to the vessel they will be using. This Toolik-specific orientation will cover vessel and engine familiarization, docking, Toolik policy, and the topographical features of the lake. Please refer to the following presentation to familiarize yourself with the material that will be covered during your in-person orientation.

TFS Boating slideshow

Please note that this orientation exists to supplement, not replace, any formal boat safety training required by your home institution. Regardless of where projects originate from, we recommend that all boat users complete a boat safety course approved by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Office of Boating Safety. A free, online, ADNR-approved boat safety course can be found at https://www.boatus.org/alaska/.

Finally, we would like to remind all camp residents of 2 especially important rules regarding boat usage on Toolik Lake:

  1. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must be worn by all boat occupants during their voyage. This applies to all watercraft on Toolik Lake.
  2. Alcohol consumption is not permitted under any circumstances by either the vessel operator or passengers. All boat occupants must be sober for the duration of their voyage.

Failure to comply with these rules will result in revocation of boating privileges on Toolik Lake and may include additional disciplinary action.

In and around the area of Toolik Field Station we mainly have brown bears (grizzly bear) though black bears may be present if you are south in the Brooks Range.  Toolik is too far south to encounter a polar bear. 

While we do not often see bears around camp, they are ever present and active on the landscape from May-September. Occassionally, they are spotted as early as April. 

Gates of the Arctic National Park has put together this great bear safety information sheet.  

Bear Spray - Each group should have at a minimum of one (two is better) bear spray with them at all times when out in the field.  Projects should supply bear spray for their team members, if you need to borrow an extra one please check one out in the main office. 

  • If you have not used bear spray before please talk to the Camp Manager or EMT for a brief tutorial

 

Some Text about snowmachines

Living and working in a remote environment such as Toolik can have a profound impact on one’s psychological state and overall well being. While a great deal of attention is often given to the physical aspects of field safety, mental health may be overlooked. Similar to how you would conduct an equipment check before you head into the field, taking stock of the mental health resources available to you before deploying  will help ensure that you are prepared for the challenges of remote field work. Before you depart for Toolik, please take the time to consider the following topics and identify potential areas that you might want to address while you are in a familiar location.


Support System


A support system is exactly what it says - a system that supports you when you need it. This can be family, friends, co-workers, mentors, religious communities, or anyone else with whom you feel you can confide in. Research has shown that healthy support systems have a significant, positive impact upon the mental health and stress coping mechanisms of individuals. 


Before you travel, figure out who comprises your support system and reach out to them. If they’re not already familiar with your work, explain where you will be going, what you will be doing, and how long you will be away. If you feel comfortable, try to schedule regular check-ins with people from your support system; scheduled correspondence can provide a sense of structure and encourage consistent outlets for stress release.


If you feel that your support system is lacking (or absent) try following the suggestions that the American Psychological Association has published here.


It is important to understand that while a strong support system poses numerous benefits, it is not a cure-all for mental health issues. For some stressors you must recognize the need for and reach out to a licensed mental health professional.


Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy is what comes to mind when most people speak about “therapy”. Also referred to as “talk therapy”, psychotherapy encompasses a wide range of different treatment techniques applied by a licensed mental health professional. Finding the therapist that’s right for you can be a long, challenging process; it may take multiple sessions with an individual to scope out whether they’re a good fit or not. Despite the initial challenges, finding the right therapist can help mitigate the effects of various stressors and disorders that otherwise feel insurmountable. 


IMPORTANT: If you already have a therapist, speak with them before you travel up to Alaska as mental healthcare providers sometimes run into jurisdictional issues with their license when trying to provide treatment over state borders. Ask them if there will be any issues due to your travel and, if so, enquire about potential solutions. Your current provider will be the best-equipped resource to answer any questions about your continuance of care.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has compiled a thorough guide on the subject of psychotherapy - why you may need it, what to look for in a therapist, and how to locate a mental health professional. 


The NIMH guide on psychotherapy can be found here on their website.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an organization dedicated to mental health education and outreach. In addition, NAMI also hosts a toll-free hotline (1-800-950-6264) that serves to assist callers navigate a variety of mental health issues. This organization is composed of many local charters that serve to provide an in-depth knowledge base of mental health resources on a city-by-city basis. NAMI is an excellent starting point when you are trying to locate a mental health professional; they will be able to help identify a therapist that matches your treatment needs and budget.

NAMI


Since the advent of COVID, many online counseling services (AKA “telehealth”) have become widely available in an attempt to make accessing mental health professionals as convenient as possible. Just like any other form of therapy, your mileage may vary; it’s completely normal to jump from therapist to therapist until you find the one right for you. An APA-published guide on the finer details of utilizing a mental telehealth provider can be found here.

In no particular order, and without endorsing any of these services, here are some examples of online counseling services:



Medications


Medications prescribed by licensed mental health professionals are often used to treat certain psychological disorders and/or to supplement ongoing psychotherapy. Whether or not you take psychiatric medication is entirely between you and your mental healthcare provider. The Toolik EMT does not carry any prescription psychiatric medications whatsoever; if you are currently taking medication(s), ensure that you will have enough of a supply to last through your deployment period, with 1-2 weeks extra in case there are transit dealys. Filling and transporting prescriptions up to Toolik is often a challenging, time-consuming process that you will not want to deal with in the middle of your work season. Furthermore, it is important to remember to follow the directions of your medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider - do not adjust your dosage/stop taking your medication unless you have consulted your healthcare provider and been instructed to do so.


Crisis Outreach


The National Alliance on Mental Illness has produced a guide on mental health crises entitled “Navigating a Mental Health Crisis”, found here. Much of the content in this section has been derived from this guide.


NAMI has defined a mental health crisis as “a situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others and/or prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function effectively in the community”. When stressors compound upon themselves, they can cause a person to reach a breaking point wherein they behave in a fashion counterproductive to their overall health and wellbeing. 


The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (previously the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is a 24/7 hotline which has the sole purpose of working with those experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distess. This confidential resource can be used at any time, toll-free, regardless of your location.


Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Website: https://988lifeline.org/

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Phone #: 988

Suicide Hotline

A mental health crisis is a serious medical emergency that requires care above and beyond the capabilities of the Toolik Field Station. If you feel as if you are reaching a crisis point at Toolik, feel free to reach out to the following community members for assistance:


  • Camp EMT - (907) 455-2516
  • Camp Manager - (907) 455-2511
  • Community Liaison(s)

Should an individual in camp experience a mental health crisis, the medical staff at Toolik will work with medical direction to safely transport the patient to a facility capable of providing them the treatment warranted by their condition.


Resources