Safety Third

While we’re all quarantined inside, Boyd Varty is living alone in a treehouse for forty days and forty nights in South Africa. He is doing a daily journal in the form of an audio recording that is being shared as a podcast. On day 4 he talked about going for a jog in the bush safely, and why “safety third” is better than “safety first.” He said,

There are three phases to being safe when running in the wilderness.

  • Phase 1: Mindset and awareness you live in that is forward-thinking, route planning, route assessment, knowing the terrain, local knowledge
  • Phase 2: How you handle the dangerous situation
  • Phase 3: The safety itself as a result of the first two phases.

In general, anytime we face risk or uncertainty it’s a good idea to keep these three phases in mind. There should always be a respectful understanding of the environment we are operating in and the path we expect to take. There should always be a plan to deal with expected and unexpected surprises along the way. It is only after we have done this preparation that we arrive at some semblance of safety.

“Safety third” reminds us that safety isn’t so much an outcome as it is a process. In our professional work, we never can fully take risk away. Something is always lurking – that’s just part of being alive. Jogging in the South African bush just has different risks than jogging in Manhattan (in regular times or during a pandemic) or in rural Missouri. The key to safely approaching anything is in our process.

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