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Colorado is well-known for the violence of summer afternoon thunderstorms that can be extremely dangerous, especially when at high-altitude. Photo credit: David Noe for the CGS.

Field Safety

2020-07-22 | Dr. John Hopkins

By John Keller

It’s field mapping time, and much of our staff are out in several different areas of the state, doing field work. A majority of the field work is part of the STATEMAP program—preparing geologic maps of particular quadrangles for the US Geological Survey sponsors of that nation-wide program.

The CGS emphasizes safety in the field and takes pride in the safety record of our mappers. Geologists who are involved in geologic mapping spend many weeks in the field gathering data for each quadrangle map. This means that a lot of time is spent away from people, roads, and the relative safety of the field vehicle.

Like any wise backcountry traveler, a field geologist must take the time to learn how to conduct their business in a safe and responsible way, and to be prepared for accidents and emergencies along the way. Two of the most important things CGS mappers try to remember are 1) to be aware of their surroundings and the inherent dangers, and 2) to use good judgment and common sense. A course in first aid and CPR is provided for all CGS employees.

CGS geologists use a buddy system while mapping, particularly if the work is in a remote area. We frequently hire university geology students to assist with mapping during the summer months. This gives the students some beneficial work experience and reduces the dangers of working alone in remote areas. If mapping alone, the mapper is required to let someone know where he/she plans to go that day; and then checks in with the same person to let them know they are safely out of the field.

The following list outlines some of the dangers involved in field geology. By being aware of these hazards, we can be prepared to prevent and/or deal with them. It is by no means a complete list.

What’s in my backpack?

It seems my field backpack gets heavier every year. The more backcountry experience I get, the more I realize how important it is to always keep my pack stocked with safety gear. I’ve been “surprised” too many times to go into the field unprepared anymore. Here’s a list of safety gear that is in my field pack everyday:

What’s in my field vehicle when mapping?

For most geologists, just getting to the field area often requires many miles of driving. Often, much of the driving is in remote areas on rarely-used gravel and four-wheel-drive roads. It is important to have one’s vehicle supplied and ready to encounter surprises and emergencies. Besides having a good spare tire or two and a functional jack, these are few things that are good to have in the field vehicle at all times:

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