Safety and Prevention


Any CEN member going to a remote location must be aware of and follow the procedures that are currently in place at their university. It is important to ensure that these procedures are followed, as they are the institutions that will assist you in the event of an emergency.

A mission in the North involves additional and very real risks such as:

  • Extreme and changing weather conditions
  • Presence of wildlife (polar bears, foxes, etc.)
  • Limited or no means of communication
  • Distance from health services
  • Etc.

It is essential to identify all the risks associated with a northern mission in order to properly prepare your field mission, make sure you bring the right personal protective equipment and take the necessary mandatory training before your departure.

List of hazards associated with working in a remote environment and preventive measures (FR)

First, CEN members must ensure that they receive the necessary training to ensure their safety and that of their colleagues during the field mission. Such training may include:

  • First aid in remote areas
  • Safe driving of snowmobiles, ATVs, watercrafts, etc.
  • Handling of firearms
  • etc...

In order to know which training you should take, you can consult your responsible researcher, the professionals in your department or your colleagues. The following document may also be useful to you: Specialized training for working in natural environments (FR)

Find out in advance if permits are required for research projects in the area where you plan to conduct your fieldwork. This is especially the case when you are doing work in national parks or nature reserves. It can take several months to obtain these permits, hence the importance of starting the process in advance.

It is also your responsibility to ensure that you have insurance coverage that protects you in case of unforeseen events.

Anyone conducting fieldwork in a remote area should have a means of communication in case of emergencies. Be sure to check cell phone coverage in the area where you will be conducting fieldwork before you leave. In the event that cell phone use is not possible, there are several options:

  • Satellite phone: The satellite phone allows you to make calls or send text messages in areas where there are no cell towers. A package must be purchased in advance for the device to work.
  • In Reach: An InReach device allows sending and receiving SMS and sending predefined messages. It also has an SOS function that allows you to request help. The device works with a subscription.
  • SPOT Beacons: The SPOT Beacon cannot receive any messages. It can only transmit predefined messages. It also has an SOS function that allows you to request help. The device works with a subscription.

The CEN offers its members the possibility to borrow satellite phones or InReach.

Accommodation and vehicle rental options in the North can be limited, so it is advisable to make reservations a few months in advance.

The CEN manages the Qaujisarvik network of 9 research stations in Nunavik. CEN members benefit from special rates and priority access. Vehicles, ATVs and boats are available for rental by the CEN at many of its research stations.

CEN members also have access to over 50 Arctic research stations through the INTERACT Network - International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic.

Unexpected events are frequent during northern missions and can take different forms :

  • Commercial flights are frequently cancelled during adverse weather conditions.
  • Travel by helicopter or airplane to search sites can only be made when weather conditions and visibility are favorable.
  • Delivery of materials by cargo ship may sometimes be delayed.
  • Weather conditions may make field sampling impossible.
  • Breakage of equipment can occur and the parts necessary for repair are not always available on site.
  • Etc.

It is therefore essential to try to anticipate the unforeseen events that may occur and try to find ways to minimize their impact and ensure the safety of those involved. It is advisable to foresee several scenarios of the mission (plan A, plan B, plan C...) that take into account the climatic constraints.

Adaptability, resourcefulness and perseverance are therefore very useful qualities during northern missions!

Goods and commodities are not as readily available in the North as they are in the South, and their cost is usually significantly higher. Preparation of equipment and personal materials is therefore particularly important before departure.

  • Bring all necessary personal protective equipment.
  • Take care to check equipment before departure and make sure it is working properly.
  • Bring replacement parts or multiple copies of essential equipment, if possible.
  • Provide a comfortable bag large enough to carry scientific and personal safety equipment and a change of clothing.

As a guide, CEN students have prepared a list of personal equipment that a person might bring with them on a northern mission. This list is provided as a guide and should be adapted according to the destination and the individual needs of the person.

Personal equipment list (FR)

Here is a reminder of some of the steps that can be taken to increase your safety in the field.

  1. Always travel as a team;
  2. Always have a repellent nearby (whistle, pepper spray, detonator);
  3. Always have a radio or phone with you; Always be aware that a wild animal is watching you (bear, wolf);
  4. Consider the possibility of hiring a guide;
  5. Consider hiring a guide; Take any specialized training that is offered (firearms, first aid, watercraft, etc.);
  6. Avoid fishing and cooking fish and/or odorous food near campsites;
  7. Do not operate a watercraft without your watercraft pass;
  8. Do not use a firearm without a valid permit.
  9. As weather conditions can change rapidly, it is advisable to always carry clothing for different weather conditions (cold, heat, rain, wind, etc.).
  10. Respect your limits.

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