Stretcher Team Building Exercise


The group race against the clock and work together to build a stretcher and transport one of their team members to safety.

Equipment Required: 2 poles – 5ft or longer (e.g. broom poles, fence posts etc), rope or para cord and cones to define areas, optional: sleeping bag or blanket. (*The idea is to limit the equipment to what they would likely have on an expedition)
Space Required: Large. Indoors or outdoors.
Group Size: 6 to 12 (for larger groups consider splitting into smaller teams)

Total Time: 60 minutes

  • 5 minutes to brief and set up
  • 40 minutes to achieve outcome
  • 10-15 minutes to review and debrief

Stretcher Team Challenge Setup

Collect the resources required for the exercise and check your activity location. Make an assessment of the area and decide where to start the exercise and where the finish point should be (location of first aid). Lay down the cones to mark these areas. Try and aim for the finish to be about 200-300 metres away from the start.

Stretcher Team Activity Instructions

Welcome the group to the exercise and immediately ask for a volunteer. Speak to them privately and explain that they will be acting as an injured person during the exercise. If you have an assistant, then you should use them instead.

Next, Introduce Stretcher exercise:

Your group are an expedition and one of your team members has been injured. They are losing blood quickly and need to get to safety as soon as possible. The only way they will survive is if you can get them to the nearest first aid point situated on the other side of the island (or forest, mountain etc) where they will receive treatment and a helicopter can be called. They are losing blood at the rate of one pint every ten minutes. The human body has on average about eight pints of blood, when you lose four pints your vital organs will fail, resulting in class 4 haemorrhaging and near certain death. You have a total of forty minutes to get your injured team member to safety using the resources provided. Remember to take care when transporting the injured person and be aware of your surrounding area and any possible hazards.

Give the group the resources and begin the challenge, ensure you start timing the exercise. Tell the group that the injured person has lost a pint of blood (or another) every ten minutes.

Once they have built the stretcher, make a quick assessment as to whether the stretcher is safe. If you have any concerns, it is important that you stop them and ask them whether they feel the stretcher is safe for use.

When transporting the injured person to safety, every person should be involved and the stretcher should not be raised higher than waist height. Keep an eye on the group at all times, especially when navigating over rough terrain or in woodland areas.

Once the team have successfully transported the injured person to the first aid point, stop timing and inform them of the time they took. If they exceed the forty-minute time allowance before reaching safety, then the choice is yours whether you let them continue or you stop them and inform them that they have failed the exercise. Like all team challenge exercise, don’t be afraid of failure. Failure provides valuable learning lessons and helps explore important topics during the reviewing process.

Suggested Learning Outcomes

  • Cooperation
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • Problem Solving
  • Communication

Questions to ask during the review:

Once you were briefed, what was the first thing you did?
How well do you feel you communicated?
Why was important to have input from all team members?
How did you allocate responsibilities within the team?
Do you have a leader for this exercise? Why was leadership important?
How did you work as team? Was everyone involved in the exercise?
How did you manage your time effectively?
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
What was the most important lesson from the stretcher exercise?

Stretcher Exercise Variations

Team race: Teams are given the materials to build their stretcher and must transport their injured team member to safety. Teams compete against each, with the team that transports their team member to the first aid area the quickest and safest winning the challenge.

Triage:  This can also be used as a triage exercise, where several members of your team have been injured on an expedition. The rest of the team decide on the severity of the injuries and prioritise accordingly. They must then relay their injured team members from one side of the island to the other where the first aid hut is located. Think about reducing the distance to the first aid area or you’ll have a long day.

Final Tips

If you have limited space or you are working with younger groups, then adapt the time and the distance to the finish accordingly (you can go as short as 20 metres away). The focus should be on the cooperation needed to build the stretcher and transport the injured person.

Think about the area you’ll be using for this exercise and whether it’s safe. Try and position the activity in an area which is open and free from hazards – stay away from roads, other activities etc. If you have an area such as woodland or forest which has trees or rivers but there are safe routes available, then don’t be afraid to use it. You can use this to lead into a discussion about risk management during the review.

If you want to make this more challenging for your group, then reduce the amount of time they have to complete the challenge to thirty minutes. This would be classed as category 3 haemorrhage, which references blood loss at the rate of 30-40% of total volume.

Stretcher Notes

I have run this exercise several times, typically when working with adult groups during assessments. I was actually reminded of the exercise whilst watching Bear Gryls: Mission Survive on ITV. If you haven’t watched it already, then I would definitely check it out.

The programme is also a good watch, if you want to learn how to the learn the basics of reviewing. At the end of the programme, Bear facilitates a discussion and gets the team members to look back on their experience before summarising. In my next article in April, I will dig a little deeper with reviewing, specifically related to this show and give a few examples.

If you have a question, would like to share your experiences or have any tips for visitors, leave a comment below. Until next time, happy team building.

*Note: Featured photo used with Creative Commons license from Flickr, credit to user moodboard.


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