So you want to get outdoors and have fun. So many places to go and visit. Planning that amazing vacation or trekking out into the Wilderness for some long over due quiet time. But sometimes in planning the fun stuff, we forget to have a PLAN for real stuff. What do we mean by “real stuff”? The stuff that you don’t think of until that moment of “what do I do now” happens.
Real Stuff like being prepared for some circumstances that happens ALL the time. We call it a “safety plan” Let’s take a look at some of the common issues people have while enjoying the outdoors.
FALLS – Falls while hiking in mountainous terrain typically account for more fatalities than any other direct cause. A fall can result in a few scrapes minutes from the trailhead or life-threatening injuries miles – and hours – from help. This is why it’s especially important to never hike alone.
HEAT: Overexertion on hot summer days can lead to heat-related injuries.
COLD & HYPOTHERMIA: The lowering of your body’s core temperature below normal can lead to poor judgement and confusion, loss of consciousness and death – even in summer! We have seen this first hand when temps are in the 90’s and people get wet from a cold rain. Wind starts howling, clouds block the sun, and the next thing you know, you start shivering.
No matter if you are day hiking, backpacking, kayaking, having the right safety plan is the best thing you can do for you and your family.
According to the Journal of Travel Medicine, From 2003 to 2006, there were 12,337 SAR operations involving 15,537 visitors. The total operational costs were US$16,552,053. The operations ended with 522 fatalities, 4,860 ill or injured visitors, and 2,855 saves. Almost half (40%) of the operations occurred on Saturday and Sunday, and visitors aged 20 to 29 years were involved in 23% of the incidents. Males accounted for 66.3% of the visitors requiring SAR assistance. Day hiking, motorized boating, swimming, overnight hiking, and nonmotorized boating were the participant activities resulting in the most SAR operations. But here is the most important point:
An error in judgment, fatigue and physical conditions, and insufficient equipment, clothing, and experience were the most common contributing factors.
So what do you do? ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN. What’s a PLAN?
- Do your research on where you are going? What do the Rangers recomend if you are going to a National Park. Every NPS site has a “Know before you go”. This is where most people don’t look.
- Plan and Prepare is the first principal in Leave NO Trace. It’s number one for a reason. Plan and prepare means knowing the terrain, weather conditions, environment. What’s the norm and not the norm of where you are going. Is it a Flash Flood Area? Has there been recent Forest Fires?
- Let another Friend, or Family member know exactly where you are going to be. Your route, how many days and nights you will gone. Have a Phone Number to the NPS or Recreational Area that they can call if you are not back when you designated. The movie 127 hours is a perfect example of what happens when people don’t know where you are.
- Have a “Escape Plan”. What if you are in a situation where you need to get out as fast as you can. Look around, make sure you understand and get to know your surroundings. Weather happens fast.
- Always have a personalized First Aid Kit ready to go. When we say “personalized” we mean things that YOU may have to have. Like allergy medicine for example.
Finally. Understand the acronym STOP-A This is the biggest asset to you if your plan has to do with being lost. The number one question we get when taking new people out backpacking is “what if I get lost”.
If there is no immediate threat, like a wildfire or a bear breathing down your neck, then stop and sit down. The goal is to prevent any irrational thinking due to fear or an adrenaline dump.
let’s break out the best survival tool we have, our brain.
Countless books and stories attest to the fact that a positive mental attitude can pull people through even the most dire of circumstances.
Understand the difference between real threats and fears.
Take a look at your surroundings and identify threats. Are there widow makers? How much time until it gets dark? Do you hear vehicles in the distance? Can you smell a campfire?
After thinking about your priorities and observing your surroundings and gear, it is time to make some choices. Like prioritizing, planning is dependent on your situation. Generally, staying put and waiting for rescue is a good plan, but what if you didn’t tell anyone you were headed out and no one will know you are missing for days?
The best plan in the world will not do you any good until it is put in to action. Once you have a plan, start using your skills and execute the plan.
For those who want to leave trusted friends or family your itinerary. Go to hikeralert.com this is an excellent web based platform that alerts through text message when you do not return
In operation since 2012, HikerAlert is a Web-based service that will automatically send an alert text message and email to your emergency contacts (your friends and family) if you don’t check in from an outdoor trip or other event by your scheduled return time.
Remember, your outdoor experience is your responsibility. Make sure you’re stay safe out there. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your weekend plans.